Posted by Joy-Baskin
Mar 25, 2008
Hi Margaret and team,
I would first like to thank Margaret for showing me how to post my enquiry, I was not doing it right, no wonder I couldn't get through properely.
I have a very big problem with my 22 month old teenager. I bought him as a King Charles/Maltese, but he has no Maltese in him what so ever (the vet confirms this) He looks exactly like a Tibetan Spaniel. Just so beautiful and adorable.
He has been to puppy school, loves people and other dogs, and obedient, except when he gets out of the gate, he bolts - but thats not my real problem. Since he was a pup, he doen't like having his front paws touched ( back ones o.k) He pulls away and tucks them under himself. So I have no hope of cutting his nail and he lets me know by BITING ME aggressively.
I have to take him to the vet who has to give him a needle to sedate him.The first time(after muzzling him) and a lot of fighting, and trying to bite, he now knows whats going to happen.
The last time the vet couldn't even get near him with the muzzle, but after a lot of struggling he managed to get the needle in, but not into the muscle so the vets assistant had to put a towel over his head so he could inject him again.
By this time he was so upset, fighting and biting ( I was also very upset and reduced to tears), and my husband said never again are we going to subject him to that again. But he has to have his nails clipped!
He is such a loving and well ajusted dog, knows who is the Leader, I couldn't ask for a better behaved companion , and I adore him.
I am dreading the next time he want's his nail clipped as I am at my wit's end to know what to do, as nowhere in any of the books can I find this problem. I do hope you can suggest and help me with Shilo, Kindest regards, Joy
Posted by Blue
Mar 26, 2008
Hi there
Sounds like you have a wonderful little companion there

The issue with this situation is that once you've backed down once, the dog learns that biting will get him what he wants. It is more difficult to correct the longer it's allowed to continue. He has become alpha in that particular situation and you need to get your position back.

To start, it's good to teach the dog that having it's paws held is a pleasant and fun experience. Additionally if aggressive indicators arise, they need to be corrected with reprimands immediately - before they escalate to aggression.

It is probably handy to have him on a leash during all of his obedience training sessions from now on, just so that he doesn't differentiate between sessions with paw work and sessions with regular obedience. With the leash, if he starts showing aggressive behaviour you reprimand him right away with a jerk of the leash sideways (perpendicular to the direction he is facing) and a verbal reprimand. To reprimand use a low growl, ahhhhh or no - yelling at him won't be effective. If you need to, you can have an assistant hold onto the leash and give the jerk and verbal reprimand.

Signs to look for just before a bite include: ears going back, hair rising, eyes widening, lips quivering, body tensing - you want to catch and reprimand any behaviour indicative of a potential bite to come. Catching a bad behaviour before it happens is more effective then correcting a behaviour when it happens - as it prevents the dog from getting to the state of mind that causes aggression.

[B]First: [/B]
Start teaching him a trick not associated directly with nail clipping - shake a paw - [I]no clippers in sight[/I]. Obviously this is a 'front' paw trick so we'll start there and talk about back paws in a bit.

During a regular obedience session he will be relaxed because he knows he is in 'work' mode so try introducing your new trick:
- slowly at first, just try touching his paw - if he tolerates give him his treat and praise - do this a few times.
- next session - start with the touch, then move to covering his paw with a few fingers or a hand - reward and praise!
- next session - apply some pressure to behind his paw (as though going to lift it) - reward and praise
- next session - lift the paw a little and put it down - reward and praise
- next session - lift paw all the way up and put it down - reward and praise
- next session - lift paw and hold and put it down - reward and praise.
Then just build up the length of time you're holding the paw up and eventually work playing with his toes and nails into the trick!

*Don't move onto each new step until he is comfortable with the last.

For the back paws, you can try giving him belly rubs that slowly end at his back feet. Just like with the front paws - work up to it if you sense him becoming aggressive, reprimand him if his behaviour becomes indicative of aggression. Reward for calm relaxed behaviour with treats and praise!

Always end your training sessions on a positive note - if he became aggressive, go back a step to where he was comfortable, praise him for being good, then do some of his favourite tricks (or ones he knows best) so he feels good about the entire experience.

Additionally - unrelated to obedience at all, start bringing out the clippers randomly throughout the day when you are home and giving him treats. Just as before, if he starts acting out say - when you go to the cupboard where you keep the clippers, don't progress until he is neutral on that, then if he gets nervous when you are just carrying them around the house, keep carrying them until he shows more relaxed behaviour, then put them away. Repeat carrying them around the house - acting normal and uninterested in him - a few times, until you feel you can progress. Next you want to go near him with the clippers - if he shows fear/aggression stop going closer, but don't back down either (you may need to leash him for this because you don't want him to run away either). Just stay near him, no eye contact and hold a casual conversation with somebody near by, or watch tv. As soon as he relaxes praise him/treats, and put the clippers away. Just keep bringing him in closer until the clippers are as close as possible - even touching his body.

I'm sure by now you get where I'm going with this - eventually you introduce the shake a paw/belly rubs, with the clippers - don't clip anything at all until he is solidly unfearful/aggressive! Then you can try one nail...moving up to all nails slowly - or just do one paw a week on rotation

Always reprimand aggression and praise calm behaviour and end all sessions on a positive note!

I hope this helps, with patience and perseverance on your part, I'm sure he will learn! It may take months of work, but it will end in a lifetime of less stress and anxiety for him and you both!

Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to post!!