We’re early in a new year. Time to set training goals for my pup. But what more can I teach my Mary Poppins dog (practically perfect in every way)?
Maybe it’s not the dog that needs training. Maybe it’s me. And the training I need is in how to trim my dog’s too long nails.
My Biggest Failure
I like to think that in many ways, I am a good dog person.
I worked hard to socialize Honey from a young pup so she would feel confident and comfortable in a range of experiences.
Now that we live on a boat, I see the fruits of all that early work every day.
But there is one way in which I am a big fat failure. And it’s all because I am squeamish. I don’t like lumps, bumps, stitches, blood, and even hangnails. And my squeamishness (heck, let’s just call it terror) keeps me from grooming Honey’s feet.
Yes, I’m afraid of cutting Honey’s toenails. Her nails are too long. And it makes life hard on her.
Long Dog Nails On A Boat
Wet surfaces are slippery. That’s why many of the walking areas of our boat are coated in non-skid coating. It keeps our feet from slipping when the deck is wet.
Unfortunately, non-skid is designed with boat shoes in mind, not dog paws.
If you want to keep a dog from slipping and sliding, you need to make sure the nails don’t keep the pads from making full contact with the ground. Oh, and if you have a dog whose fur grows between her pads like a golden retriever’s, then you need to keep that fur clipped short.
In other words, when I don’t cut Honey’s nails often enough, she has trouble getting around the boat and docks without slipping.
When we lived in a house, Honey walked on concrete every day. It wore her nails down enough that I didn’t worry too much about trimming them.
Recently, we spent nearly two weeks anchored off the shore of Charleston, South Carolina. We walked Honey across the city and back, causing her nails to file down to a more reasonable length.
But now we’re entering beach territory. And a sandy beach doesn’t wear down her nails. Time to get clipping.
Honey is fine with it. I’ve been handling her paws since she was a puppy. She shows absolutely no fear when getting her nails done.
But I’m a nervous wreck.
Time for a training session.
Nail Trimming School
Recently I saw on the Facebook group for people helping reactive dogs (DINOS – Dogs In Need Of Space) that dog trainer Lori Nanan was offering a class to teach trauma-free nail trimming.
I entered a contest and won a spot in the class (and no, I’m not writing this in exchange for the free class; I just found it helpful and thought you might also).
Lori had hit the quick on her dog’s nails, causing bleeding and plan. The incident scared both of them so much that Lori took her dog to the vet for trimmings for the rest of her life.
After graduating Jean Donaldson’s Dog Training Academy, Lori designed a class to teach people how to train their dogs to accept feet handling and nail trimming and even come to enjoy it. A side effect of the training is that fearful humans are also positively reinforced when they see their dogs responding to nail trimming with comfort.
And it’s that training that I need.
The school is online and breaks the steps down into small pieces. It features an interview with a veterinarian, and trainer Jean Donaldson. And it includes videos showing trainers going through the steps with their own dogs.
The only problem I had is probably not an issue for you. Lack of bandwidth from the boat made watching videos difficult until I arrived in an anchorage with strong wi-fi. And students need to makes sure ad-blocking software doesn’t prevent images from coming through.
I’m progressing through the training with Honey (who is just fine with me handling her paws, even after I’ve quicked her at least twice) to file her nails by hand. It’s a better option for us than using a clipper on a rocking boat or a dremel-type tool.
And the slow pace of the training steps and accompanying information is helping me feel more confident. I can definitely do this and get Honey’s nails under control.
Nail Trimming Resources For You
If you’re not as freaky, scared as I am, here’s one other excellent resource to share that is absolutely free.
Jennifer of My Brown Newfies did a great post on understanding the anatomy of a dog’s nail and how to trim them even when they’re dark.
I strongly urge you to check it out if you just need a little knowledge to make your nail trimming easier.
Training Goals for 2018
So here it is. My big training goal for 2018: I will develop a regular nail care routine with Honey and start trimming those overgrown nails.
I’ve really let them go. So getting Honey’s nails to the best length for the boat might be my 2019 and 2020 training goal as well. But you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Your Turn: Nail trims—are they traumatic or easy? And do you have a good routine that works for you and your dog? What is it?