> New dog lost a nail. What should I do?
My dog lost a nail. The kids found it on the floor when they woke up this morning.
We got the dog about two weeks ago from a shelter. He is a lab retriever mix. He has been sensitive about his feet and tail since we got him, and he actually had quite a nasty gash on one of his legs. He was picked up as a stray, though he's quite obviously had a good home, so they were not sure what happened to cause the laceration. I assumed that he was probably just one of those dogs who are really sensitive about their legs and tails, and that whatever had caused the gash probably didn't help. Now I'm wondering if something happened to cause the sensitivity that involves the laceration and now the nail.
He won't let me look at his feet enough to determine where the nail came from and what's going on. Should I take him to the vet? We're planning to take him in soon just to introduce him to the vet and also to get him groomed, but I've been wanting to give him a chance to settle in before I sprang that on him. Should I go now?
What do his other nails look like? Are they hard and shiny and normal or are they dull and flaky? And do his feet look sleek and healthy or is the skin puffy and red?
His other nails look good, from what I can tell. His feet are not puffy or red. Like I said, he's really, really sensitive about them, though, so I can't see his nails so well. He's got a ton of black hair, and his nails are black, so it's difficult to see, anyway.
How's the length of his nails? If they are too long (or were before) that could well have made his feet sore.
There may not necessarily have been any trauma to make him not want to be handled though. I think feet, tail, and ears are some of the most common "sensitive" areas for dogs. I know for one of mine I had to spend a fair amount of time desensitizing her to having her feet handled, so I could trim her nails myself.
I'd take him to the vet though and have it checked out. Sometimes vets no-nonsense approach is enough to make dogs not fuss about it. You may want to mention that he doesn't like his feet touched and about the wound, they may use a muzzle just to keep everyone safe.
The way you desensitize them to feet is by making ninety thousand positive touches and one negative one. So you use something he's really wild about, like cheese or cookies, and just start touching his feet. Sometimes you have to start by just putting your hand within a yard of his feet and moving closer. You associate foot touching with food or ball or whatever it is, and you really do have to think in terms of about ninety thousand repetitions. Once he's casual about doing it with food, play with his feet and tail constantly; make it part of petting. Teach high-five (Clue LOVES this--she'll high-five me a hundred times a day if I let her) or shake paw too. That way when you have to do something negative, like push his feet around looking for infections or clipping nails, the dog doesn't completely freak.
A training book I am currently looking at is very big on using what they call an intermediate reinforcer, which is a fancy way of saying that you don't ever sneak up on a dog and you don't wait until the dog performs to get him a treat. You announce your intentions and give the dog a clear view of your hand coming, and the treat comes into play as soon as you begin your movement. It's like asking for a napkin and saying "thank you thank you thank you" as the napkin is being handed to you, not waiting until it's actually in your hand. As a training method it's worth considering, but I think as an approach to introducing things that the dog will find unpleasant it's genius. I have started doing it for feet and tail with our puppy (who still doesn't like having his feet played with), where instead of what I would normally do--put him in my lap, hold his foot, clip nail, give cookie--I sit beside him and start him eating peanut butter or cheese immediately, I move in a way that he can see the whole time, and I repeat "good good good" in a very low, calm, happy tone as I am manipulating him. And then he gets a big bite when he's done. He's still not thrilled with it, but it's a calmer experience and he doesn't feel attacked.