How to Help your Dog Get Used to Nail Trimming

As a groomer, the number one issue I come across is a dog who does not like their feet touched. This can range from simple pulling to full on aggression and fear. 

I have met quite a few pet owners and groomers alike who say “dogs just don’t like their feet touched”. I want to tell you that this is a myth! Any dog at any age can get used to having their paws touched and nails done. 

Getting your dog’s nails trimmed at the groomer or vets office does not have to be an anxiety ridden, bad experience. Most of the dogs I groom generally don’t mind having their nails done and their experience in the salon is much better because of it! 

Nail trimming is a very important part of the grooming process. Overgrown nails can splinter and break, which is painful especially if it opens the vein in the nails known as the quick. Overgrown nails also make it difficult for your dog to walk, their toes and knuckles bending in ways they weren’t meant to do for extended periods at a time. This can lead to inflammation and discomfort, and sometimes even arthritis. 

Here are some ways to get your dog used to those nail trims! This is broken down first to puppies then next to adults, as adults typically need a bit more training to get used to the nail trim but please know that they can definitely get used to it! Both tips use nail clippers and your pups favorite treats!

Above all, be safe. If your dog is showing signs of aggression or extreme fear, contact a local behaviorist to work together as your dog may need a tailored plan specific plan. 

Puppies: 

*Start by playing with your puppy’s paws and giving treats when they let you hold them. Work the toes and all the pads, putting pressure on the nails too!

*If your puppy starts to pull away, that’s okay. Let them go and resume the training when they have settled down. Do not force them. 

*Once your puppy is used to you touching their paws (this could take a few sessions), show the puppy the clippers and give them a treat. 

*Touch the clippers to their paws, praising them when they do not pull away. Also be mindful of the curious puppy! They may try and mouth the clippers, make sure to stop praising if this happens. We want them relaxed when the clippers touch their feet!

*Gently clip off the tip of the nails to start. Again, if your puppy becomes startled or pulls away let them go. Do not scold them for pulling, but give lots of praise when they let you clip their toes!

Puppy training, if done early, should be fun and relatively quick as long as it is done in a positive manner! 

But say you have an adult dog that is already adverse to having their paws touched and nails clipped. It will take longer than with a puppy in most cases, but it can be done!

Adults:

*Start when you and your dog are relaxing together, touch their shoulder gently with light pressure. 

*Work your way down to their legs to their paws. If your dog starts to pull, stop and let them relax again. Also withhold treats and praise until you resume. Continue to do this until you can get all the way down to the paw. Use soothing, long tones when praising as you pet and give treats. 

*When you get to the paw, start working each toe and putting pressure on them. Put pressure on the toenails themselves. Again, if your dog pulls or begins to stress out let them relax before trying again. Before moving on to the next step your dog should be completely relaxed when you touch their legs and feet. Remember to praise your dog when they give you their paw or let you hold it! 

*Next, time to get them used to the nail clippers! Don’t worry, you still won’t be clipping those nails for a while. 

*Pull out the clippers, show your pup and give them a treat. Remember to be happy when you pick those clippers out! Pretty quickly your dog will associate you pulling those nail clippers out with a treat. This step can also be done first, and is sometimes encouraged to do first as this typically goes faster and will help you stay motivated with training! 

*Time to put these together. Sitting relaxed with your dog on the floor, hold your dogs paw in one hand and hold the clippers in another. Slowly bring the clippers towards your dog’s paw while playing with the other and giving praise if they stay relaxed. Also be sure to open and close your clippers as well so they get used to the noise. Let your dog pull away if they start to get restless, and resume later when they have settled down. 

*Continue this until you can touch the clippers to your dogs nails and they are completely comfortable with them. You want to be able to touch the clippers to each nail and your dog be calm. Now is when you can attempt the nail trim! 

*Trim just the tip of the nail, keeping at a 45 degree angle as to make sure you do not expose the quick. Also, don’t expect to get all paws done on one sitting. 

**A key tip is to also keep your dog’s anatomy in mind! They will fight you a lot less if you are not pulling their legs out in ways that may be uncomfortable. You may not even realize you’re doing this! I recommend going on Google, Pinterest or other search engines to find pictures of dog anatomy and a close up picture of a dogs’ nail. This will give you a better idea of how you can help them stay comfortable and about how far you can trim on your dog’s nails. 

**Beware dull nail clippers! Either have nail clippers sharpened or replaced when dull. Using dull tools makes it harder for you and more uncomfortable for the dog due to the extra pressure needed for trimming. 

And there you have it! Don’t feel bad in the slightest if nail trimming just makes you too nervous, that’s where your local groomer can help! Just getting your dog up to that step will help your dog enjoy the groomers much more! They may also be able to grind/file the nails, helping to keep them smooth instead of sharp after they are cut. Taking your dog in once a month will keep your dogs nails at a healthy and manageable length.

Please feel free to reach out via comment or email with any questions you may have about this or other pet grooming related topics!

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