During the grooming process I prefer to handle a dog’s feet and legs in ways that create the least amount of stress and discomfort to the dog. I have learned over the years that getting to know the dog that I am grooming is very important. The first source of information is, of course, the dog owner. I always ask how past grooming experiences have been and if there were “problems”. Sore hips, old age, and injuries can create painful movement for a dog that I prefer to avoid.
Often it is the feet that are an issue and I appreciate having a heads up on that. It is not unusual for a dog to be sketchy about having his front feet handled. I always make a point to lift a dog’s paws over and over during the bath…I just pick them up and put them down as I talk quietly…something like” good boy…lift a footie…and down”. During the drying process I do the same thing over and over. It is my theory that by the time I get around to actually having to do something like trim nails, shave pads or trim hair around the foot, the dog will be used to the idea that nothing terrible is happening when I lift a paw.
I don’t yank the paw or leg to suit my position; I move myself to suit the dog’s position. I pick it up and put it down in as natural a movement as walking. I avoid pulling a dog’s leg out to the side; this is a very unnatural movement.
I begin by lifting the paw upward in a similar way to the way it would begin to take a step. Photo (a)
For working on the pads or trimming the nails I then shift the paw loosely slightly beneath the dog’s body and expose the paw’s underside. Photo (b) This gives me a clear view of the bottom of the paw. If the dog shows resistance I let the paws dangle loosely up and down to encourage the dog to relax.
If the dog is tense or flinches when I touch the pad or nails I gently tap the pad or the nails until I feel the tension release. I can then get the job done. I repeat the process with each leg/paw. If a dog lunges to bite I do not hesitate to place a muzzle on him. It sometimes calms the dog and definitely protects my hands. Some dogs are programmed to bite by previous groomers or whatever and I accept that.
Occasionally it is necessary for me to hug the dog close to my side as I work to settle the lunging behaviour and make for more accurate and safer (for the dog) trimming.
For working on the hair on the front legs I lift the dogs leg first up as if he were to take a step, then I move it forward to straighten it. Photo (c) I never pull a dog’s leg out sideways…again very unnatural movement. It is better to move around the table.
For working on the hair on the back legs I lift the foot from the table and move it either backward or forward in the most natural way possible. photo (d)
For a large older dog with sore hips I put my shoulder under the dog between the hind legs so the dog can lean on me when I shift his weight to 3 legs. photo (e)
For accessing the groin area I lift the hind leg first upward and a bit forward then mimic the way the dog would naturally lift it to urinate. photo (f)
In any instance that the dog resists the movements I simply hold the foot loosely and when the tension releases I set it down. Then I begin again with the handling process.
There is never a reason good enough to yank and pull roughly on a dog’s leg to get the job done.
On “difficult” dogs, ones that do not respond to the process above, I enlist my helper’s skills at either the “football hold” as in photo (g)
or if it is large dog the “bear hug” as in photo (h). When working on the feet of a large “difficult” dog it may feel like a rodeo but the dog is held in such a way that he is not harmed by his own yanking and pulling. I basically move with the dog which is under control…kind of. I only have one client like that right now…used to be two but one of them figured out that it was okay to let me handle his feet.