Puppy Rearing Tips

Nail Trimming (courtesy of Rachel Reams): Use really, really good special treats that puppy can ONLY get during nail training: things like cubes of chicken that have been boiled in garlic water, fresh liver, cheese.  Be very matter-of-fact during this process; no babying, but don’t be too militant either.  Nail trims are a fact of life, and must be done.

  • Start by introducing the nail clippers and click/treat 10 times just for the dog looking at the clippers (Or if you don’t use a clipper, just say “Yes!” and give the dog a treat x 10 reps).  Repeat 3 times a day for three days, or until puppy gets excited when he sees the clippers because he knows treats are coming.
  • Next, position puppy as if you were going to trim nails, either in your lap, on the floor or on a grooming table – show the clippers, click/treat x 10.  Repeat 3 times a day for three days or until puppy is excited to be positioned for nail trimming they know it means treats.
  • Next, position for nail trims, trim ONE nail.  One.  Single.  Nail.  Feed him 10 treats, in a row, while praising effusively.  Repeat daily until you get all 18 nails done (one per day). This will take you 18 days, but should take only a minute or so to do. At the end of this 18 days, he should be ecstatic when you tell him it’s nail time, because he’s getting paid 10 treats for a single nail.
  •  This time, do two nails, then feed your 10 treats.  Repeat the next day two nails/10 treats, until all nails are done. 9 days later, you have all nails done, by doing two nails per day.
  • Bring him in, do three nails, give 10 treats, etc.  It will take you about 6 days to work through all 18 nails.
  • Now we change things.  Going forward, you’re going to do 1 whole paw per day, but pay 2 treats per nail.  So clip one nail, give two treats, immediately clip the next nail, give two treats, etc until the paw is done.  This time it takes you 4 days to get all nails done.
  • Now you’re going to pick one day a week to do nails, rather than spreading it out over a few days.  Same thing: do one nail, give two treats, but repeating until all nails are done.  He may start to fuss at some point, but just wait him out.  If he wants the treats, he has to get his nails done.  Here it can be handy to work with the dog on leash so he can’t choose to run away, and I also actively bait the dog with the treats to keep him interested.
By working it up gradually like this, you condition the puppy to see that nail trimming is a good thing, but you also have a very minimal time investment, because you start by just doing one nail per day which will take you less than a minute!
If this all seems a bit confusing, here is a cheat sheet to help you keep track  –