How to Use a Dremel Tool to Trim Your Dog’s Toenails


How to Use a Dremel Tool to Trim Your Dog's ToenailsDoes your dog hate getting their nails trimmed? Haley’s never liked having hers trimmed and as she got older it became a real struggle. Literally! It was getting so stressful for both of us that I felt it was time to try a new approach. Did you know that you can ditch those old clippers and use a Dremel® tool to trim your dog’s toenails?

At first, I was a little nervous about firing up an electric grinder and having a go at Haley’s nails and I didn’t envision Haley being too thrilled about the idea either. Luckily, I discovered these two videos that helped explain the process.

How to Use a Dremel Tool to Trim Your Dog’s Toenails

Barbara and Dr. Matheson did a great job of explaining how to trim nails, but I want to focus on how to get your pup to that point where they are relaxed and comfortable with a Dremel pedicure. It’s important to use positive reinforcement to condition a dog to the tool and it’s especially important for dogs like Haley that are already stressed about their nails being trimmed. Here’s my step-by-step approach.

Conditioning Your Dog to Be Comfortable with the Dremel Tool

Step One – Get Your Dremel Tool Ready
I purchased the Dremel 8220 model because it’s rechargeable and easy to handle. It also has a nice variable speed range, rather than just a low and high setting. Install the sanding drum accessory, then slide a coarse sanding band onto the drum. Make sure the tool is fully charged. Note: Never use any solid grinding stone or grinding wheel accessories as they generate too much heat.
Step Two – Get Yummy Treats
I like to use real food that both Haley and I can eat, like cooked chicken or ham. Break whatever food your dog loves into little pieces and put them in a small bowl.
Step Three – Build Anticipation
Dogs always want what we have, so I create the illusion that the food is for me. I take the Dremel tool and food into another room so Haley has to follow me, rather than me approaching her with the tool. It helps to build some excitement because she’s pursuing something she wants and is more likely to want to participate in the conditioning.
Step Four – Give Your Dog Treats While Conditioning
Take a bite of the food yourself (now you see why I use real food, haha!) then turn on the Dremel tool. Practice giving your dog food while the tool is running, then stop the treats when it’s turned off. You’re conditioning your dog to associate good things with the sound of the Dremel.

Build on Your Dog’s Success!

After your pup is comfortable with the sound of the Dremel tool and comes running when you turn it on, you’re ready to begin replacing Step Four with the conditioning levels below. Work through each level at your dog’s own pace and only proceed to the next level when they’re comfortable with the current level. Each session should be fairly short and a positive experience with lots of treats and praise.

  • Have your dog give you her paw while the Dremel tool is running. Treat each time she gives you her paw.
  • Ask for your dog’s paw then practice moving the running tool close to her paw and then away. Give her a treat each time she allows you to place it near her paw, working closer each time but at a pace she’s comfortable with. Practice on different feet.
  • While holding your dog’s paw and stabilizing a nail, touch the Dremel tool to the nail for just a moment, then set it aside (while still running) and give your dog a treat. If your dog is startled by the touch, end the session and practice again later with just one touch again. Haley was extra sensitive at this stage. When she seemed resistant, I would touch the Dremel tool to one of my fingernails then eat some food. Yep, a little psychological warfare did the trick. She felt like she was missing out on getting the treats and would give in and cooperate.
  • Work on touching two or three different nails for just a moment then give a treat. Practice rotating on all four paws.
  • Now you’ll begin actually grinding away some of the nail material as you increase the amount of time and pressure spent on each nail. Remove just a little bit of each nail before giving a treat and moving on to the next one. End the session when your dog seems to need a break.
  • Work towards grinding each nail on each paw while still giving lots of treats for your pup’s cooperation. Hopefully, by this time, your dog will be much more relaxed but it’s always nice to work in an occasional belly rub to make the trimming sessions more enjoyable for your dog.
  • Continue working with your dog until you can grind all of her nails in one session while slowly decreasing the number of treats.

Here, Laurie Luck demonstrates what a positive nail trimming session looks like.

It takes some patience and lots of treats at first, but if you take a few minutes each day, you can work through the levels pretty quickly. I’m so glad I decided to give the Dremel tool a try with Haley. It’s actually fun working on her nails now. Instead of stressing out when she would see those old nail trimmers, she now comes running every time she hears the sound of the Dremel tool. Success!👍

If you want to start using a Dremel tool to trim your dog’s toenails, be sure to watch the videos first and check with a local groomer if you need any additional help. Now it’s your turn to share your nail trimming tips with us in the comment section below!

Why Does My Dog Like Some Dogs But Not Others?


Why Does My Dog Like Some Dogs But Not Others?Some dogs seem to love all other dogs and will play and be social with each one they meet. At the other end of the spectrum are reactive dogs that seem to be aggressive with almost all other dogs. But most of us have dogs that are somewhere in the middle, they like some dogs but not others. If your dog doesn’t like every dog they come across, does it mean you’ve failed at properly socializing your best friend? I don’t think so.

Dogs are a lot like us humans. Some of us are very open to socializing with everyone we meet while others are more introverted, indifferent or maybe even defensive around others. But just like dogs, most of us fall somewhere in between. There is one difference between dogs and humans though. Dogs tend to decide quickly how they feel about each other and sometimes they make their determination from a distance.

Recently, I read an article debating whether a dog could be racist if they shun other dogs of certain breeds or colors. Even though dogs do profile other canines based on past experiences or preferences, they’re not capable of understanding concepts like racism. But here are some other reasons why your dog might not like some dogs.

Why Does My Dog Like Some Dogs But Not Others?

  • Body Language
  • Your dog may notice something about another dog’s body language that he doesn’t like. Sometimes this happens at a distance and your pup has already made up his mind before the dogs meet face to face. Many dogs are turned off by overly-excited dogs or dogs that display dominant postures. Haley’s always been a somewhat excitable dog so she tends to trigger reactive dogs and does better when meeting calm dogs.
  • Scent
  • With a dog’s amazing sense of smell, they can identify a lot of information about another dog even if they’re quite a distance away. There may be something about the other dog’s scent that your dog doesn’t like or it may remind him of a dog he didn’t get along with in the past.
    Dogs Sniffing Each Other
  • Past Experiences
  • If your dog had a bad experience with another dog, they may avoid or react to other dogs that look or smell the same. Haley had a bad experience with an aggressive Goldendoodle in our neighborhood so sometimes she gets tense when seeing other Goldendoodles. It’s also interesting how she acts friendlier towards dogs that look like friends she enjoyed playing with in the past.
  • Gender
  • Some dogs prefer to socialize with dogs of the opposite sex rather than ones of their own sex.
  • Protectiveness
  • Dogs that are protective, possessive or jealous may not like other dogs when they get too close. They might get along just fine if they were to play alone, but when protecting something they value, they feel threatened and react defensively.
  • Your Attitude
  • Dogs are masters of reading our body language and emotions. When we get tense they can react to our tension. This can become a vicious circle (pardon the pun) when a dog begins to react to other dogs then we become tense or fearful every time they meet a new dog.

Dogs in LoveJust like we humans don’t like every person we meet, there’s no reason to be worried or feel you haven’t socialized your dog enough if he snubs an occasional dog. Some dogs are more content just hanging out with humans instead of other dogs and that’s okay too. But if you have a dog that’s highly reactive, defensive or aggressive towards other dogs, working with a positive-reinforcement trainer or behaviorist in your area may help desensitize your dog and make your life less stressful.

Does your dog like some dogs but not others? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below! Does Your Dog Like Some Dogs But Not Others?

Does Your Dog Give Dirty Looks?


Does Your Dog Give Dirty Looks?We dog owners are often accused by canine researchers of assigning human emotions to our pups. But according to Stanley Coren in his article for Psychology Today, those dirty looks just might be real. Stanley doesn’t have to convince me though. If Haley had a middle finger, she would probably use it occasionally to express her feelings. I should probably be thankful too that she can’t speak because I would be getting an earful every time I tell her to “Go lay down”. Please tell me I’m not alone here, does your dog give dirty looks too?

What Emotions Do Dogs Feel?

In Stanley’s article, he explains that dogs most likely have the emotional equivalence of a 2 1/2 year-old child. They feel excitement (or arousal), distress, contentment, disgust, fear, anger, joy, suspicion, shyness and love or affection. I notice Haley displaying most of these emotions and you probably see them in your dog too, right?

Guilty DogThe more complex emotions like shame, pride, guilt or contempt that develop in children between the ages of 3-5 years are supposed to be beyond the range of what dogs experience. Hmm, I swear Haley feels guilty when she goes dumpster diving in the kitchen trash can. I wonder if some dogs could be more emotionally developed than others. After all, each dog is a little bit different and perhaps some fall into different emotional ranges and might feel guilt or pride. It sure seems like some dogs do a prideful dance while they prance around after stealing a toy away from another dog.

Haley’s Top Three Emotional Tantrums

Whether or not Haley feels the more complex emotions, I love the way she expresses her emotions through her body language and yes, even her occasional dirty looks. Here are her top three ways of letting me know she’s less than pleased with me.

1. The turn around, dirty look while leaving the room.
This doesn’t happen often, but when Haley gets too pushy or doesn’t listen, I tell her to “Go lay down”. She then begins the slow walk out of the room with her head hung low. She always makes sure to turn and shoot me a dirty look before she leaves. Maybe she’s checking to see if I’ll change my mind but it sure looks like a dirty look to me.
2. The “In a minute” protest grumble.
This is Haley’s verbal protest when she has to wait for something and the usual sigh doesn’t make enough of an impact. She likes to combine it with a frustrated grunt as she falls into a down position on the floor.
3. The pouting and suck-up routine.
Just like a 2 year-old child who’s learned to play sides, Haley heads straight to my husband if I tell her “No”. She’ll try to get what she wants from him or will lie down beside him and pout. If we both say no to her, she’ll often go to the far side of the room and pout alone. Luckily, she gets over it quickly though.

Dog Giving Dirty LookI find Haley’s little protests and temper tantrums amusing. I don’t mind the looks, grumbles and pouting at all because they’re all part of her unique personality and they make her more “human” to me. I like knowing what she’s thinking or feeling. One thing I find interesting though is comparing male and female dogs. I’ve often heard that female dogs are a little more emotional or moody in this respect. Since I’ve always had female dogs, maybe some of you can weigh in on your thoughts about that.

Does your dog give dirty looks or show their displeasure with you? It’s pretty humorous when it happens. Tell us how your dog lets you know what’s on their mind or upload their picture in the comment section below! Does Your Dog Give Dirty Looks?

Grow Young with Your Dog – A Book Review and Giveaway!


Grow Young With Your Dog - Book Review

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway and congratulations to Shanna, the winner of Mary’s signed copy of Grow Young With Your Dog!

Do we have to accept that as we get older we’re going to feel old and tired? Mary Debono challenges that way of thinking, both for people and their pets, in her book Grow Young with Your Dog. Now that Haley’s a senior dog and I’m—well, not exactly a spring chicken anymore, the idea of staying fit and healthy along with Haley really appeals to me. I want to enjoy our hikes together for years to come and you probably feel the same way about spending quality time with your pup too.

Mary contacted me recently to ask if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book. I was thrilled that she asked because I was already a big fan of her book and had intended on writing an article about it. Since I already purchased the book on my own, we decided to give a copy to one of you!

A Little About Mary First

Mary Debono is a lifelong animal lover with over 20 years experience in helping thousands of animals overcome physical and psychological challenges. She’s a Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner who has combined that knowledge with animal bio-mechanics, behavior and training knowledge to create her own technique known as Debono Moves. She’s worked successfully with dogs, cats and horses at her practice in Encinitas, CA and has traveled around the world teaching her techniques in workshops. She shares that knowledge with us in her book and her passion for helping animals and people can be felt on every page.

What Does It Mean to Grow Young With Your Dog?

Mary explains in her book that we don’t necessarily have to accept that we’re going to feel worse or have less energy as we get older and that our thoughts and perception of aging can limit our movements. She connects and communicates with animals through gentle hand contact and movements which can lower anxiety, ease arthritis, heal injuries and even regain movement after paralysis. Debono Moves utilizes neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to form or reorganize new neural pathways in response to injury or disease when other pathways have been forgotten or turned off. Through these movements and exercises, both you and your dog can regain a more youthful state together by using the power of touch and connection.

How Debono Moves Helped Haley

Debono Moves
Mary’s book has specific chapters devoted to helping dogs with back problems, neck problems, hip dysplasia and of course, the all too common knee injuries. After Haley’s CCL knee surgery last year, I relied on some of Mary’s theories and techniques. Right after her surgery, Haley came down with a severe case of colitis which went undetected until a fever presented itself. She was in such pain for several days that she held her injured knee high and tight to her belly and refused to lower it at all. Once she was feeling better from the colitis, holding her knee up had become a new habit and she was behind schedule in her rehab progress.

Limping around on three legs and constantly pivoting on her good foot was putting a lot of extra stress on her good knee. In order to get her to lower her leg and begin the process of walking on it again, I used gentle touch and pressure on her upper thigh while she stood on three legs. The light but constant pressure helped her relax her leg a little at a time. After several sessions, she finally brushed her toenails on the carpet, then gradually put more and more weight on her leg. Then, I followed up with Mary’s technique (page 88) where I supported Haley while slowly and carefully shifting her weight to all four legs in a circle. The exercises taught her to relax and trust that she could put weight on her leg again. I was so relieved to get her back on track with her rehab. Whew!

The Many Benefits of Debono Moves

If you have an older dog, Chapter 7—Enhancing the Life of the Older Dog, offers practical tips and exercises to help keep your dog moving more freely. But Mary’s book is not just about helping older or injured dogs. It’s about helping all dogs feel younger and more energetic. Active or athletic dogs can benefit from these exercises too and may see a reduced risk of injury and enhanced athletic ability. If you happen to have a reactive or anxious dog, Debono Moves exercises can help reduce stress and enhance your pup’s overall well-being. Chapter 8 is devoted to exercises just for you, but there are also human exercises incorporated into many of the techniques you do with your dog.

Connected Breathing With Your Dog

Connected Breathing With Your Dog

One of the most valuable benefits of using Mary’s techniques, is the strong bond it creates between you and your dog. And, while you’re helping your dog, you’re reaping the benefits of touch and relaxation too.

The Wrap Up

Grow Young with Your Dog offers practical, easy to understand techniques and exercises that you can use right away to improve the health and well-being of you and your dog. Mary highlights several cases where she’s helped dogs and provides explanations and the techniques she used to get a positive outcome for each dog. The book is well organized so you can quickly jump to the section you need. Each chapter highlights a specific area or problem being treated and includes exercises and key points to review at the end of the chapter. There are plenty of pictures to help illustrate Mary’s techniques.

One of my favorite topics covered!

In Chapter 2—Getting to Know Your Dog in a New Way, Mary shows you how to use your hands to feel and learn about your dog’s anatomy. This method of listening with your hands can help you spot potential trouble areas in movement.

Although Mary’s book is ideal for anyone with a senior dog or a dog that’s dealing with a condition that affects their movement, I would recommend it to any dog owner because of the many benefits you and your dog can enjoy by practicing Debono Moves. As a bonus, the book also includes access to additional audio and video files via Mary’s website.

The Giveaway!

Grow Young With Your Dog BookTo be entered to win a signed copy of Grow Young with Your Dog, leave a comment below and explain how you think Debono Moves would benefit your dog. I’ll choose a winner at random on February 14th, 2017. That’s a perfect Valentines Day gift for you and your pooch! The winner will be contacted via their email address. Please note: Due to the nature of this giveaway, it’s only open to people with a mailing address in the Continental United States.

Thank you, Mary, for providing a copy of your book for one lucky reader. Good luck to all of you! If you don’t want to enter the giveaway but would like a copy of the book, simply head over to Mary’s website then click on the book to order a copy! Are you ready to grow young with your dog?

10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making

10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making

Photo by Stonnie Dennis Dog Photography / CC BY-SA 2.0

The results from my reader survey are in and the number one request is for more articles on dog training. So, let’s get started! How many of these common dog training mistakes are you making? No worries if you’re guilty of a few of these. I’ve made plenty of mistakes too, just ask Haley! This is a brief list but I’ll be expanding on some of these topics throughout the year.

10 Common Dog Training Mistakes

1. You’re not training consistently.
Training your dog takes a certain level of commitment. We all have busy schedules but putting in the work now will pay off in dividends later when you have a well-behaved dog you can be proud of. Set aside time each day to work on training and find ways to work commands into your daily routine. For example, ask your dog to sit before getting her meal or going outside. Practice the down command before she gets a toy.
2. Your rewards aren’t exciting enough.
Make sure you’re using high-value, tasty treats or real food and lots of verbal praise when your dog follows a command. It’s best to train when your dog’s hungry, as they’ll be more enticed and motivated to work for food. Check out these tips if your dog doesn’t work very hard for treats. If your pooch is motivated by toys and playtime, use those as motivation while training. Use whatever your dog loves!
3. Your dog has too much energy.
If a dog hasn’t been exercised or has pent-up energy, it’s almost impossible for them to stay focused on training. Try working with them after a short walk or play session.
4. Your commands are confusing.
Use short cues or commands and avoid throwing in extra words with the commands. Make sure you (and all family members) use the same command and speak them clearly and with confidence. It’s also important not to repeat commands over and over again, sounding like a broken record. Since dogs are better at reading our body language than interpreting our words, consider associating a hand signal along with certain commands, like pointing to the floor when giving the down command.
5. You’re not in the right frame of mind when training.
Attitude is everything, right? If you’re tired or irritated when working with your dog, your training session might not be very productive. Training can be frustrating at times, especially when training certain behaviors like loose leash walking. If it’s not going well, stop and try again later. Dogs are good at sensing our emotions too, so try to make each training session a positive experience for your pup.
Dalmatian Training

Photo by Maja Dumat / CC BY 2.0

6. Your timing is off.
It’s important to anticipate your dog’s next move so you can be ready to reward her as soon as she performs the desired behavior. Dogs associate the reward with what’s happening at the moment or just before receiving a reward. If you’re late in offering the reward, you could be accidentally rewarding the wrong behavior or your dog won’t make the connection with the command. Timing is especially critical if you’re using a clicker to mark a specific behavior. Always end each training session after your dog has achieved some level of success.
7. You’re not using the right tone of voice.
Dogs respond to the excitement and enthusiasm in our voice. Too little excitement or a low, monotone voice might not provoke much enthusiasm back from your dog. On the flip side, too much high-pitched excitement or squealing may cause your dog to lose focus. Shoot for a happy, upbeat tone that’s not too over the top and remember that raising your voice or yelling at your dog is counterproductive. For more tips, read How Our Tone of Voice Affects Dogs.
8. You’re moving along too fast.
Once your dog understands a command, that’s just the beginning. Next, you need to reinforce the command by using it in different situations and slowly working around higher levels of distraction. Also, teaching your dog too many different commands at the same time can be confusing to them. Take your time and allow them to build confidence and success with each command.
9. You’re using a one-size-fits-all training method.
I’m a big believer in positive-reinforcement training because it works so well, but it’s also important to consider the specific personality, breed, age, preferences and history of your dog. Every dog is a little bit different and the key to training success is to discover what motivates your dog to learn while maintaining a positive training environment. When I run into a training roadblock, I try to view the situation from Haley’s perspective and frame of mind. I almost always gain some helpful insight to resolve the issue.
Pit Bull Training

Photo by Richard Masoner / CC BY-SA 2.0

10. Your dog doesn’t trust you.
That might be a tough one to accept but it happens sometimes and it’s hard to train a dog when you don’t have their trust and respect. Some people run into this issue after they’ve adopted a dog that’s been abused by a previous owner. If you take the time to establish a relationship of trust with your dog, training will be much easier.

If you’ve made some of these mistakes, don’t worry, we all have. I’m guilty of not following through with training Haley around distractions and I remember how frustrated I was while trying to teach her not to pull on the leash while walking. That’s a tough one!

Dog training comes easily to some people, they seem to have a rapport with canines and an intuition about their behavior. If you’re not one of those dog owners, don’t worry. You can enroll in an obedience class or hire a trainer to help you at home. If you would rather get your tips from a book, I highly recommend My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a simple, straight-forward approach to training your pup and building your training experience and confidence.

I hope these ten tips make your training sessions more productive and pleasant for both you and your dog. Have you made any training mistakes? Share your tips and lessons learned in the comment section below! 10 Dog Training Mistakes You Might Be Making