Tooth and Nail: Training Your Dog for Happy Grooming Behaviors

I have at least one thing in common with my dogs- I cannot stand the sound of nail clippers. If someone is clipping her nails nearby I have to leave the vicinity. Similarly, when most dogs even catch a glimpse of the nail clippers coming toward them, their choice is to high-tail it in the other direction!35498827005_b7e8b169c2_k

Nail and dental health are extremely important for your dog’s well-being, and luckily with a little bit of work these daily or weekly grooming chores can be made less stressful, and even enjoyable, for your dog.

A dog’s toenails can be kept short naturally if he is running on rough surfaces or digging on a regular basis.  As summer approaches and pavement gets hot, there may be less of this action and one really great way to keep those nails short is to introduce a scratch board to your dog’s routine. All you need is some medium grit sandpaper, a piece of hard plastic or wood such as an old cutting board, and duct tape to create your own.  Secure the paper onto the board with the tape, place it on the floor, put a treat on it covered by a washcloth and reward your dog for pawing the cloth off the board to get to the treat. No reward for trying to push the cloth aside with his nose!  It can be useful to employ a clicker or a quick word like “good” or “yes” to mark the moment your dog’s toes hit the board. There is a great video online by Kevin Duggan of All Dogs Go to Kevin LLC explaining step by step how to train your dog to scratch the board.

Running on rough surfaces can help keep a dog’s nails trimmed, but often they still need extra upkeep

We also have a nail trimming video using clippers on the Louisiana SPCA’s website if you prefer to go that route.  Sometimes I have to deal with my phobia and get out the clippers for dew claws and those back paws. The key is getting your dog to see this necessary bit of hygiene as a fun game.

Tooth brushing can be approached as a bonding and training experience also. It requires a little more finesse on the trainer’s part because you must teach the dog to like having her mouth handled, to like the toothbrush and paste, and to enjoy the feeling of the brush moving against her teeth and gums. My favorite video tutorial for this is by The Bow Tie Vet Guy on YouTube.  And speaking of vets, yours will be so impressed if you are able to take care of teeth and nails at home and not rely on anesthesia or force to get the job done!2259288221_ac25e264af_o

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