How to Get Your Dog to Like Nail Trims

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Ever trimmed your dog’s nails and thought, “the struggle is real“?

What a lot of experts claim[1] should be a bonding experience between you and your fur baby, is no less than a wrestling match for some owners.

For some people their dog’s nail trimming sessions are so agonizing, they choose to outsource the job, rather than going through it themselves.

As someone who has been on both ends of the nail trimming nightmare spectrum, let me tell you: it gets better – I promise!

This article discusses the tips and tricks to follow for actually enjoyable sessions for both you and your dog – trust me, it’s possible!

All you need is lots of patience, good technique, and understanding of what your dog is trying to communicate to you.

Read on to find out how you can make your dog fall in love with her nail trimming sessions.

The Proper Length For Nail Tips

Even though it is possible to change how many dogs react to nail trimming sessions, it is crucial to remember that the longer they associate negative experiences to nail clipping, the more time they will require to get accustomed to the practice.

The first thing you need to do as a pet owner is to understand when to clip nails and how.

If you clip your dog’s nails too deep, that could scare them off the sessions altogether.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to trim dog nails down to stubs, which could result in cutting the nail’s blood vessels.

Since dogs need their nails for a better grip, trim them down till they are just above the floor so they do not slip.

Use an easy-functioning, nail trimmer so that you can make clean cuts – just remember not to cut too deep to prevent bleeding (here’s what to do if your dog’s nail does bleed).

Starting Young is Key

Another thing to remember is that the younger you start dog training for nail trimming sessions, the easier it will be for your fur baby to adopt the practice and get comfortable.

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Related: How to Trim Your Puppy’s Nails

Nail trimming comprises many steps, therefore, so does the familiarizing process for your dog.

Get them comfortable with nail clippers – how they look and sound.

Also, make sure you gently acquaint them with how you will maneuver their paws as their nails get clipped.

Starting young, but slowly, with body-handling exercises like these instills the idea in your dog that nail trims are not a scary affair.

For crucial positive association with these exercises, follow up with your pup’s favorite treat.

Have a Puppy Party

For many pet parents, the real difficulty in nail clipping arises when the dog is well past the pup stage.

Any dog that has had a prior bad experience with a nail clipper, is likely to be more difficult to train (here’s how to trim your dog’s nails WITHOUT clippers).

Especially with such dogs, be patient and remember that any attempt to rush this process, might eventually result in delaying it further.

A good trick is to have a gigantic puppy party and treat your doggo often when familiarizing them with nail equipment and paw handling.

If your dog is scared of certain nail trimmers, replace them rather than getting them to like the old ones.

When showing your dog new clippers, immediately follow up with a puppy party.

How do you do that?

Whip the new nail trimmer from behind and as soon as your dog lays eyes on it, award them with a yummy treat.

However, make sure to stop the flow of treats as soon the trimmers go out of sight.

For an adult dog, repeating helps as they start associating the clippers with good things – AKA their favorite treats.

Nail trimming takes patience, and so does training for it.

Once your dog seems comfortable at the sight of the clipper (which can take a few sessions), move on with restraining them and touching their paw pads.

Since you will be the one holding the doggo, you can allow them to lick peanut butter off a spoon as you restrain them.

If your dog seems at ease, apply subtle pressure on the paws and nails to mimic future nail trims.

Judging your dog’s reaction (or aversion), decide to touch their nails with clippers and familiarize them with the sound of clipping – don’t clip the nails yet.

The objective is to only become acquainted with different sounds and sensations when you will be trimming your dog’s nails.

Treat generously after each step. Repeat the exercise as many times as needed.

If, at any point, you feel like your dog is not into it, retrace a few steps and start again.

Tips to Help with Dog Nail Trimming

Don’t Mistake Agitation for Defiance

Be sensitive to your dog’s body language. A simple way to do this is to imagine the process from your dog’s view.

Any agitation is a sign that your dog is struggling – do not confuse it with defiance. Be empathetic, and remember that it’s hard for your dog.

For a dog who has struggled with nail trims, even going through one nail per day is good progress.

At-Home Nail Trimming for the Win

While you might think a pet professional will do a better job at trimming your dog’s nails, keep in mind that they have schedules to follow.

At-home nail trims allow you to work around your dog’s comfort.

The element of no-rush makes the process much more stress-free and contributes to keeping your dog relaxed. Not to mention, it saves you a ton of money!

A certified Fear Free Certified Practitioner, Dr. Joanne Loeffler[2] of the Telford Veterinary Hospital, says dog paws are sensitive.

If handled carelessly, they can result in the animal becoming more fearful or violent.

She adds that a lack of fight does not always mean that your dog is happy with such sessions.

Thus, rushed procedures, even by professionals, can do more harm than good.

When to Choose Nail Grinders over Nail Clippers

Another trick to get your dog to like clipping sessions is to change the tool of choice.

If your dog is traumatized at the sight of nail clippers, switch them with nail grinders.

They work more like nail files and can help to desensitize older dogs to previous poor trimming experiences (here’s how to grind your dog’s nails).

Be Careful

Last but not least, be careful when trimming dog nails. You do not want to risk heavy bleeding due to a nicked quick.

In case that happens, apply pressure and then use styptic powder. If that is not available, use baking flour as an alternative.

For dark nails, use a penlight for better visibility. Be gentle, and remember that you want your fur baby to enjoy nail trimming.

Go slow and commit to making your dog as comfortable as possible, even if it means spreading the nail clipping over numerous sessions.

If done correctly, these sessions can help you bond better with your dog.

Resources

  1. https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/nailed-it-5-tips-stress-free-dog-nail-trims
  2. https://fearfreepets.com/fear-free-directory/listing/joanne-loeffler
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