Training a skittish adult dog

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Hi all,

So I have had my pit-lab mix August for 7 years. When I got him, I was pretty young and housetrained him reasonably well but didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't socialize him or teach him a lot of basic manners. He's been gradually introduced to other dogs and humans via going to the dog park, something I started last year, and he's finally chill with them and nicely behaved when I go walking with him or take him to the vet.

However, there are a couple of other behavior problems he has. He is TERRIFIED of the vet– to the point that they require me to give him anxiety medication before each appointment. He will snarl at them and not allow them to come into his kennel to get him, and when he's in the room with me, he'll hide behind me in an effort to avoid getting shots/getting checked out. He also won't let me trim his nails at all. I can do almost anything — from giving him pills to bathing — but he is so miserable whenever I try to trim his nails. He has NEVER bitten me but his growls and sudden movements startle me. I hate having to take him to the vet every time he needs his nails trimmed, and I'm sure they do too.

Additionally, he's a counter surfer & a trash can nose diver. He has no hesitation when it comes to reaching for food. He has some separation anxiety, and usually starts whining in his crate when he hears me enter the house. Recently this year we had trouble with him having accidents in the dog room while we were away at work. He also lunges on the leash sometimes (he used to do it at strangers before, not as much anymore, but definitely at squirrels still) and actually broke my finger last year with the leash when he saw a squirrel.

Honestly he's a smart dog, very food motivated, and listens when I speak or call him, and I'd really like some training for him, but I'm also scared that he'll be frightened of a dog trainer/center if we booked him. He's a big boy and I'm not a big human and can't always keep him under control. Any have any advice or recommendations?

edit: weird comparison but I also have a 12 year old black lab that does amazingly at the vet and groomer's. No idea what went right there and so wrong with August.

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