Ask the Expert: Grooming Dog a Nightmare!

Your Pet Question: Our Maltese is a nightmare to groom. When we try to cut her nails, she struggles wildly,

Your Pet Question:

Our Maltese is a nightmare to groom. When we try to cut her nails, she struggles wildly, screams, and bites. We’ve tried gently holding her down but she fights so hard she even has a bowel movement! And giving her a bath is almost impossible. Help!

Peggy Westerback, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Expert Says:

It’s common for pet owners to misinterpret this behavior as a struggle for dominance, but typically the real problem is a fear the pet has developed about the exercise. The solution is to make the experience fun and rewarding and remove the fear. Begin slowly to condition her to what grooming will entail in a positive way. For example, pick the clippers up and toss her a treat on the other side of the room. Repeat this over and over until she is actively approaching you when the clippers are picked up. Then pick the clippers up and touch one front leg and give a treat. Increase the value of the treat as you move closer to holding the paw. Move up and down the leg giving varied treats. Repeat until she shows she is coping well. It sounds very time consuming, but if you do a few minutes twice a day before meal times, eventually she will associate grooming with “good”! This training will work with all types of grooming; you need only exercise patience and soon she might actually look forward to it!

Dr. Jay Thrush, DVM, is the owner of Brandon Hills Veterinary Clinic in Brandon, Manitoba.

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