Maggie is such a good dog. She is loving, mellow, and usually listens to your commands, but she hates, absolutely hates it when you even attempt to touch her feet. Maggie will whine and run away, and sometimes will even growl at you. This behavior is a bit surprising because she loves it when you pet her anywhere else on her body, but her paws seem to be off-limits. This makes it extremely difficult to get her nails done, and you have only found a few places that are successful with this necessary aspect of grooming. You feel that there has got to be a way to get her more comfortable with people touching her feet, but how?
The Root of the Behavior
A dog’s paw is quite an intricate system. First of all, it is the last protective layer that a dog has before its foot hits the ground. The paw acts as a shock absorber and protects the bones and joints in the foot. Many dogs are aware that if something were to happen to this paw, they would have a hard time functioning with their day-to-day lives. After all, the paw is essential to Maggie’s survival. Dogs use their feet to run away, communicate, defend themselves, etc. Paws also have a unique system in place that warms up cooler blood when it is cold, and the nerves in a dog’s paw even help them evaluate the terrain, so they know when it is safe to run. Moreover, glands on paws even leave a scent that Maggie can use to find her way home. Although domesticated dogs may not depend as much on their paws as their ancestors once did, they are still vital parts of their body’s, and dogs usually not want humans poking around them because dogs are aware of the importance of their feet. Paws are also composed of sensitive nerve endings and are the last protective layer that protects them from extreme temperatures, such as hot tar. Some dogs may not want you to touch their paws because they have been abused in the past. Other dogs may have had a bad experience getting their nails cut in the past. A dog's nails are living and have their own blood supply. If you cut too far, you can cause the nails to bleed and possibly become infected. This pain is enough to stick with a dog and may make it difficult to cut her nails again in the future. Paw touching can also be viewed as an alpha dog behavior. Maggie might object to you touching her paw because she thinks you are trying to exert dominance over her. Still, it is important that Maggie learns to get somewhat comfortable with paw touching.
Encouraging the Behavior
One of the most major reasons you want Maggie to get comfortable with someone touching her feet is because dogs have to have their nails cut. Also, dogs sometimes have medical conditions with their paws such as parasites, infections, or wounds. All of these cases involve the need for your dog to allow paw touching. This is why there are active steps you can take to get Maggie more comfortable with touching her paws. First, you can get Maggie acquainted with nail clippers. Show them to her, rub them against her back and eventually her paws. Also, begin touching Maggie’s paws gently and soothingly. You can then work your way up to a doggy foot rub. This will gradually get Maggie having her feet touched. Work on shaking Maggie’s paw and offering her treats when she complies. Also, make sure not abruptly to touch Maggie’s paw, but allow her to see and be aware of what you are doing. Sometimes dogs are just startled when their owners grab their pooch’s paws without warning.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Paws are a commonplace that harbor bacteria and parasites. They also commonly get injured by extreme warm or cold temperatures. Additionally, paws have the most contact with the ground and get foreign objects, such as pebbles and sharp objects lodges in between the toes. All of these issues make it difficult to touch Maggie’s paws. A puppy foot massage may be beneficial as it gets blood flowing and may relax your furry friend. If any injury to your dog’s paw seems serious, it is important to take her to the vet. It’s important to begin touching your dog’s feet as soon as you get her. If you start touching your dog’s paws from an early age, she will be that much more used to it and will be more likely to let a groomer take on those nails. If your dog is overly squeamish and even becomes dangerous when her paws are touched, it might be time to call in a trainer who might be able to alleviate the situation.
You have been making an effort to touch Maggie’s feet more. You are now even able to give her a short foot massage. You also have acquainted her with the clippers, and although she remains somewhat fearful, you are taking baby steps to getting her comfortable. You have been providing her tasty treats when she shakes your hand, and you feel all these steps have decreased her anxiety around foot touching. She no longer is so pawthetic when you try to touch those feet.