It’s no secret that pit bulls have a bad reputation. They’re scary, bad dogs with lock jaws that will eat you in your sleep. Or possibly while your awake. Right after they eat your cat. If it was just a bad rep, I probably wouldn’t care what other people thought. But Joe Ignorant doesn’t just think badly of my dog; he can make our lives miserable. There are areas of good ol’ USA that I can’t drive through with my dogs for fear that they will be taken from me and killed. Not to mention all the trouble frightened neighbors can cause right here in my backyard.
So it’s in my best interest to make my dogs seems as innocuous as possible. Sometimes I dress them up. I have collars with cheery designs, because it’s really hard to be intimidated by a dog wearing a Cookie Monster collar (this is why I have so many collars . . . seriously . . . stop laughing at me). It’s also difficult to be intimidated by a dog with neon green toe nails.
That's Maus, by the way. He pretty much always looks like that.
People are always impressed when they see that I’ve painted my dogs’ nails, but it’s one of the easier things I’ve taught them. After spending so much time making nail trimming a pleasant experience, nail painting is not big deal. The hardest part is desensitizing them to the smell. As strong and unpleasant as the scent of nail polish is to people, remember that a dog’s sense of smell is millions of times more sensitive.
When I first bring out a bottle of polish – or any new object, for that matter – I’ll show it to the dog and let them check it out. This alone is usually enough to send them back pedaling (although Mikey did try to eat the bottle because he’s special that way). If they have enough aversion to the smell, I’ll do a little operant conditioning and teach them to touch the bottle for a reward. The trick is to not decondition too thoroughly; you don’t want the dog tipping the bottle over when you’re trying to paint their nails.
I usually paint my dog’s nails inside. This way, they’re less likely to get dirt all over the wet paint. I cover my couch with an old sheet to protect it during the process. I like to use Sally Hansen’s Insta-Dry polish. It dries fast and hard and comes in a multitude of bright colors that don’t require a second coat. I’ve found that if you have the right color, a single swipe across the top of the nail is usually good enough to look great. Trying to color the entire nail like you would with a person tends to tickle the hair growing around the dog’s nail. Not to mention no one is going to be looking that closely at your dog’s feet to notice the extra effort. So why bother?
Once all the nails I want to do are done, it’s just a matter of having the dog stay on the protected surface, my couch, until their nails are done. I usually use the time to practice stays, because hey, why not? The polish I use only takes a few minutes to finish dry and then voila! Off we go in stylin’ new colors!
P.S. – Merry Christmas!