Canine Behavior/bite


I have a 6 lb Yorkie that is a rescue, we've had her about a year, and the vet thinks she's about 3 years old - when I take her to get her nails trimmed it's EXTREMELY traumatic for her.  they have to put a muzzle on and she jerks around, and tries to bark and bite, which is not like her at all - she NEEDS to have her nails trimmed about once a month, but it's SO traumatic that I hesitate to bring her, how can I make this situation better?

You can't except for one alternative:  a SAFE short acting sedative from your veterinarian (and her nails can, and should, be clipped AT the veterinary office).

I had a Jack Russell Terrier from six weeks of age (far too young to be separated from his litter mates I agree).  At four months, he "tested" me, and didn't "win".  From that point on, that dog was trained to perfection using positive reinforcement.  In fact, he was so enormously well trained that people would laugh and say he was an "energizer bunny"!  BUT...the absolute one thing that always, persistently elicited aggression was nail trimming.  I had my own grooming table and tools (because at the time I had a multiple dog household); I would muzzle him, ignore his protestations, and go about my business as quickly as possible then release him, give him a few minutes to re-obtain his dignity, ask for a trained behavior, and heavily reward it.

It's not at all uncommon for dogs to fear nail clipping.  Normally, this is because they have been injured (some dogs nails are black, hard to see the "quick") or not accustomed to having their feet handled (nails filed gently without trauma every few days with snacks from early puppyhood).  Even WITH all that preparation, some dogs are simply so terrified that the fight/flight mechanism takes over and all cognition goes out the proverbial window.

This has NO reflection on the temperament of the dog.  Wherever you "take" her to get her nails trimmed, the groomer (you have to be quite careful of groomers) might be: afraid, hitting the quick (drawing blood), angry, etc., all contributing to the dog's response.

Most veterinarians have vet techs who are capable of doing the job quickly and easily with no injury.  A short, fast acting tranquilizer will help and, over time (could take months), the dog may begin to lose her extreme fear.

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]