In all my years of experience with grooming, training, and rescuing dogs, I’ve learned that almost nothing causes as much stress for dogs and their owners as dog nail trimming. Dogs who are otherwise sweet and cuddly suddenly turn into snapping, screeching panic-monsters. Owners who love their dogs are afraid to do their nails out of fear that they may hurt their pup—or that, in panic, their dog may hurt them. As a groomer, I’ve trimmed more toenails than you could imagine… and I’ve experienced the full spectrum of reactions from the dogs I work with. Today, I’ll share a few tips to help both you and your dog become more comfortable with the process of dog nail trimming.
Tips for dog nail trimming:
- Start early
Not everyone gets their dog as a puppy but, if you do, start handling their feet and toenails as soon as you bring them home. Make sure every experience is positive. Make it something he looks forward to. Try giving him a gentle foot and nail massage with one hand while you offer super-awesome treats from the other hand. Make foot-handling part of his daily routine. Keep nail clippers at home and let your dog get used to seeing them while going about his normal life. Start weekly dog nail trimming as soon as he becomes a part of your family, so it’s no big deal.
- Have a holder
Unless your dog is completely comfortable with dog nail trimming, always have a second person hold him steady while you’re giving him his pedicure. It makes the process run more smoothly, as well as keeping both you and your dog safe from mishaps caused by trying to trim nails on a moving target. The holder should restrain your dog gently but firmly and offer verbal comfort throughout the process.
- Take your time
If your dog has had a bad experience with nail trims in the past, it will take time for him to learn to trust that future trims won’t be traumatic. Work with him at home every day to re-establish trust. A great way to start is by teaching him to shake hands. By giving positive reinforcement (treats, praise, or play) for the behavior, he will begin to learn that foot-handling can lead to good things. Once he’s completely comfortable with “shake” you can start to slowly increase the amount of time you hold his paw while continuing rewarding the behavior. Desensitization for dogs who hate nail trims takes time. Be patient. Move as slowly as your dog needs to go. The important thing is to show him that he can trust you and that he won’t be forced into a frightening situation. In fact, some dogs need anti-anxiety medication to help with this desensitization process. Forcing your dog for a nail trim will only make them more fearful and apprehensive for the next nail trimming.
If you need help with dog nail trimming, please contact Guthrie Pet Hospital to schedule an appointment.