Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nail Clipping For Pets

From Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach

Our Chihuahua does not like having her nails clipped. She goes nuts the minute she sees the nail clippers and bites and growls at us when we try to clip her nails. Is there anything we can do to get her over her fear?

Nail clipping can be a pretty fearful process for animals. Many animals don’t like to be held tight and have someone touch their feet. If the nails are cut too short, the quick may be cut causing the animal pain and leading to even greater dislike of the process.

To help animals get over the fear of having their nails clipped, you need to start with some handling exercises. Get your animals used to be touched all over. If your animal is sensitive to touch (some cats get over-stimulated and lash out), just touch your animal a few times for the first few sessions. Slowly increase the amount of touching. Don’t just touch your animals on the back and head. Handle their feet, look in their ears, lift their lips and look at their teeth.

Get your animals used to all sorts of touching, looking, and holding. Start the process when an animal is young so they will think it’s natural to be touched all over. This will make vet visits and grooming much easier.

As far as a fear of nail clippers, start associating the clippers with good things. Put them next to her food dish as she eats. Show the clippers to her and give her a treat. Touch her nails with the clippers, but don’t cut them. Give her a treat.

Desensitizing a dog to any kind of fear takes time. This process cannot happen in just one day. Spread it out over a few weeks. If your animal is not ready to go on to the next step, take a few days extra. Don’t push too fast and always end on a positive note.

When you do get around to clipping the nails, only do one nail the first day. Give lots of praise and a treat. It may take over a week to get all her nails done at first, but a least they are getting clipped. Long nails can damage an animal’s foot. Eventually you will be able to clip more nails at a time.

The idea is to leave things on a happy note. Cats usually do a good job of keeping their nails sharpened, but some people like to snip the tip so they won’t be too sharp. If you have a senior cat, you may need to cut their nails more often as older cats often don’t use the cat scratch anymore.

To meet important grooming and health needs of animals, it’s important to get both cats and dogs used to handling. Along with nail clipping, your animals should allow you to brush their teeth and hair, clean their ears, and easily bathe them. If your animal is overly aggressive during any of these times, please get professional help before proceeding.

A muzzle may be necessary to keep everyone safe and should be introduced properly so that the muzzle does not become another trigger for aggression. Private sessions are available at Center Hill School to help with aggression and other behavior problems.

Remember that prevention is the key to most behavior problems. Proper training and handling exercises early in life will make living with your animal a pleasant and happy experience. However, it’s never too late to teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks, so don’t give up on them because there’s a behavior problem. Seek help and learn new ways to relate to your furry companion.

Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach, helps make sense of mind-boggling animal behavior. Visit her website for other behavior tips. Set up a private session to work directly on your pet's problem.

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