How to deal with dog nail trimming anxiety?
The fact that you are reading this article makes me guess that you are familiar with dog nail trimming anxiety. And you have probably encountered the following situation in one or another way: Your Bull Terrier watches you taking out the nail clipper and magically disappears. Once you have found her, you try to pin her in order to reach a claw. This is when the wrestling and nipping starts. You end up with ONE clipped nail – well, that is if it’s your lucky day – soaked in your own sweat and with a terrified dog hiding in the bedroom.
This problem is certainly not a typical Bull Terrier problem, dog nail trimming anxiety is a general DOG problem.
For some strange reason many dogs are just terrified by nail clippers.
Many groomers hook the dogs to short leads, so they can’t bite them, some use muzzles. That sure is one way to go.
Both, Fancy and Mila showed and show dog nail trimming anxiety.
Well, while anti-clipping, Fancy accepted a lot without any fighting even though she did not like it. Her shy character made her tolerate things by being unable to move or defend herself. Still, the stress of having to endure it remained for her. One day her dog nail trimming anxiety even overwhelmed her and she actually fainted during nail clipping.
You can imagine how this really startled me. I felt so sorry for the poor thing. But at that time I had no idea how I could make the process of nail clipping a better and more positive experience for her. So her dog nail trimming anxiety always remained an issue.
The only solution I had found at that time for her was to do it as rarely as possible.
Now, Mila is a little bit different. When she does not like something, she takes the freedom to show it by protesting with struggling and nipping. And this is also how she handles her dog nail trimming anxiety.
So I started to think about a muzzle for her, but did not really like the idea.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally possible to get a dog used to wearing a muzzle without suffering. And for some situations the proper muzzle may be the perfect and non-cruel solution to restrain a dog, if necessary.
My concern in this particular situation: The muzzle would obviously be the easiest way for me to avoid getting bitten. So far so good.
But instead of making the situation more comfortable for Mila, it would do quite the opposite, even add stress and enhance her dog nail trimming anxiety. This would make it even more unlikely that she would get used to nail trimming and tolerate it better in the future. Not only would she be terrified by the pure sight of the nail clipper then, the muzzle would have the very same effect, because she would inevitably connect it to the event she fears so much.
This was a circle of negativity I had to break. I had to find another way. Away to make the entire event more comfortable and less frightening for my bull terrier, a way to take away her dog nail trimming anxiety.
So, what to do about dog nail trimming anxiety?
I went on the internet and found some tipps and tricks, some of them quite odd. Like that one video that suggests to train your dog to scratch her nails on sandpaper like a cat. Well, funny idea, maybe one solution, but somehow I did not get hooked to that approach.
Then again I stumbled over “clicker training” in connection with dog nail trimming anxiety.
To be clear, I would not call myself an advocate of this method as THE one and only in dog training. But I DO like the principles behind it and indeed think, it can be used to solve a lot of problems. It is just a great way to learn how to communicate with your dog in so many situations. And this is why I like doing it so much. By the way, Mila does, too.
With Mila’s nails I had already tried the clicker before, but did not feel it had made much of a difference. She remained nervous, her dog nail trimming anxiety did not seem to be affected in any way.
But my research on the Internet did not really lead me to a better idea. So I decided to give the clicker another try.
And voila! Big surprise! Despite the first impression, my former attempts had already changed something. I had probably just thrown the towel too soon. Patience is, well, not my strong suit.
Now that I resumed the training, it seemed like the penny had dropped and Mila responded a lot better this time.
If that sounds like all problems were now solved in an instant, wait a minute! Of course it’s not quite like that.
But we do have a solid start here now. And I am really confident that we will develop together and maybe some day Mila will not be so skeptical anymore about the clipper and loose her dog nail trimming anxiety.