Cooperative Paw Care
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate
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Nail trims can be tricky, as many dogs are uncomfortable with their paws being handled. Let's talk about a number of ways we can make paw care more enjoyable for both our dogs and us!


  1. Use counterconditioning and desensitization. Pair paw touches with tasty treats to build good feelings for paw handling. You may have to start really light (just barely brushing the leg with your fingers, for example), and work up to handling the actual paw.
  2. Use your chin rest behavior (from the previous workshop) to get consent. This works best if you transfer your chin rest behavior to another object (a box or cushion, for example) so both your hands are free.
  3. Use quality nail trimmers. Pay for each nail you snip and intersperse actual trims with easy reps with lighter paw touching.
  4. Try a dremel. Some dogs that are uncomfortable with their nails being actually clipped may do better with a grinder. Start by conditioning them to the sound of the dremel being turned on, then work up to the sensation of the vibration, and then start touching the nail to the grinder.
  5. Try a scratch board. Use shaping to teach your dog to scratch their own nails on a board covered in sand paper for nail maintenance.


Whichever methods you try, go slow, use your dog's favorite treats, and follow their cues. The more you listen to your dog and increase difficulty only when they are showing you they're ready, the better your paw care journey will go!