Features March 2009 Issue

Train Your Dog to Behave During Grooming

How (and why) teach your dog to love having his nails trimmed.

Two months ago, I read a news story about a dog owner in Minnesota who had shared her home and her life with her 10-year-old Great Pyrenees for eight years. On December 30, 2008, the dog attacked his owner as she was trying to trim his nails, sending her to the hospital for multiple bite wounds to her arms. The news report on the incident stated, “[The dog owner] was able to reach another room and closed the door, keeping the dog out.” The owner in this sad story was treated and released from the hospital the same day. The dog is now dead – euthanized at the veterinary hospital for safety reasons, at the owner’s request. Nail-trimming should not be a matter of life and death. Nor should any other routine grooming procedure. If a dog objects strongly to any sort of physical contact or restraint that may occur in the process of ordinary care, a smart, responsible owner needs to take immediate steps to overcome his objections in a positive, nonaversive manner. Fortunately, this process (described in detail below) is not difficult (or dangerous!) to do – but it does take a serious commitment of time.

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