Different dogs come with a different grooming requirements. Your dog may have the short coat like a Boxer, a long thick coat like the Samoyed or curly like the Poodle. Some need the occasional brushing, while others need it daily. Others frequent the groomer every 6 weeks and all dogs need their toe nails trimmed on a regular basis. Whether you do it yourself or put it upon someone else, all dogs should learn to love to be handled.
It is never too late to begin conditioning your dog to like to be handled. If you have just brought home your 8 week old puppy, start now! If you have rescued an older dog, start now! There is no excuse not to. The only difference is you might have to move slower with an older dog that has developed some negative associations to how they have been handled, or not handled, in the past.
Keep it Short and Sweet
No one says you have to trim the nails on all four feet in one day. If you take your dog to the Veterinarian or the Groomers for nail trims you should be working on counter-conditioning between each visit. Spend 1 minute a couple times a day working on different parts of your dog’s body.
Pair the handling of your dog’s feet, ears, tail, mouth, collar, brushing, sound of the hair clippers etc. with a tasty morsel of food. This process starts to change your dog’s emotion about the situation and learn that a nail trimmed equals a piece of steak or which every part of handling you are working on. You are always going to work at the comfort level of your dog or just a fraction above that comfort zone without eliciting a negative response from your dog. The point of counter-conditioning is to get it so that your dog loves to be handled.
5 Toes, 4 Feet, 2 Ears
When working on counter-conditioning be absolutely certain that you touch all 4 feet, each toe on every foot, and both ears. Dogs don’t generalize well so just because they are good with the front feet doesn’t mean they will be good about the back or the left ear over the right.
Don’t wait until there is a problem to begin working on handling with your dog. Prevention is always easier than the treatment. If your dog enjoys having his ears cleaned and handled it will make applying medication that much easier if he ever develops an ear infection in the future. If your dog struggles now and you have to absolutely do treatment beyond where you are at with conditioning, do your best to keep it positive and be that much more diligent about working on your handling exercises to make it easier for the next time.