The Highs and Lows of Canine Nail Care
When I created Nailed It: A Course in Canine Nail Care a year and a half ago, I had no idea that it would attract as much attention as it has. I had no expectations of having 800 students at any point. I certainly didn’t expect students from as many parts of the world as I’ve seen- Africa, Europe, all over North America, Asia. It’s simply mind-blowing.
Another thing that I didn’t expect was how committed people would be to the process. This shouldn’t have surprised me, because I know how much people love their dogs. It did surprise me, though. Canine nail care is such a specific thing, and in many ways, a very small thing, though not cutting a dog’s nails can have major consequences. But, so many people have signed up and seen success. And this is important, not just for the dogs, but for the people, as well. A sense of accomplishment, achieving success and seeing tangible results is an important part of the training process, because humans need positive reinforcement as much as dogs do!
Before I share some of the success stories I received in response to an email sent to my students, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about some of the emails I received from folks who are feeling less than successful, because those responses really affected me. Within the course itself, I remind people that Slow is the New Fast, that having success is a process and that no one is going to think less of you if you are still struggling or get off track. It seems that some are still beating themselves up-maybe life got in the way, they made a mistake and are having a hard time undoing it or they’re afraid to get started. It’s important to me that these folks (and maybe you, if you see yourself in those words) know that it’s okay. Life happens and this is just one small part of it. Try not to beat yourself up. Try not to look at your dog’s nails and feel shame or embarrassment. Know that the course and me and everyone else in it are ready when you are. It can take lots of processing and planning and thinking on something before moving forward. It took me 2 years before I was ready to switch to a Dremel and create the course!
What is the Measure of Success?
Here’s a secret: the measure of success is different for everyone! When it comes to canine nail care, it could be as simple as touching a single nail with a tool. It could be even more simple: you now have a dog who is comfortable with you touching a leg, as that can be really, really hard for some dogs. I’d also like to remind folks that even seeking a better way to do something makes you a success! Again, it often takes time to process information, emotions can be tricky and life is complicated. So please be gentle with yourself if you aren’t quite as far along as you’d like or thought you’d be. It happens to all of us. Sometimes, it even happens to pros.
I’m a professional dog trainer and my dog has long nails.
Well, one of my dogs has long nails. Sitka…the beautiful and elegant husky x greyhound who graces so many of the pictures I share on my business page (you’ll notice that her feet rarely make an appearance, though)? She’s like a grizzly bear: long, black, scary nails. Sitka has many things to love: she’s funny, she’s beautiful, and she plays sweetly with our new puppy for hours without getting snarly. But she’s not particularly fast, when it comes to training. So because she arrived with nail-trim-phobia already installed, I had my work cut out for me. I worked and worked and worked and worked and worked just to get her comfortable with having her legs touched and then held. Add another five billion sessions to get her comfy with the clippers. Ten trillion eons later, I was able to tap her toe nails lightly with the clippers without her either pulling her leg away or just vacating the training spot. I honestly questioned myself and the science of animal learning more than once during these sessions! But eventually, like the glacier flowing centimeter by centimeter in a really annoying glacial way, we got there. I can now cut every nail on her toes a teeny tiny bit, once a week. She “earns” a chunk of meat or cheese for each nail (I don’t call her my “won’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day” dog for nothing, you know). And we’re getting there! I didn’t give up and I didn’t push too hard, and we’re there. Now when we’re done all four paws she lays on the couch thumping her tail and looking hopeful that I’ll find another foot to work on.
Timber, who is Sitka’s favourite in our house, was another story. With a relatively small amount of work I was able to get him comfortable laying on his side and having a pedicure. His nails are gorgeous and all white, and I send self-congratulatory pictures of them to Lori all the time (sans a picture of Sitka’s nails, however…). I figure I’ve earned the congratulations after my struggles with Sitka. And I don’t think Lori minds.
I also got lots of feedback from folks who have made lots of progress and I would love to share some of those stories as inspiration:
Tim Steele, who appears in some of the instructional videos in the course with his dog, Joker:
When I got my new puppy I signed up for the course because my older dog really disliked getting her nails clipped. Nailed It! taught me what to do so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes with Joker that I had with Juno. Now, both of my dogs relax in my lap as I Dremel their nails. I’ve recommended the course to many people now since I’ve seen the results myself!
Pam Berrigan, course student
We added our baby Bear to our family almost two years ago. He wasn’t really a baby at almost two years old! But he had only a bit of training and a few quirks. One was that he only wanted to be touched on his terms. Which was fine, but I watched his nails get longer and longer. He detested having his back feet handled and he wasn’t much better with his front feet. I tried teaching him to file his own nails, but the results were haphazard at best. I was afraid his nails would grow until it was painful for poor Bear to walk.
That is, until I found your course. It was freeing. I could take it at his speed. I could pay him well for the behavior I wanted to encourage. And I could change tools to make Bear more comfortable. It all added up in the end. Now when I call out “Spa time!” both dogs jump up on the bed. And Bear hands me his paw! Of his own volition! He hands me his paw!! We went from a dog who growled and air snapped at me for reaching for his back feet to one who voluntarily participates. Even after eight months, I still let him take breaks between feet, and sometimes toes.
I listen to what he is comfortable with and give him choices. I used the same techniques to acclimate Bear to a muzzle. Slow, incremental steps at his pace works like a charm. His vet and I are even using the techniques to get him comfortable with her handling him so she can do an exam, take blood, and give him vaccinations.
Thank you so much for this course and all the other courses you offer on ruzuku. They have been lifesavers.
Laurie Rodriguez, course student
Mindy continues to allow us to pick up her paws to clip, dremel or file her nails. She gives us zero resistance, no pulling back or tugging. I think she feels our confidence and knows to getting her nails done is not a bad thing! It’s a breeze to do our other dogs as well.
The reason I was inspired to write this post was to help people see themselves a bit in others. In our great, big, technology-driven world, we can feel surprisingly alone in our struggles at times. I know I can, and when it came to Rocco and his nails, I certainly did. Canine nail care…such a seemingly small thing, but one that can make us feel surprisingly good or bad. Proud or hard on ourselves. If you are struggling, please be kind to yourself. If you are having success, Brava! 🎉Wherever you may be on that continuum, know that your hard work, patience, willingness to learn and care for your dog is not missed by me. I see you and I am so proud of you.