With each new dog we’ve adopted, I’ve slowly gotten them used to having their nails trimmed by holding their paw. Praising them. Releasing the paw. Giving them a treat. And then, repeating the process again and again, until they look forward to me holding the paw.
Once they are comfortable with me holding their paw, I move on to touching the clippers to a nail. Praise. Release. Treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
The next step is trimming one nail. Praise. Release. Treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I gradually increase the number of nails on each paw that I trim before praising, releasing, treating, and repeating.
Finally, I trim one entire paw. Praise. Release. Treat. Repeat the process with the next paw…
You get the idea.
Although it sounds tedious, and a bit like a Dr. Seuss tale, (One nail. Two nails. Three nails. Four.), it’s well worth the rewards. Over time, I’ve actually gotten Leah & Toby to enjoy nail trims, and our 2 cats tolerate them fairly well. (I don’t have to drag them out from under furniture like I used to.) But while Toby and Leah run over and flop happily on their sides, lying patiently while I manipulate their paws to get a better view of the quick before cutting, Meadow has never been thrilled with the idea.
There were a few occasions a while back where she actually laid down for me to do her feet, and several occasions where she sat while I did her front feet, but she was really on edge and hasn’t done so in a long time. She prefers to stand, which makes it difficult to cut her nails safely, (I have to flip each paw upside down to see better, much like picking a horses hoof), and I’m always afraid I’ll hit the quick, and she’ll never trust me again. So I take very little off her nails each trim, and in response to my cautiousness, Meadow has grown more comfortable with the routine…
And finally, after months of working with her – Meadow lay down while I did all four of her feet the last time I trimmed them – and even seemed quite relaxed, as if she was at the Spa! I was so proud and we were on such a roll…
“Good girl Meadow,” I exclaimed. “Two more paws to go!” Snip. Snip. Snip. “Good job – we’re nearly there!” Snip. Snip. Snip. “Good girl – just one more nail and we’re all done!”
And then…when I was on the very last claw on the very last paw…
“Yipe!!” Meadow cried out in both pain and surprise. She leapt to her feet, dashed across the room, and shot me her most horrified expression.
Needless to say, I was devastated.
Luckily, upon examination, I did not actually nick the quick. Not only was that good news for Meadow, it was good for me because blood makes me a bit lightheaded. But I could see the pink, which means I got way too close. I tried to end the experience on a positive note, by touching the clippers to her front nails, praising, and treating, but she looked tense and I stopped after a few tries.
Perhaps I was rushing. Perhaps I was too proud. Perhaps the quick had not receded enough since our last trim, and it would have happened regardless. In either case, I’m heartbroken that I hurt and frightened her, and praying she will trust me again next time I drag out the clippers. Luckily, I was granted a short reprieve, since my vet cut Meadow’s nails way back during her surgery, but I know within a few weeks, it will be clipping time again. In the meantime, I have started over again. Hold her paw. Praise. Release. Treat. I hope by the time her nails are ready to be trimmed again, the incident will be forgotten, but only time will tell…
Want to adopt a dog of your own who doesn’t mind having his feet handled? Have you heard about Simon?