Not sure where to start? Have a dog that HATES having their feet touched or tries to bite you when you trim their nails?
Step 1 is getting your dog used to having their feet touched. This means making it a positive experience. Do this when your cuddling on the couch or sitting on the deck outside. Reward your dog with treats and/or praise if they let you do this. Do not move onto the next step if you can help it until they are comfortable with this step.
Step 2 is introducing, or RE introducing, the tool of choice you are going to use. Let the dog check it out. If using a dremel turn it on and let them hear the noise while giving them treats. If using clippers touch them to your dog's paw and let them hear the noise of them opening and closing. We do recommend a verbal NO correction if the dog tries to bite at the tool. Do not move onto the next step if you can help it until they are comfortable with this step.
** A great way to condition your dogs to things is to use their meals. Feed them their supper while you play with their feet, get them used to hearing the dremel etc. **
Step 3 is to start trimming nails. BABY STEPS are always key. Maybe just do one nail. Also, make sure it's a small amount and you are not going to hit the quick as we do not want to risk this being a painful scary experience. When I first start nail trims my dogs get very HIGH VALUE rewards after each and every nail. Sometimes you might only be able to do a nail a day to start if you are working with a dog that has begun to dislike nail trims already or is extremely scared. It is important to keep in mind we want to move slowly. Steps 1-3 can take days or weeks before we are able to really start trimming the nails successfully.
Step 4 is to actually trim your dog’s nails. Again, this needs to be super positive. So depending on where you are at in this process it could be treats after each nail, every other nail, maybe after one whole foot is done etc. If your dog’s nails are really long you may need to take very small amounts to start and do this weekly to slowly get them back to a good length. The quick will move back slowly as you get them shorter and shorter, so do not rush this and cut too far back.
What to do if you accidentally do get your dogs quick? First off remain calm. We don't want to freak our dogs out and make this experience even worse. You will want to put some pressure on the nail to help stop the bleeding. We recommend having a clotting agent handy - such as styptic powder or sticks as these will stop the bleeding “quick”ly (no pun intended!). If you do not have these you can use cornstarch or flour in a pinch.
Lastly, as you will see in the video we shared, we do not let Viking pull his paw away. We only let go when the dog is calm so that they learn this behaviour is what gets rewarded. If every time they pull on their paw you let go they will figure out they can just get away with this behaviour and you won’t be able to get any nails trimmed. Nail trims can be done anywhere the dog is comfortable ( on the couch, the deck etc) but if there is the chance they can run off while we are trying to do this we recommend having a leash on them to prevent that from happening. As you can see we like to do ours in the bathroom so they can not “escape”.
If you have a dog that may bite you while you are working on these steps and counter-conditioning them you may want to use a muzzle to protect yourself. We have a few different posts on how to introduce a muzzle to your dog and we are huge supporters of these tools for safety purposes.