Cooperative Care: Nail Trims and Filing


Many dogs (and cats!) struggle with having normal vet and grooming procedures done and it’s not surprising if we look at it from their perspective.  Often times they’ve likely been forced to “just get it done,” maybe having been pinned down, forcibly held into place, maybe even having experienced pain having nails quicked or even if they didn’t experience physical pain, the emotional trauma was scary enough.  They don’t understand that vet care or grooming is necessary and trying to help them.  Luckily over the last several years there has been a strong movement to make grooming and vet care cooperative and Fear Free. I am an Elite Fear Free Certified Trainer and often recommend clients seek out a Fear Free Certified Vet or Clinic when looking for vet care, especially if their animal is already fearful.

Cooperative or fear free care can include a combination of things to help the dog or cat:

  • Happy visits to the groomer or vet, to help your animal have positive experiences outside of when they have to have an appointment
  • Training them to cooperate and have them be willing participants in their care, even for things like blood draws, x-rays and nail trims
  • Moving at the pace of the dog, even if that means not everything gets completed in one visit
  • Pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVPs) for those animals who are really anxious, to help them be more comfortable
  • Muzzle training, if applicable, so they don’t learn that “biting works” and so nobody gets hurt

This cooperative care movement not only reduces stress for animals, but reduces anxiety for their owners and makes vets and techs safer.  It’s an all around win for everyone.  Gone are the days of forcefully restraining animals, pinning them down thrashing, defensively trying to bite or surrendering and urinating all over themselves.  (Before I was a trainer, this happened to the first dog I ever owned, 20+ years ago.  We took him to the vet to have his nails trimmed, five people, including myself, tried to hold him down.  He was 130 pounds, aggressive and muzzled, and he eventually stopped snarling and struggling and just peed all over himself.  I’m still traumatized by that incident.  I can’t even imagine how scared he was.  He’s been dead for over 10 years but I’m still so very sorry, Bandit. But we know better so we do better.)

Your dog can not only be trained to tolerate but to like and voluntarily participate in vet and grooming procedures!  In fact, last year. my Alma Mater, The Academy For Dog Trainers, released this free Husbandry Project – dozens of well tested, proven training plans to help you help your dog learn to like things like having ear drops administered, position for x-rays or blood draws or having nails trimmed.

Here are two nail trim examples, one older so the video quality isn’t great, but the progress is, so it’s worth showing and one more recent with my own dog, BooBoo.  Every Sunday we do Sunday Spa for nails.

BooBoo and her Sunday Spa Session (some older footage and then footage from just last weekend)

Sassy and her 8 day nail journey:

If you and your dog need help with vet or grooming fears, please reach out!

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