Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Touch those paws

Got a puppy? A new rescue?
Start holding paws (like holding hands) with them.
Sound goofy? It’s actually a fantastic idea.
A lot of dogs become sensitive about their paws being touched. This makes it extremely difficult to trim their nails.
Some dogs will become uncomfortable, others may squirm and pull away, and still others may completely flip out, screaming as if the act is torture.
To help ensure that your new puppy or rescue dog will behave nicely for nail trims, it’s good to start by touching their paws often.
When they’re laying down, put a hand over their paw. Or just reach out and grab their paws, gently, every now and then. Always praise them when they let their paws be touched.
The more you touch their paws, the more they become desensitized to having their paws touched. They learn that there’s nothing to fear when their paws are touched, and nothing bad happens either.
It’s a small thing, but something that can have a lifelong impact on your dog.
Start introducing them to nail clippers in the same fashion.
Don’t just pull them out one day, grab your dog, hold him down and start clipping away.
Pull out those clippers, set them on the floor and let him sniff them. When he does, give him a treat. Maybe touch the metal part of the clippers to his nail and give him another treat.
Do this several times before you do the first clip.
With Sensi, I used to give him a tiny treat for each nail that was clipped. Nowadays, he gets one after both fronts are done, and another after both backs are done.
For years, his nail clipping behavior has been excellent. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t like to have his nails trimmed.
However, when I pull out the clippers, he sadly lays down and gets in position. I don’t even have to ask. He waits patiently as I clip his nails, and when I’m all done, he bounces around like a wild dog.
We always play a quick game — fetch or tug or something — after nail trimmings too.
So, while he doesn’t love to have his nails clipped, he behaves beautifully for it and that beautiful behavior never goes without a reward.
And as far as his paws go, anyone can touch them. He thinks it’s as normal as the grass being green.

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