ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Maintenance Mode: Desensitizing Your Dog to General Care

Updated on May 11, 2019
Catie Stacey profile image

Catie has her A.S. in veterinary technology and has worked in the veterinary field for seven years.

Maintenance Mode
Maintenance Mode

I discovered this trick by accident. Kimber, my now three-year-old springer spaniel, was one of the silliest puppies I had ever seen. She had high energy and a matching personality. As Kimber is a hunting breed, and she would be out in the sticks quite frequently, I had to find a way to be able to perform daily maintenance on my dog that was fear, stress, and anxiety free. For both of us.

Kimber at About Eight Weeks Old

That stuffed pheasant didn't last long.
That stuffed pheasant didn't last long.

I needed to be able to trim her nails, trim the hair between her toes, pick hound’s tongue, cockleburs and weed seeds out of her fur and skin, shave her entire body at home, trim mats, clean her ears and brush her teeth. When we first got Kimber, she had a urinary tract infection and one of the many things that predisposed her was the extra long hairs that grew around her vulva, I would need trim those regularly as well. It was important that Kimber be still during all these tasks. Grooming injuries are commonly caused by owners and 100% avoidable.

Kimber Sleeping on My Lap at About Ten Weeks Old

Could this be the first time Kimber was in maintenance mode?
Could this be the first time Kimber was in maintenance mode?

We brought Kimber home when she was only eight weeks old and I knew that I would be working with and handling her paws quite frequently. So, I started desensitizing her paws while she was small enough to lie on her back on my lap and she was asleep. I would (not aggressively, but boldly) rub her paws between the toes and pads; I would play with her toenails as well. I kind of started giving her a puppy massage after a while. I tried to desensitize her armpits (axillary regions) and panty line areas (inguinal spaces) by making sure that she got a rub down in these areas routinely.

The More Advanced: Reverse Maintenance Mode

She looks terrified in this picture but she's completely calm... I swear!
She looks terrified in this picture but she's completely calm... I swear!

After a few weeks of doing this with Kimber, she was totally desensitized. I could handle her paws, trim her hair and check between her toes for weed seeds. The only thing was when I would get home from work, Kimber was so small that I would sit on the kitchen floor and greet her. She would walk up between my legs, lie down and roll over onto her back. Her head would be in my lap and we would do our “desensitization stuff”. This is how "maintenance mode" was born.


Whenever I need to perform any maintenance on Kimber, I sit in the same spot on the kitchen floor, she lies down between my legs, I gently flip her onto her back and support her with my legs on either of her sides. This positioning isn’t for everyone, I’m working on the floor with my dog, bent over her the entire time. If your pet is already reactive to you handling these sensitive areas, putting them onto their back and doing something super weird that you’ve never done before can be stressful for the dog and you. I recommend practicing desensitization training just to having their feet handled, not necessarily on their backs. Once your dog’s feet and sensitive areas can be worked with, you can start trimming nails and other mild maintenance tasks while they are relaxing on the floor anywhere.

Beginning desensitization training with a puppy, as I did with Kimber, can save you and your dog a lot of time, energy and frustration in the future. Your pet's veterinary and grooming teams will also be very thankful.

At some animal grooming facilities, there are extra charges for aggression or extra time that the team has to spend with your animal in order to desensitize them in a short period of time (which also never sticks, we're talking like a few minutes just so the dog can get groomed). In another scenario, if you bring your dog to the veterinarian for a nail trim, whether they are able to trim your dog's nails or not due to their cooperation, you are going to be charged for a nail trim. This "minor" visit is going to cost you upwards of $20 and as I said, you are going to pay for a professional's time no matter what, so you could be down $20 and still have an animal with untrimmed nails, not to mention the gas it took to go to the vet hospital, and the cost of the time that you could have been doing something else.

You can save yourself a bit of money by owning a dog that is comfortable with maintenance and minor procedures being performed on them. The last thing anyone wants is for an animal to be so scared, stressed and anxious that they feel they have to resort to biting. This can lead to staff being injured and your dog getting into trouble. It's not all about the money, but that's going to cost you as well.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Step one, Kimber decides she's cool with being in maintenance mode and comes over for some love and sits down between my legs.Step two, I ask Kimber to lie down.Step three, I gently roll Kimber onto her back and support her on both sides. Ta da! Maintenance Mode!
Step one, Kimber decides she's cool with being in maintenance mode and comes over for some love and sits down between my legs.
Step one, Kimber decides she's cool with being in maintenance mode and comes over for some love and sits down between my legs.
Step two, I ask Kimber to lie down.
Step two, I ask Kimber to lie down.
Step three, I gently roll Kimber onto her back and support her on both sides. Ta da! Maintenance Mode!
Step three, I gently roll Kimber onto her back and support her on both sides. Ta da! Maintenance Mode!

I do not recommend maintenance mode for animals with high anxiety, fearfulness or stress already. I also do not recommend maintenance mode for animals with any sort of osteoarthritis, lying on their back can be uncomfortable. If you can morph maintenance mode into your own version of the pet lying on their side or calmly sitting up, then go for it! That may be what is easiest and best for you.

Because I desensitized Kimber so that I could handle any part of her body in order to take care of her, she tolerates almost any procedure without fear, anxiety or stress. Not only is Kimber calm, but so am I. Performing maintenance on Kimber isn’t a fiasco, a huge event and she’s not scared of me or any of the tools that I use on her such as nail trimmers, grooming tools or hand scalers.

Final Thoughts

We covered a lot of scenarios here but I've seen all of them. Whether you just purchased a new puppy or adopted a senior dog from the shelter (good for you by the way!) every dog can be taught new tricks and this is one of the easy ones.

I recommend desensitization training (at least for nail trims) to all dogs. It is easy to do when your dog is young so it’s just another reason to play with your puppy! If you dedicate time to taking care of your dog’s maintenance daily, you and your dog will be thankful.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Catie Stacey profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Berry 

      19 months ago from Belgrade

      I hear that a lot, unfortunately! Old dogs can still learn new tricks.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      19 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Great tips. My 14 year old pup hates having his nails trimmed. I with I had done this with him when he was young.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)