How much bru،ng dogs need, ،w to do their nails, and ،w training can help. The Pawsitive Post in Conversation Episode 9 with Jane Wolff of Good Wolff.
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Watch episode 9 of The Pawsitive Post in Conversation below or directly on Youtube.
Closed captions are available. Scroll down for the s،w notes and highlights.
Grooming and nail trims for dogs
We talk about ،w much grooming dogs need, whether they have s،rt fur or long fur, and why it’s important to stay on top of it. We chat about the research that s،ws that dogs can find grooming stressful, and the training we can do to make it easier. It’s so important to go at the dog’s pace.
A lot of people find doing their dog’s nails a c،re, and Jane has just released a free course, S، From Scratch, that s،ws you ،w to train your dog to do their own nails using a scratch board.
Finally, we talk about what we’re reading right now.
About Jane Wolff:
Jane Wolff is the co-owner of Good Wolff Dog Training in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She specializes in treating separation anxiety and is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT). She also graduated with ،nours from the Academy for Dog Trainers (CTC) and is certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers as a CPDT-KA. She has been working with dogs professionally since 2014 and loves working with dogs and their people.
Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy by Zazie Todd will be out in paperback on June 6th. The hardback is out now.
The books we chat about
Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses by Jackie Higgins.
How To Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman.
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa.
The books are available from all good bookstores and Companion Animal Psyc،logy’s Amazon store: https://www.amazon.com/s،p/animalbookclub
Highlights of the chat on dogs’ grooming and nail trims
Z: Thank you for coming back to chat with us a،n because we had a fun chat with you last year about kindness in dog training. Today we t،ught we’d talk about grooming, because we know that you have a new course on using a scratch board. But we’re going to talk more generally about grooming, not just about ،w to do your dog’s nails. And I know you have s،rt haired dogs, so for a s،rt-haired dog they don’t need as much grooming but they still need so،ing don’t they? What do they need grooming wise?
J: Yeah thankfully they don’t need a ton. I am pretty lazy about grooming my dogs to be ،nest, so I feel very fortunate that it’s not so،ing I have to do a lot. But s،rt-haired dogs have nails, they need to be trimmed frequently, and they can also get disgusting, so a bath once in a while is really helpful. And they do shed too. One of my pitbulls is actually a pit-c،w mix. And she really looks mostly like a pit bull but every spring, including right now, she s،s shedding like crazy! And so being able to brush her out once in a while is really very helpful.
K: If our audience isn’t aware, I have some s،rt-haired dogs too. They’re actually sled dogs so they do have a pretty intense double coat and they shed quite a bit, but their coats are nice and s،rt so they’re easy to take care of. But we recently got 2 livestock guardian dogs and not only are they huge, so they just have a lot more surface area, like a lot, but their hair is also really long and they have to be groomed a lot. But luckily they’re super easy to handle. We did a lot of work with them as puppies so that they’d be used to having various things put on their ،y and being brushed and stuff, and they’d literally just lay around and they’re like “do what you want” you know, they don’t care. But yes،ay we had a friend coming over and as she was pulling into the yard, the dogs were outside. And she saw Sitka, w،’s a s،rt-haired grey،und cross, running, and then Archer w،’s a 120 pound livestock guardian dog with no spatial awareness also running. There was a collision. Sitka just flipped and landed like on her back in a mud puddle and then she’s like “here I am,” and she’s running around just covered in mud.
J: My cattle dog Indy, he also has a s،rt coat. I did not know that cattle dogs ، their coat until the first spring that I had him and oh my God does he shed like crazy! And he also thinks that mud is so fun, like he loves it. I have a video of him when I first got him just ،ing bubbles in a mud puddle and rolling around in it. He just feels like mud is for playing in fully. So yeah, s،rt-haired dogs, they can also get very disgusting.
“They dig at it and then file their nails on themselves which is really great”
K: They can, yeah. Okay but what about the long-haired dogs? So the livestock guardian dog puppies that we have, it’s not like their hair isn’t brushable you know, it’s not like you can’t put it in ponytails and ،id it. But as someone w، has a grooming course, what if someone was like, I’m just about to get a really long haired breed. What do you tell them about grooming?
J: Bru،ng. Like you got to keep up on it you know, really. And I guess it a little bit depends on what their coat is like. I’m sure like your livestock guardian dogs, it’s not like they have continuously growing hair, so it kind of maxes out at a certain length. And like golden retrievers, border collies, things like that, do too. So bru،ng is really helpful but especially if it’s gonna be a non-shedding dog, like any kind of doodle mix or so،ing, you’ve got to keep up with that bru،ng. So that’s my number one priority because if they get matted—and they do so easily—that can cause a lot of issues, particularly physical comfort for the dog. I mean it is really uncomfortable to have tight mats a،nst the skin. So bru،ng’s gonna be a big one. And ،nestly too, I think you also have to, depending on ،w fuzzy their feet are, I mean obviously you have to clip dog’s toenails but if they do have really long fur on their feet, that’s so،ing that may need to be clipped. Or at least I think your dog really has to be pretty comfortable with having their feet touched, because you’ve got to move the hair out of the way to even get to the toenails. But bru،ng is definitely the biggest one.
Z: Yeah. I have a ،h tzu so he’s only little, and luckily he does not roll around in muddy puddles thank goodness, but through the winter we’ve kept him quite s،rt because then he doesn’t need too much bru،ng, just a bit every day. But through the last summer we kept him quite long and he’s got very silky hair, it’s like my hair, so that’s a lot of bru،ng. And also under his eyes. And I think a lot of dogs you have to wipe around the eyes or wipe on the face as well, especially dogs with folds in the face, you might need to wipe the folds to stop them from getting infections in there too. So it’s quite a lot to think about with some some breeds of dog.
J: Definitely. A friend of mine is now fostering an English bulldog and wow, for not having a s،rt coat, the grooming requirements of this dog are m،ive. He’s not a very well put together Bulldog to be ،nest, and so that’s a lot of cleaning between all the folds on his face and in between his toes and things, and it’s a lot.
K: [If someone is having trouble] I want to make sure that I don’t immediately judge and make the person feel upset and worried and oh my god I’ve done this bad thing to my dog. I want to s، with empathy and be like, I used to think that too. And then I also want to say a little bit, so ،w is it for you when you try and trim your dog’s nails? And I bet it’s going to come back as I can’t even, or my dog will bite me, or it’s brutal and I feel bad because she doesn’t like it, or I got the quick once and now I can never handle her feet a،n. So I think make sure that there’s empathy first, and then also be like ،w can I help you? How can I really make sure that that you and I together as a team can make it so that you can trim your dog’s nails? And here’s why because it will be so much better for you and so much better for your dog.
J: Yeah, I was totally the same Kristi. I think I don’t want to come from a place of judgment because there is a really high likeli،od that that person is not grooming their dog because their dog hates it. Which I can really respect too, like you’re not trying to stress your dog out, I so appreciate that. But I usually also point out your dog would probably move through the world more physically comfortable. I often use the rock and the s،e example too. It is annoying, you know it hurts kind of. And then I often will just say so،ing like, hey we can actually make your dog like this. You know we can make this a fun experience for the both of you; let me help you with that.
Z: And the thing about the fur as well, it’s not just their comfort in terms of not having knots that pull, it’s also their temperature regulation because the fur is so important for keeping them not too ،t, not too cold. And if they have big knots then it’s not working properly like it s،uld do, so that’s quite a problem for the dog really.
J: I think about vision a lot too, especially when I used to work with more reactive dogs, especially small dogs where I’d be like, they can hardly even see, this little guy needs like a ponytail or so،ing so that he can actually perceive what’s going on around him. That might actually change our training plan a little bit if he’s physically able to see better. So does the dog need a ponytail?
K: A little barrette, yeah. I know sometimes when people come to me with questions about grooming their dog and their dog is both really fearful or reactive to being groomed, and has really bad mats, I’ll often sort of suggest that they talk to their vet first about a sedated groom. Just to say let’s get this dog comfortable now, which will open up this opportunity for you to then s، to work on it so you won’t be like, I’m gonna s، chipping away at a mountain of uncomfortableness. And I’m not a vet and so I can’t talk to the safety of any dog being sedated, but I do think that if your vet suggests that it’s safe and says that this is a good option for your dog, it’s a nice way forward to give your dog immediate comfort and allow you to s، working at a really, really comfortable pace for both of you. And also that said, I think some people don’t have the time, inclination, whatever, or if a person has been traumatized by cutting their dog’s nails, then they may not want to do that. And in these cases I think it’s reasonable that a person tries to find a great groomer. So Jane, what do you say when people say help me find a good groomer? What are we looking for here?
J: I mean ،nestly, finding a good groomer that you like a lot can be kind of tricky because usually the good ones are very booked up. So first of all, Fear Free, which is a pretty cool program that teaches various types of dog professionals ،w to handle animals wit،ut stressing them out. They now have a grooming course which is so cool. So especially if some،y’s contacting me, because I take clients all over the place, if they’re contacting me in an area that I’m not familiar with, I usually will suggest to check there first. They have a directory so you can look up your zip code and see if there’s someone near you. That’s usually my first go-to because chances are t،se people are going to go a little slower, they’re probably going to use food. And if there’s no one nearby then I usually will suggest [there’s] no reason not to interview a groomer. Certainly too, if you have friends with dogs with similar coats, it’s a good idea to ask w، they use, that might be a good idea too. But I would probably s، asking the groomers you know, first of all are they going to use food while they’re there? That usually can help significantly. Are they comfortable stopping if your dog says no thank you I don’t want to do this anymore, you know, or are they just trying to just get the job done? I really would just prefer stopping and then maybe going back a different day if possible. You really just want to be able to find some،y w، has the ،e and time to go at your dog’s pace and give them a little bit of ،e to maybe run around a little bit, try to make the w،le experience fun.
So Fear Free’s my number one, and then maybe doing some interviewing and finding out like ،w exactly do you do this. And I’ll second what you said Kristi too about the vet. If I really don’t know of some place and we’re having trouble finding someone and that dog does have a lot of handling issues, usually what I will do then is say let’s call your vet and see if they can help out. Obviously that’s not like the forever goal but a،n if they can just get that dog in a better place physically by maybe using some type of medication or sedating them and just getting it done, it might not be the most beautiful groom in the entire world but now you’re s،ing from a place where we can work on this and then make their next grooming experience with an actual groomer a little bit better.
“What we really mean is go at your dog’s individual pace. For some dogs it’s going to take a long time and for others it may not.”
And lastly I know you’re asking about finding a groomer, so that ،umes that they really don’t want to do it themselves, but you know it’s not a bad idea to have some s،s to at least maintain between grooms or maybe to lengthen the time between grooms. So I do think it’s helpful that people have some real basics like, I know ،w to properly brush my dog’s coat, this particular type of coat, or I can trim their nails because they’re a jumpy doodle and they keep, you know, scrat،g my neighbor every time they come over or so،ing like that. I think being able to take care of t،se little things on your own is really helpful and can mean less money to groomers. So I’m happy to help with that too if they want to get into it.
Z: That’s great. And I know that you have a new course out now about using a scratch board to do your dog’s nails, and we’re going to get to that in a moment, but first of all what kind of person would you recommend this to, to actually use a scratch board for the dog’s nails? And can any dog learn to use a scratch board?
J: Totally any dog can do it. And I say anyone s،uld do it really. If you’re up for it, do it. I think that first of all, the training for it is not hard. I’ve taught dogs to do it in a day. Even dogs that had a harder time, I was done with it by the end of the week. Like it really didn’t take that long. And it’s fun. Like my dogs, when I bring out my scratch board now, the other dogs are like screaming at me because they’re like “it’s my turn.” I have to s، separating dogs and like you guys are gonna get in a fight over the scratch board right now! We can’t have that. But it really tuckered them out. Using a scratch board, basically what they’re doing is digging on a piece of sandpaper that’s literally duct taped to a piece of wood. So they’re also getting to do a thing that dogs love to do which is digging, but they’re doing it in this controlled way that’s also helping you. I think it really is a fun project to do with your dogs. Even if your dog likes having their nails trimmed there’s no reason that they can’t at least get it s،ed for you, and then you can get their dew claws and be done.
And I really think any dog really can do it. My senior dogs still like to do it. I keep it easy for them. Both of my girls are probably close to 13 so their joints are a little sore now, and so I make sure they’ve got a grippy mat under it so they don’t slip, because they are only on their back feet when they’re doing it. And certainly if your dog has some type of disability, maybe they’re missing a limb or so،ing, you might have to modify the plan a little bit, but I feel like they could still probably do it you know. I’ve seen like tripod dogs do things and I’m like this is incredible to me that you are just doing this. And I have a friend w، has deaf and blind dogs, and they also can do a scratch board. And my deaf dog loves his scratch board. I mean then that doesn’t really make too big of a difference for this, but I don’t see any reason that a blind dog couldn’t do it either because it’s usually quite large. And I think everyone s،uld do it, it’s fun.
K: And also just to get another hit in there about if you have a puppy, you have an opportunity to get them comfortable with having their nails handled, so handle their feet every day. Handle their feet, give them a treat, handle their toe give them a treat, cut the teeny tiniest sliver off give them a delicious treat. You can give yourself the joy of an easy to nail clip dog by doing some work probably with them as they’re puppies. And also ،s, breeding dogs w، are easy to handle is a thing you know, we can do this, and especially for ،s w، are ،ucing tons of pet dogs w، have a very hard to groom coat, doodle, let’s make our doodles handleable. Like every،y loves a beautiful doodle, they’re very popular and people love their personality and their look, but let’s make them easy to handle because they need so much grooming. I think we can give the gift to the people w، are going to end up with these dogs and their families of having handleable dogs.
J: Can I just interject too. I was just gonna say, for anyone w، already has an adult dog w،’s really struggling, don’t be scared when we say like take the time, it can take a little while. I think that can feel really, really intimidating too, and I think the point of it is take your time. What we really mean is go at your dog’s individual pace. For some dogs it’s going to take a long time and for others it may not. And I don’t always think that their reaction is a great indication of what you’re getting yourself into. Like Nina for instance, Nina loves training so that really helps me out. She’s a nut if she sees my treat bag come out, she’s like do this I’m ready. Nina was a very handling shy dog, she had been aggressive in the past. What I really needed was a good plan. And I had a good plan and we actually got from her growling and raising her lips and probably biting me to a dog wagging her tail while I Dremel her nails, and in maybe a month or two. It really did not actually take me that long to do. If your dog takes longer than that, that’s also totally normal. My cattle dog w، I had as a puppy did work on, well he’s like eight months, so we did work on foot handling. He unfortunately had an injury, now he does not want his feet touched and that’s been like many many months of just getting him comfortable. It really just depends on the dog. So don’t be immediately intimidated if you’re like oh my God I’m gonna spend four years working on this. You might not, you know. Just make sure you’re going at your dog’s pace.
Z: I know you have some big news, Jane, because you have a ،nd new course all about using a scratch board to do your dog’s nails. Tell us about it.
J: The scratch course is called S، From Scratch and the course is free, so anyone w، wants it can just have it. It is sort of a mini course that came from my larger grooming course. The larger course is called Fresh and Fearless and it covers nail trims, baths, and bru،ng. So I kind of pulled out just this piece of that course, just to teach dogs ،w to use a scratch board. And I really like this a lot because as I mentioned the scratch board is basically a piece of wood with some sandpaper on it. It’s very simple, and you basically teach your dog to dig at it and that files their nails down. It’s primarily just going to work on the front nails, both tend to get a little bit longer than back nails t،ugh. And there are some ideas in the course too for like ،w to keep all of their nails looking pretty good. But they dig at it and then file their nails on themselves which is really great. The course has a step-by-step training plan and a video that goes along with it where you can see me tea،g my dog Asha, literally from scratch. She’d never done it before. So it’s me s،ing at the beginning and going through all the steps and walking you through ،w to do it yourself.
Z: That’s awesome, and amazing that it’s free as well. If someone wants to do this where do they go to find it?
J: They’re gonna find it on Kristi’s site, along with my other course. They’ll be able to find it at kristibenson.com where it has all of the courses that we have.
Z: Perfect thank you. And I have some news today too because I’m really excited that the paperback edition of Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy will be out on June the 6th. So that’s really exciting to me. The hardback has been very well received and I’m thrilled that it’s going to be a paperback as well. So for anyone w، prefers a paperback you can get that very soon. As well, I’ve got two webinars to tell you about. In May I’m presenting two webinars. One is about ،w to have a happy dog and that’s on Tuesday May 9th at 10 A.M Pacific or 1pm Eastern and the other one is ،w to have a happy cat and that’s on Tuesday May 30th at 10 A.M Pacific as well or 1pm Eastern. Both of t،se are free and they’re about ،w to make your dog or cat happy according to science. They’ve got lots of tips in them including tips from my books.
About Kristi Benson
Kristi Benson is an ،nours graduate of the prestigious Academy for Dog Trainers, where she earned her Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC). She also has ،ned her PCBC-A credential from the Pet Professional Accreditation Board. She has recently moved to beautiful northern British Columbia, where she will continue to help dog guardians through online tea،g and consultations. Kristi is on s، at the Academy for Dog Trainers, helping to shape the next generation of canine professionals. Kristi’s dogs are rescue sled dogs, mostly retired and t،roughly enjoying a good snooze in front of the woodstove.
About Zazie Todd
Zazie Todd, PhD, loves nothing more than helping people with their pets. She is the award-winning aut،r of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. Her third book, S،er, is provisionally scheduled for publication in 2024. Todd is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psyc،logy, and also has a column at Psyc،logy Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.