Nail Trimming
Nail Trimming

Nail Trimming

It may sound crazy, but it is possible to trim your dogs nails yourself!

Creating a positive association with nail trims, at home in the comfort of their own home, with you, their most trusted human, can be done! (And think of the money you’ll save!) 

There are many steps so taking it slow, mastering each one before moving on to the next (and sometimes taking a step back) will be the key to success.

Why are short nails important?

There are actually a number of reasons why it’s a good idea to keep your dogs nails nice and trim.

  • Long nails can be slippery on certain surfaces, which can cause injury and frustration for the pup
  • Long nails also change the way a dog stands and they can put pressure on the feet and legs, causing pain and discomfort. If it’s a long term issue, it can even cause damage to certain muscles, bones and ligaments.
  • Shorter nails are harder to break. Long nails tend to get caught on things and can rip, splinter or tear, causing pain and bleeding. 
  • And, well, nobody likes to be scratched by long dog nails. They can hurt both playmates and humans, along with property, if not kept at an appropriate length.
Here is an awesome (but long… about 15 minutes) video of Dr Leslie Woodcock (Veterinarian Rehabilitation Specialist and Agility Team Canada Veterinarian) talking about the importance of regular (about every two weeks) nail trims for your pups via Susan Garrett’s website:

Now, there are different ways to keep your dogs nails short. There are a few types of clippers, dremels, and scratch boards. I’ve found a few great videos for each type:

No matter the tool you choose, there is work to be done before you even touch a nail with it.

Getting Started:
Acclimating to Handling

Before diving into nail trims, help your dog get used to having their paws touched and handled. Gently touch their paws while giving them treats or praises. This helps them associate paw handling with positivity and can start the day you bring your dog home! 

The earlier, the better.

If you start doing this when your pup comes to live with you, just a few minutes each day, it will make a huge impact.

Don’t Forget to Reinforce!

Remember that treats, verbal praise, and gentle pets are your best allies. Be sure to reward your dog generously after each successful nail trim step and progression to reinforce the positive association.

  1. Introduce the Tools Gradually
    Introduce your dog to the nail clippers or grinder before using them. Let them sniff and investigate the tools while offering treats and affection. This helps them feel more comfortable with these unfamiliar objects.
  2. Counterconditioning: The Treat Trail
    Create a treat trail leading to the nail trimming area. This not only helps your dog associate the area with positive experiences but also creates anticipation for rewards.
  3. Touch and Treat
    Hold your dog’s paw for a brief moment and immediately offer a treat. Gradually increase the time you hold their paw, always rewarding them afterward. This teaches them that having their paws held is a good thing.
  4. Desensitization to the Tools
    Before attempting an actual trim, turn on the grinder or open the clippers near your dog without using them. Treat and praise your dog during this exposure to create positive associations with the sound and sight of the tools.

Key Tips:

Gradual Nail Trims

Start with small sessions, trimming just one nail at a time. If using a grinder, let your dog become comfortable with the sensation of it touching their nails. Always follow each trim with treats and encouragement.

Stay Calm and Positive

Dogs can pick up on your emotions. Stay calm and relaxed during the process. If you’re anxious, your dog might become anxious too. Speak soothingly and use a happy tone throughout.

Patience is Key

If your dog becomes uneasy, don’t force the issue. Take a step back, continue with the handling and treats, and try again later. It’s important end on a good note, and if you are feeling frustrated or annoyed, your dog will feel it too. Patience will help your dog gradually build confidence and their trust in you.

Consistency and Routine

Stick to a regular nail-trimming routine. This can be tough, but consistency helps your dog understand what to expect, which will reduce any surprises or anxiety.