4 Reasons Dogs Hate Nail Trims
Patience, Shaping and Transfer of Value
As Lynda points out in the clip above, getting Tater to LOVING his nails trimmed so much that it is now one of the high value events in his life, took time and patience. And it was something we had to work at with frequent sessions. And by frequent, I mean daily, often several sessions. It was super important to help Tater become confident and comfortable with nail trimming. I used “transfer of value” … that is using something the dog loves to grow the value for something he does not love.
Transferring value for something like nail trimming needs to be done carefully, or you run the risk of the value transferring in a way you did not intend. An example is that if your dog loves to tug, and you used that for nail trimming, the association could go the other way and your dog ends up not liking tugging.
The KEY with using transfer of value for something like toe nail cutting is that the behaviour you are asking for initially MUST BE ACHIEVABLE for the dog. That means breaking toenail trimming down into elements and shaping your dog in each of those elements so that he has value for each.
In animal training lingo, we call this splitting the behaviour down. It means not overfacing your dog and setting him up for success with each element. Overfacing is when we ask our dog for more than our education has prepared him for … more than he is currently capable of giving us with the level of training we have given him.
Back when dogs roamed free in the wild their nails would naturally wear down but now that they have become more domesticated it is important to keep them clipped regularly. It saves our floors and sometimes even our skin from becoming scratched. It is also good for your dog to keep their nails clipped shorter. If they become too long and curl back into your dogs skin they can become very uncomfortable.
The best protocol is to take your time when your dog is getting their nails clipped. Try to relax and not stiffen up or hold your dogs nail tighter when they go to pull away. You need to be firm but also relaxed so your dog feels at ease and understands that you are in control but also won’t hurt them.
The main reason dogs hate getting their nails clipped is because of the pain. It doesn’t hurt them if they are clipped correctly but if your dog has been cut too close to their nerve in their nail, even once, he will remember it. Nature provides pain as a protection and if something hurts we learn to avoid and even fight it. It is survival instinct.