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TRIMMING YOUR PET’S NAILS

Your pet will need nail trims to prevent his/her nails from over growing. Overgrown nails can poke into skin or pads and create painful infections. Long nails are also more likely to get caught and torn off causing bleeding and discomfort. This method works best for puppies or kittens but can be used to retrain most dogs. If your dog or cat bites you may have to go at a very slow pace through the exercises. For aggressive dogs, you may need to muzzle and give treats through the muzzle until the behaviour is retrained.

You will need a pair of trimmers. I personally like the scissor kind that has a curved end rather than the guillotine type shown on some of the references. Have your veterinarian or the technician show you how to cut the nails and how far down to cut them. The references have some pictures and descriptions if needed too.

As with all the training processes you need to find a reward that is valuable and do the exercise when the pet is hungry. Rewards should be soft and chewy and very small (1/2 cm square or less).

Here are the training steps:

  • Teach your pet to allow you to hold a paw. If your pet is already trained to shake a paw this can be a starting place. Otherwise hold a paw in your hand loosely for a second or two then release and feed a treat. If the pet is wiggling, you may have to use the treat as a bribe at first making the pet work to get the treat out of your fingers while you gently hold the paw. Hold each foot for a few seconds and release, praise and treat. Do this several times a day for several days. Have your nail clippers near by so that the pet associates the clippers with good things.
  • Leave the clippers out and scatter yummy treats all around them so your pet will explore them and relate them to good things.
  • If your pet is quite comfortable then increase the time you hold the paw.
  • Next hold the paw and start working with the paw and positioning it so you can see the toe nail. Release and treat. Do this for several days until the pet is comfortable.
  • For the next part, it is best to have a helper. The helper can feed while you hold the paw. So, now hold the paw and expose the nail while your helper has the pet nibble a treat out of their hand. Tap the nail with the clippers then release the foot and ask the helper to stop feeding the pet. I will refer you to a video at the end that will show you the timing. Do one foot/session and try to do 4 sessions/day. Do this until the pet is comfortable and enjoys it.
  • Last step.. you got it. Trim the nails while the pet is eating. Just take the tip off as if you quick the pet now, your progress will likely be destroyed. Do a foot a day for 4 days and then for the next week go back to the tapping exercise once/day!

Dr. Yin video (note, this exercise should be done with a basket muzzle if your dog bites):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWZUcLfHXLE

This video shows an owner teaching a cat to shake hands. This can be used for the first step in dogs and cats:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AViPjv7nSI

Other sites that discuss nail trimming:

http://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/search/node/trimming+nails+type%3Apah_asset
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1608
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1408