As I write this, I am watching my staff finish up a grooming job on a little dog. He is getting his toenails trimmed and receiving little kisses on his head at the same time. The interesting thing about this, is that this dog used to require sedation for a grooming. He would bite his owners and required a muzzle for us to handle him. Today he is not muzzled, not drugged and is happily allowing us to make him look beautiful! We were able to train this little guy to enjoy grooming. We can do the same with toenail trims, doctor exams and any other non-painful procedure an animal needs to endure. It takes a great deal of time and patience to teach an animal that the procedure can actually be enjoyable. To teach a dog to allow a toenail trim, we would start by just bringing her into the clinic and rewarding her for being calm in the waiting area. After a week of that, we might walk the dog a little deeper into the hospital and reward calm behavior. Eventually we would show the dog the toenail trimmer – and reward her. The next step might involve touching a foot with our hand while she sniffs the toenail trimmer – and gets a reward. Eventually we will work our way into a complete toenail trim. The reward process is an important part of this and your timing in giving the reward is essential.
If you have a dog with a bad attitude about certain activities, do not assume it cannot be fixed. Call a good trainer or set up an appointment with our Dr. Jennifer Evans who has a special interest in behavior modification.
by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP