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Training Tip: Grooming

By Solid Gold and Warrior Canine Connection

Nail trimming is an important part of every dog’s grooming routine, and a signal of good health and hygiene. The process can be a simple one that should be performed regularly to keep your pooch prim and polished. Since nail trimming can cause anxiety for some dogs, we have outlined a few simple steps to help you work with your pup for a grooming experience they’ll learn to love.

We’ve teamed up with Warrior Canine Connection for a step-by-step demonstration on how you can teach your dog to enjoy getting their nails trimmed.

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What's Needed

What Do I Need For Nail Trimming?

• A marker word (for example, the word “yes” will work just fine)

• High value treats (chicken or beef) to be used as the reinforcing reward

• A cordless nail grooming tool (we use a pre-charged Dremel)

• Patience

Here's How You Can Get Started at Home

Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) trainers recommend using a Dremel instead of clippers due to ease of use and for safety as it can help avoid hitting the quick of their nail. We have broken down the process into a few simple steps to help get your dog acclimated to having their nails cared for . Get your treats ready!

Important Note: If your dog is aggressive with nail trims, we suggest hiring a trainer with experience in counterconditioning fear and positive reinforcement instead.

Step One: The "Shake" Command

Using the “shake” command, start increasing the duration that your dog is putting their paw in your hand. You can do this by slowly increasing the seconds between the time he puts his paw in your hand, and the time you mark with “yes” and give the reinforcing reward.

Step Two: Proper Placement

Proper placement of your dog’s paw is critical is getting a good angle for trimming. Ask them to “shake,” and then hold their paw between your fingers, like a scissor. Once in position, hold it for a few seconds to get them used to having it held. Give your pup praise and reward them with a treat.

Step Three: "Pawsitive" Association

Create a pawsitive association with the Dremel or grinding device. Show it to your dog, let them see it, sniff it and become aware of it. Ideally, you want your dog to wag their tail when you get the device out before going to the next step. You can also hold it behind your back, present it, and the second your dog looks at it, mark and reinforce with a treat, and put it behind your back again.

Step Four: Using A Dremel

Turn the Dremel on so your dog becomes familiar with the sound it makes. Let them get used to it by turning it on and off a few times, so it doesn’t spark anxiety or fear.

Step Five: "Pawsitive" Reinforcement

Reinforce the positive association with each of the following: shake, scissor hold of dog’s paw, Dremel touch while off, wiggle the Dremel on each nail. When your dog doesn’t pull away and is comfortable with all of this, you can move on to the next step.

Step Six: Put It All Together

Put it all together! Shake, scissor hold, and with the Dremel on, start with 1-3 seconds on each nail. Mark and reward with a high value treat. Slowly work up to 10 seconds at a time but no longer to reduce heat. Go slow, and always back up a step if your dog pulls away.

Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that enlists Service Members and Veterans with combat stress in the critical mission of training service dogs for fellow wounded Warriors. Solid Gold is proud to be the exclusive food provider for WCC since 2014. 

More About Warrior Canine Connection

Warrior Canine Connection enlists recovering Warriors in a therapeutic mission of learning to train service dogs for their fellow Veterans.

Unlike most service dog programs, WCC’s unique Mission Based Trauma Recovery model allows not just one wounded Veteran to benefit from the placement of a service dog, but many, many more who receive therapeutic benefit from participating in the dog training program.

Click below to learn more about Warrior Canine Connection and their efforts

Click below if you’d like to make a donation to Warrior Canine Connection directly

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