Q. I have a 5-month-old Golden Retriever. I have the proper nail clippers and a grooming table. He is tied to the grooming arm on the table and still really fights me when I go to trim his nails. I have been doing my own dogs’ nails for years, but he is the most difficult. I think he would actually fling himself off the table rather than have his paws done. I am stubborn and refuse to have a vet do it every time he needs it done.
A. Most Goldens are lovers, not fighters, but once in a while we get one like your youngster who wants to turn his pedicure into a wrestling match. In the grooming salon, we have the advantage of always having someone on hand who can help us out, talking to pets like these and holding them so they can’t jump off the table. You are correct in assuming that such dogs are oblivious to the training noose and could tip the grooming table over pretty quickly, to say nothing of hanging themselves.
This sounds like rambunctious puppy behavior on your dog’s part. He may be feeling his oats, acting like a rebellious teenager and challenging your authority. He may outgrow it, but I don’t blame you for being frustrated. You really can’t allow him to declare his paws off limits. All dogs need to have their nails trimmed, and he will also need his paws neatened to look his gorgeous Golden best. I have a few suggestions that may help:
1. Enlist the aid of a calm, assertive helper to stand at the dog’s front end while he’s on the table, holding him firmly enough to prevent the bucking bronco routine — but not putting a “choke hold” on him. Speak reassuringly to also calm him down.
2. Invest in a nylon “comfort muzzle.” Even though your boy is not trying to bite you, this device makes the job easier — but I still recommend an assistant to prevent all that struggling.
3. Try doing this procedure after he’s had a strenuous walk or vigorous playtime so he’ll be tired and less inclined to put up a fight.
4. Only undertake this job when you feel calm yourself, not stressed or rushed. Because our own emotions are telegraphed to our animals through our touch, voice and body language, dogs like yours will automatically amp up their opposition by resisting. In other words, the more we push, the more they object, thus turning it into a vicious cycle.
5. Start with his back paws, using your own back to support the dog while you lift each paw, looking down at the pads, as if shoeing a horse. Always take care not to yank or twist the legs, injuring tendons or ligaments and making things a whole lot worse.
6. Always reward cooperation with lots of loving praise and a tasty treat.
7. Enroll him in an obedience class. This will build your mutual bond while helping him gain confidence and accept you as his leader.
8. If all else fails, have the groomer trim his nails. In most salons, this is a relatively inexpensive procedure performed while you wait. You don’t need an appointment and most owners whose dogs detest having their nails clipped tell us it’s well worth it. It will definitely cost less than a vet visit.
It’s probably a little late in the game to employ the preventive measure I advise with all young puppies. To prepare for future pedicures, play with their paws from their earliest days, desensitizing them for future handling. As soon as they leave their mother and littermates behind, start “tipping” those nails on a weekly basis so it becomes nothing to fuss about, just a regular part of their normal routine.