Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #134 Unlocking the Secrets to Stress-Free Dog Nail Trimming

December 06, 2023 Will Bangura, M.S., CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of Season 4 Episode 134
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #134 Unlocking the Secrets to Stress-Free Dog Nail Trimming
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #134 Unlocking the Secrets to Stress-Free Dog Nail Trimming
Dec 06, 2023 Season 4 Episode 134
Will Bangura, M.S., CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of

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Ever wrangled with a wriggly, stressed-out pet during grooming time and wished there was a better way? We're unlocking the secrets to a stress-free dog nail trimming routine in our new episode. Pet behavior expert and certified behavior consultant, Will Bangura, joins us to unveil a systematic, science-based approach to make grooming a breeze. Imagine turning your dog's nail trimming into an enjoyable activity, free of stress and fear. With Will's seven practical steps, soon you'll be grooming with confidence.

This is not just about nail trimming, but about building a deeper, more trusting bond with your furry companion. Intrigued by the idea of using high value food rewards, positive reinforcement, and patience to create positive associations with nail clipping? We break it all down for you. We're also diving deep into dog body language cues, to ensure your pet's comfort throughout the process. Whether you're a new pet parent or a seasoned dog owner struggling with grooming, join us on this journey. Get ready to transform nail trimming from a chore into a cherished bonding time.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

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Ever wrangled with a wriggly, stressed-out pet during grooming time and wished there was a better way? We're unlocking the secrets to a stress-free dog nail trimming routine in our new episode. Pet behavior expert and certified behavior consultant, Will Bangura, joins us to unveil a systematic, science-based approach to make grooming a breeze. Imagine turning your dog's nail trimming into an enjoyable activity, free of stress and fear. With Will's seven practical steps, soon you'll be grooming with confidence.

This is not just about nail trimming, but about building a deeper, more trusting bond with your furry companion. Intrigued by the idea of using high value food rewards, positive reinforcement, and patience to create positive associations with nail clipping? We break it all down for you. We're also diving deep into dog body language cues, to ensure your pet's comfort throughout the process. Whether you're a new pet parent or a seasoned dog owner struggling with grooming, join us on this journey. Get ready to transform nail trimming from a chore into a cherished bonding time.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

Do you struggle with your dog about nail trimming? You know it's a necessary part of a dog's grooming routine, but for many pet parents it can quickly turn into a dreaded task. Whether it's the loud cries, the pulling away or the more severe symptoms like growling or attempting to bite you, these are signs of a dog who's fearful, stressed or potentially aggressive. This kind of situation not only jeopardizes the well-being of your furry companion, but can also make the grooming process traumatic for everyone involved. Today's episode of Pet Talk Today we're going to be talking about the seven steps to mastering dog nail trimming.

Speaker 2:

Raised by wolves with canine DNA and is blood. Having trained more than 24,000 vets, helping you and your fur babies thrive, Live in studio with Will Bangura answering your pet behavior and training questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host and favorite pet behavior expert, Will Bangura.

Speaker 1:

Would you like to go on Walkies? Good day pet lovers. It's Will Bangura. Thanks for joining me for another episode of Dog Training Today.

Speaker 1:

As I mentioned in the opener, a lot of you struggle with trimming your dog's nails and it's a necessary part of life, but it can be very, very difficult. So today I want to go through the seven steps to mastering dog nail trims. Now, if you've got a dog that you're struggling with big time clipping its nails, getting its nails done, this is going to be a great podcast for you. Also, if you've got a new dog, basically a new puppy, the things that we're doing here to help dogs that struggle with nail clippings, these are proactive, preventative things that you're going to want to do with a new puppy to get them ready for having their nails trimmed. Bottom line, what we're dealing with are dogs that are fearful and there are different fearful evocating stimulus and that could be the dremel, it could be the nail clippers, it could be walking to the room where the drawer or the cabinet is where you have your nail trimmers. So there are different cues that you, as the pet parent, give off to signal to the dog hey, you're getting your nails clipped, Obviously getting out the nail clipper and showing them the nail clipper. That's one, but the stress, the anxiety could start before that. Let's say that you have a specific drawer or cabinet in your house just for dog stuff and maybe you've got a very specific drawer or cabinet for grooming items and walking towards or opening that cabinet or drawer might signal to the dog hey, I'm getting groomed and that might be nail trimming and that's scary as heck. So our goal is to very slowly and gradually get your dogs desensitized to having their nails trimmed and to take something that is scary for your dog and to try to turn that into something that is positive.

Speaker 1:

Now the one thing you should do before beginning any behavior modification program, you need to consult with your veterinarian. Rule out any medical issues that might be contributing to your dog's discomfort or pain during nail trims Diseases like arthritis or paw infections. They can make the experience painful, intensifying the negative associations with nail clipping. So in most cases there's not going to be a medical contributing factor, but there can be, and it's important for me to mention to you that you need to consult your veterinarian first. All right Now if you're really struggling, I mean really dealing with a severe case where your dog is very fearful of getting their nails trimmed and they become very aggressive, you need to think about consulting with a certified behavior consultant or a certified behaviorist. Aggression is no laughing matter, especially if they are biting. So if you have a dog that gets severely aggressive when you want to trim its nails, you need to be consulting with a professional. If you can't find somebody in your area that's certified and qualified to deal with that, then go to my website at dogbehavioristcom and you can contact me. I'll either find somebody in your area or we can work together.

Speaker 1:

Also, if you go to dogbehavioristcom and you go to the menu and click on articles, you are going to see that this is an article as well. We've got a full article titled Mastering Dog Nail Trims A Science-Based Guide to Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning your Dog. I wrote that on November 1st, so that is on the website. This podcast I'm going to embed when I'm finished with it. I'm going to stick this in the article at the bottom. So you've got the best of both worlds You've got the article and you've got the podcast.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so what is our first step? Well, the first thing we need to do is we need to secure our tools and very, very high-value food rewards. Now listen, there's a lot of different nail clippers that are out there. I want to encourage you to invest in a high-quality pair of nail clippers that are specifically designed for dogs. I want you to make sure that you've got super high-value food rewards that we can use during the desensitization. You need to find what your dog absolutely loves. What is its favorite? Is it chicken? Is it cheese? Is it little bite-sized pieces of beef? But we want to make sure that we've got extremely high-value food rewards, and typically that's going to be something that they never get, like chicken or beef or something. Now, when you use these food rewards, they should be small. You want to cut them up about the size of a pea and make sure that you have plenty on you, and you should have this in a treat pouch.

Speaker 1:

All right, now, before we begin, we want to choose a quiet, non-distracting environment for this training session. It'll be a lot easier for your dog to focus if you do this, where there are no distractions. To begin with. Now we're going to start with step one, and what that means in step one is we're going to begin to introduce or present the nail clippers to your dog. But we're going to do this at a distance far enough away from your dog where he can see the nail clippers. But it doesn't have a care in the world. It does not elicit stress, does not elicit panic. Your dog's not trying to run away or get aggressive. There's a distance. It might be two feet away from the dog, it might be five feet away from the dog, it might be 15 feet away from the dog. But we need to start by presenting the nail clippers at a distance where your dog shows no signs of stress.

Speaker 1:

All right, you want to keep your energy calm. You want to be positive. Now, as soon as your dog notices the clippers and remains relaxed, immediately offer a high value treat, offer a high value food reward and give your dog verbal praise. Now, if you have someone in the house that can help you to be able to keep your dog at that distance from the clipper, because if you have the clipper in your hand and you're rewarding, that potentially could be a problem. If your dog is very scared, maybe it doesn't want to come to you and get the treat, or you could toss the treat to the dog. All right, now, very, very gradually, very systematically, you're going to reduce that distance between the clippers and your dog, all right. You need to be very careful, watch your dog. You need to make sure that as you get closer, your dog stays calm, your dog stays relaxed, your dog is not stressed out.

Speaker 1:

What I like to do is at that safe distance where your dog doesn't care when it sees the clippers, I like to present the clippers as soon as your dog sees it feed, feed, feed, feed, constantly and continuously for about one to three seconds. Then that clipper disappears. It goes behind my back, it's no longer in view, and when that happens, the feeding stops and then I start over. I bring that clippers back into view as soon as the dog sees it. I begin feeding, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, high value food rewards constantly and continuously for about one to three seconds, and then again I remove the clippers. The clippers now is behind my back, it's out of sight. As soon as it's out of sight, we stop feeding. And when we stop feeding and when the clippers out of sight, we're going to stay in that state for about again three to five seconds. Okay, now we're going to repeat that process present the clippers, feed, high value food rewards. We're repairing something very positive to the nail clippers that the dog doesn't like, but we're starting it at a distance where it doesn't matter to the dog. The dog's not stressed out about the nail clippers.

Speaker 1:

Now, the way dogs think, the way they learn, the way they process information, one of the ways are by understanding very black and white cause and effect associations. So our timing and presentation are very important. The clippers appear, then feeding starts. The whole time the clippers are in sight, feeding continues. When the clippers go out of sight, feeding stops. We're going to do that over and over and over again and that training session is going to be about five to 10 minutes long and that's all we're doing.

Speaker 1:

Presenting the nail clippers as soon as the dog sees it. We begin by pairing positive reinforcement in this case high value food rewards with the sight of the clippers. And when the clippers go out of sight, we stop feeding. So the dog begins to get conditioned that those clippers they don't do anything scary, they don't hurt me, they're not scary. Matter of fact, when I see the clippers, good things happen. But again, you've got to start that at a far distance. Gradually, systematically, over a period of days or weeks, you begin to get a little bit closer. So let's say that I stayed at that safe distance. Now, when I'm doing my training, I need to commit to do this at least five times a week. It's not that they're long sessions, we're talking five or 10 minutes but you've got to do this five times a week.

Speaker 1:

There's got to be enough repetition that we can counter condition. Right now, if you've got a dog that is fearful of the nail clippers or a Dremel, whatever it is that you use, your dog has that negative association and we need to condition the dog because that's the dog's conditioning. The dog's been conditioned that it's a negative, that it's scary. We've got to present, with enough repetition, a positive experience with those nail clippers to get what we call counter conditioning. And when we're talking about conditioning we're talking about enough repetition, where there's an automatic reflex, and that takes a lot of repetition.

Speaker 1:

The work is not difficult, it's just inconvenient. There are other things that you probably would rather do, but this is something that has to be done. So you take your five to 10 minutes every day and you start at a distance where your dog can see the clippers but doesn't have a care in the world because it's far enough away and as soon as your dog sees it, you begin pairing high value food rewards. Then all of a sudden the clippers go out of sight. Your dog can't see it, feeding stops. We do that over and over and over.

Speaker 1:

Now the other thing that I want to do, because I want to make sure that your dog understands the reason the good things are happening are because the clippers and not something else. So I may have other objects perhaps in my back pocket, and after I've presented the nail clipper at the distance and fed the dog and again, this works best if you got two people, how do you present the clippers at a distance and feed, because you got to be pretty close to the dog typically to feed, right. So hopefully you've got a helper. Now we've been presenting those clippers and it's been a positive experience for the dog because the dog keeps getting fed high value food rewards. But again, like I said, I want to make sure the dog understands it's the clippers that cause the good things. So let's say I have a screwdriver in my back pocket along with the clippers. Well, I may present the screwdriver for three to five seconds and there will be no feeding, and then the screwdriver goes behind my back and nothing happens there, and I may pull a wallet out of my pocket and show that no feeding, whether it's being shown or whether it gets put away. Now here comes the nail clippers and feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, constantly and continuously for one to five seconds.

Speaker 1:

Make absolutely sure that your dog understands that the reason it's getting all the good stuff is because of the nail clippers. Now remove the nail clipper out of your dog's sight. Stop feeding, and we're going to do that very slowly. Gradually, you're going to reduce the distance between the clippers and your dog, but you're going to take a lot of care to make sure that you're paying attention to your dog's comfort level. Continue to offer treats and praise as you reduce the distance.

Speaker 1:

Now, one of the most important things that you can have to make this be successful is patience, patience, patience, patience. Don't rush the process. If you go slow, you're going to have success, but if you try to rush the process, it's going to take you a lot longer. So a slow start means a fast finish. A fast start usually means a slow finish because you're working too fast and you're going too close with the clippers before the dog is ready. You've got to take your time to condition something positive with those clippers. So you're going to do that very, very slowly, little by little, over time you're going to get closer and closer and closer and closer to the dog.

Speaker 1:

All right, now we've done step one, where we've done the introduction of the clippers at a distance. Now we're going to be looking at step two. Step two is about counter conditioning, associating the clippers again with a positive experience. All right. So now that your dog tolerates the sight of the clippers, it's time to level up the positive association with more counter conditioning. And again, counter conditioning that's just a fancy word for changing the conditioning that your dog already has. Your dog is conditioned to not like the nail clippers. We're going to counter that by presenting those clippers with something very positive over and over. Thus counter conditioning, all right. So what I want you to do in step two, I want you to smear a tiny bit of peanut butter on the handle of the clippers and I want you to allow your dog to lick it off. The goal here is to make the dog associate the clippers with the high value food reward in this pleasant experience. So I'm going to want you to repeat that several times, but always keep an eye on your dog's body language.

Speaker 1:

Is your dog showing signs of stress? If your dog showing signs of stress, you've gone too far too soon. You're working too fast. You need to back it up a step. Start introducing the clippers at a distance. You've gotten too close too soon, so go back to step one Now. As long as you've done step one really well, step two should be a breeze for your dog, because your dog is licking some yummy peanut butter off of the handle of the clippers. All right, hey, it's tempting to push forward quickly in this process, especially when you're making progress.

Speaker 1:

However, counter conditioning is most effective when it's practiced in very short but frequent sessions. So, again, your sessions. Look at those sessions to be five to 10 minutes long, but you've got to do those at least five days in a row. What I would prefer. If you really want to make this go quicker, do three sessions a day. I mean, we're talking, let's say, that they were 10 minutes long, which would be the long version. Right, they're five to 10 minutes long. You do three 10 minute sessions a day. You've invested 30 minutes, a total of 30 minutes for that day. That is something that everybody can do. All right, all right.

Speaker 1:

Step three let's get into it a little bit further. Now we're going to begin the process of desensitizing handling your dog's paw being touched. Okay, you want to begin by gently touching one of your dog's paws for a second, without holding it? Okay, immediately, offer a high value food reward and praise, as long as your dog was calm with you just touching the paw. Again, all we're doing here is we're gently touching one of your dog's paws and we're doing that for a second and we're not holding it. Remember, just one second and give your dog a high value food reward at the exact moment that you are touching the paw. Okay, now, gradually, I want you to increase the duration for which you're touching the paw and you're going to work up from that one second touch to a few seconds.

Speaker 1:

Okay, it's critical to consistently reward every positive interaction. You want to make sure that the dog understands the association between you handling the paw and positive experiences, in this case, food. And again, all we're doing is we're touching the paw for a second feed, feed, feed, feed, feed. Stop touching, stop feeding. As a dog gets comfortable with one second, gradually, systematically, slowly, over days or weeks, we progress to several seconds and while our hand is on that paw for several seconds let's say it's there for three to five seconds we're going to feed the entire time. Then we take our hand off the paw, we stop feeding. All right, now step four we're gonna begin holding the paw. Remember, in step three we were just touching the paw. Okay, let's talk about level one holding.

Speaker 1:

Now, once your dog is comfortable with you touching its paw, the next thing you wanna do is go into holding the paw for a brief second. And when you're doing that, when you're holding the paw for that brief second, you want to immediately reward your dog with the high value food rewards and give it verbal praise. Now, the first few times when you're holding the dog's paw, it should be no more than a very quick light grasp and release. So the duration of holding that paw is nothing. You're gonna pick up the paw, hold it, let it go. You're gonna pick up the paw feed, let it go stop feeding. Pick up the paw feed, let it go stop feeding. Pick up the paw feed, let it go stop feeding. Holding the paw Now, as your dog gets comfortable with that and you've done some repetition with that you're gonna want to extend the duration of the time that you're holding the paw.

Speaker 1:

So increase the holding duration, but do that incrementally. Make sure that you're continuing to offer high value food rewards every single time you're holding your dog's paw and your dog is comfortable. The goal is to extend the time that your dog allows its paw to be held without your dog showing signs of discomfort and fear. Again, we're pairing something very, very positive with holding the paw and you need to take your time with that. Again, there's gotta be enough repetition and conditioning that your dog views its paw being held as something very, very positive, because that's one of the parts, one of the aspects of trimming your dog's nail is holding that paw and they've gotta get comfortable with it.

Speaker 1:

All right, step five. In step five, we're gonna incorporate the clippers into the equation. We're gonna do a mock clipping. All right, this is where the rubber meets the road. Now, with your high value food rewards in your treat pouch, I want you to touch the clipper to one of your dog's nails, but don't clip the nail. Remember this is a fake mock action and this is gonna help your dog get used to the sensation. So, again, what do you wanna do? You start in step five, you're gonna have your high value food rewards. All you're gonna do is touch the clipper to one of your dog's nails and feed, but you're not gonna clip the nail when you do that. This is something that's gotta be extremely, extremely positive. Okay, where then, as your dog gets comfortable with that, you're gonna do that over and over for days or for weeks and you can choose each time to touch a different nail, but you're not clipping it, you're just touching it with a nail clip, with the clippers. I mean Now, once your dog's comfortable with the clippers touching any of its nails and if, use that as something positive because good things are happening.

Speaker 1:

The clippers are touching a nail, the dog gets fed something. The clipper stopped touching the nail. No more feeding. Clipper touches the nail. Feed, feed, feed. Stop touching the nail with the clipper, stop feeding, all right.

Speaker 1:

So once your dog's comfortable with that, now it's time to attempt a real clip. Right, we're gonna clip off the tiniest, tiniest little sliver of one nail and that's it. So we're gonna hold the paw, like we did in step four when we were conditioning the dog to enjoy having its paw handled because it was getting high value food rewards. And then, in step five, all we did was touch the clipper to the nail and it's important for you to understand. When you're in step five, you're holding that paw right. Step four was getting the dog very comfortable with holding that paw. But now in step five, we're holding the paw, we're touching Excuse me in step four, excuse me, step five, in the mock clipping we're just touching the clipper to the nail, all right, but we are going to we'll call it 5.5, step 5.5, step 5.5. That's where we're actually going to clip one nail. But your dog has to be very comfortable with you holding its paw and the clippers touching the nails without clipping first, okay. And when we begin to do our clipping of the nails, in this process we are clipping one nail and the tiniest little sliver of that one nail. Now, if everything is going well and your dog is happy and you're feeding again, when you're clipping, you're feeding, okay.

Speaker 1:

Now one of the things you might do is like I've got a stainless steel refrigerator. I can put my dog in front of that refrigerator. I put a little smear of peanut butter on the refrigerator at the dog's mouth level. The dog's licking, licking, licking. I'm picking up a paw while it's licking peanut butter and I'm clipping one nail and then I move the dog away from where the peanut butter is. Then we go back and I clip another little piece off of a single nail and the dog's licking peanut butter.

Speaker 1:

Now, the first day that I start this, I might only be able to clip one nail. I might not be able to go to the second and maybe I shouldn't. I need to be monitoring the dog's body language. Maybe even the slightest little bit, the slightest little stress signal that you get from the dog, you need to slow down, you need to back up a step. You're going too quick. You've got to work at the dog's pace. It's nice when the dog's pace is quick, but sometimes it's going to take a little bit longer. Again, don't rush this process. Patience and consistency and repetition those are the three pillars of great training.

Speaker 1:

The next step if we've been cutting a single nail and that's going well, now we're going to start doing multiple nails. Maybe a training session looks like hey, I'm picking up the paw as I'm beginning to clip two nails. The dog is eating high value food, rewards or licking peanut butter or somebody's feeding the dog as I'm clipping two nails and I'm done. Then the next day I'm going to repeat that I'm going to clip two more nails. If that went well. The next day I'm going to clip two more Again. I'm pairing high value food, rewards and praise at the exact moment those nails are being clipped as you're doing this. Notice I'm not clipping all the nails. If I need to clip one nail a day until I get through all the nails, that's okay. As long as that's a positive experience for the dog, I'm going to get to the point where I can clip two. As long as that's a positive experience for the dog, I'm going to get to the point where I can clip three nails, four nails, five nails, on and on and so on.

Speaker 1:

You get the idea, but you've got to be monitoring the body language. That's step six having great observation skills and making adjustments as you need it. It's okay to go back a step. If your dog is showing signs of stress during part of this process, you need to take that step back. Sometimes a little regression is necessary for future progression. So there's nothing wrong with taking a step back, but you've got to be great at observing your dog's body language. You've got to understand what stress signals are. Make sure that your dog doesn't have a care in the world when we're doing this. If it does, you've gone too far too soon. Take a step back, all right Now.

Speaker 1:

Step number seven. Step number seven is maintenance in regular sessions Consistency. Like I said, it's crucial in maintaining the positive associations that you've built. So you want to conduct regular nail trimming sessions, even if it's just one or two nails at a time, and you're giving high value food rewards to ensure the positive associations are reinforced. So desensitizing a dog to nail trimming can be a slow process that requires a lot of patience, a lot of consistency and a lot of positive reinforcement. By adhering to a systematic, science-based approach, you can transform nail trimming from a stressful ordeal into a routine grooming activity for your dog that your dog loves. Give it a try. I'm gonna hear I'm just giving a dog a ball, just giving a dog a ball.

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