Thursday, 23 May, 2024
Home » A Trainer Explains: How to Take the Stress Out of Clipping Your Dog’s Nails

A Trainer Explains: How to Take the Stress Out of Clipping Your Dog’s Nails

by Pets Sos

key takeaways

  • Trimming your dogs nails doesn’t have to be stressful for you or them if you are patient and work slowly.
  • Nail trimming is an opportunity to bond and build trust with your dog.
  • It is essential to move slowly, taking weeks or even months for your dog to become comfortable with having his feet touched and eventually his nails trimmed.

Many dogs struggle with nail trimming, and the experience can be stressful for you and your pup. With time and patience, you can teach your dog to be less afraid of getting his nails trimmed. They will never love it, but they can learn to tolerate it, and at the same time, you can improve the bond with your dog.

Why are many dogs afraid of getting their nails trimmed?

  • Dewclaws have been removed
    If your dog has had dewclaws removed, it can cause problems with nail clipping. Imagine being taken to the back of a vet’s office with someone he doesn’t know or has caused him discomfort, and suddenly something sharp cuts off his thumbs. No wonder dogs are nervous and afraid of having their feet touched after this trauma.
  • Improper handling in the past.
    If dogs are not handled enough as puppies and taught to feel safe when touching their feet and other body parts, they may feel uncomfortable and scared when you touch their feet. If you try to cut his nails at home with nail clippers and hold them while you remove the foot, you’re much more likely to cut the quick or sensitive part. If you accidentally cut the rapid, it can create more fear for your dog in the future. Furthermore, holding them firmly while they squirm also creates more trauma for your dog and damages his trust level in you.
  • No previous experience with nail cutting.
    Similarly, if you have a rescue dog used to living on the streets or the previous family did not cut their nails, it can be a big test for you to cut them.
  • physical sensitivity
    Dogs, just like people, have different levels of physical sensitivity. When dogs are more sensitive to their environment, energy, and emotions, they can also be susceptible to physical pain. In these cases, just touching the nails can cause a dog to feel stressed as they reminisce about their last nail trimming experience.
dog with clipped nails

Nail trimming at a vet’s office

Asking your vet or groomer to trim his nails is usually not the best option, even though it may seem easier. Your dog probably already sees the vet’s office as a stressful place; it smells funny, they listen to other distressed animals and nothing funny ever happens there.

The problems with a hairdresser are similar, especially if it’s someone they haven’t met yet. Even when they love people but are afraid of having their nails cut or touched, any dog ​​could bite even an experienced groomer.

So if your dog is already feeling anxious about nail trims or vet visits, it could be contributing to his fear. Also, vets are on a schedule and probably can’t take their time to approach nail clipping as slowly as your dog needs, giving them time to recover between the nails.

Some dogs can handle nail trimming at the vet or groomer just fine; Like anything else, it’s important to consider your dog’s history, known fears, personality, and ability to cope in a potentially stressful situation.

Approach nail trimming as a bonding experience

Why not view this ‘challenge’ with your dog as an opportunity to build more trust and a deeper bond with them? Helping them get over this fear and insecurity can take a few months and it is essential that you are patient, compassionate and understanding with your dog while helping him. Know that his nails will probably be longer than you’d like for a while, so walk on the sidewalk to help wear down his nails naturally until he can cut them.

How to cut nails and build confidence

What you will need:

  • A spatula
  • Nut butter (or something else your dog loves that you can spread with your spatula)
  • a nail clipper
  • a dremel

Step 1 – Get your dog used to you holding the clipper

  • Sit on the ground instead of kneeling (avoid getting close to them).
  • Place the clipper on the ground near you.
  • Spread a little nut butter on the spatula.
  • Call your dog to you.
  • After your dog approaches, raise the spatula for him to lick.
  • Wait 20 seconds, then slowly reach for the clipper while your dog continues to lick the spatula.
  • If your dog backs up, bring your hand back to your lap and call your dog over to you and try to reach for the clipper again.
  • If your dog keeps licking the nut butter, hold the clipper in your hand, but keep it at a distance and low to the ground.
  • After holding the clipper for about 30 seconds, place it back on the ground.
  • Give your dog lots of praise for being brave when he touched the clipper.

Do these steps several times until your dog is comfortable coming up to you, without cringing or stretching his legs to reach you. Once your dog is willing to stay close to you when he has the clippers on his lap, he can begin to touch his feet.

Human holding dog paw.

Step 2 – Touch your dog’s feet with the nearby scissors

  • Ask your dog to give you his paw and touch the paw he is most comfortable with while you hold the clippers in your other hand on your lap.
  • Gently touch a finger to one of your nails, then end the training session.

Step 3 – Begin to touch the nails

  • As in step 2, get your dog comfortable with you touching one nail, then move on to touching multiple nails.
  • Continue to work this step gradually until your dog is comfortable with you touching each nail on each paw with your finger.

Step 4 – Touch the clipper with a fingernail

  • After touching the nails with your finger as usual, slowly touch the nail clipper to a paw nail that you feel most comfortable with.
  • End the session with more nut butter as a reward for being brave.
  • Touch only one nail of the same paw with the clipper every day.

Step 5 – Touch all the nails with the nail clipper

  • Once he’s comfortable with you touching one paw with the clipper, move on to the next paw and repeat the process.
  • Continue until you can touch each nail on each paw with the clipper.

Step 6 – Start Trying to Cut a Nail

  • Cut only the tip, try trimming one nail, again on the paw that is most comfortable for you.
  • Make sure you are exuding confidence and are calm and relaxed.
  • Clip one nail each day until you notice that your dog feels more comfortable during the experience.
dog with clipped nails

Step 7- Cut more than one nail

  • Start trimming a couple of nails in one session.
  • Gradually increase the number of nails you trim as your dog’s comfort level becomes more apparent.

Important things to consider:

take small steps

Do not move on to the next step until you are doing well with the step you are practicing.

The steps outlined may seem gradual, but it’s important to take small steps when dealing with a dog’s fear. If you try to rush the process or put pressure on them, they won’t feel safe and won’t get over their anxiety.

Get them used to touching their feet by cleaning them.

You can help your dog’s feeling of confidence and security around paw touching by cleaning his paws each time you come in after walking or going to the bathroom. Place a mat just inside the door that you ask them to sit on and then ask them to give you their paw. Keep it simple with one word as you raise each leg. After they’ve cleaned their paws, give them a treat for cooperating and to give them more incentive and make it a good experience.

Have a second person help you
If someone is holding the spatula, facing away from what you’re doing, it will help your dog focus on something else for a second while you trim.

Use silent nail clippers
Some mowers have a louder “clipping” noise when cutting. This noise can cause panic in some dogs.

Ensure adequate lighting
It’s best to trim her nails near a window and during the day when lighting is best.

Always end on a good note
If your dog becomes anxious during the process, stop trying to pick at the nails and end it on a good note by giving him praise, affection, and nut butter.

Do not rush

Allow plenty of time to trim your nails; never try to rush the experience or your dog will feel the pressure and could contribute to his feeling of stress.

Give a special gift immediately after clipping
Immediately after the clipping experience, give your dog a high-value reward, such as a bully stick to chew on. By doing this, your dog will begin to have another positive association with nail trimming.

Clippers vs. a Dremel

A Dremel tool
A Dremel tool.

Every dog ​​is unique, and some dogs are more comfortable with a Dremel (a multipurpose tool with a grinding attachment) than a clipper. If your dog is more sensitive to noise and touch, the Dremel is more likely to be too much for him and he will have to stick with the clippers.

If you’re not sure about using a Dremel, see how your dog responds when you turn a Dremel on near him. If they shrink or recede, stick with the scissors. However, if they seem a bit nervous because they’ve never seen or heard of a Dremel before, following the same steps might help them feel comfortable with it.

The benefits of using a Dremel

Using scissors can leave a sharp point on the nail. If you want a softer edge, you can touch up the end of the nail with the Dremel.

You can watch the nail being filed down and stop the Dremel before touching the quick.

If your dog has thicker nails, the Dremel requires less pressure than a nail clipper to cut the nail.


The goal is to create a feeling of trust and security for your dog. Even when your dog is comfortable with the process, it’s usually not something dogs love but rather tolerate. So instead of doing all his nails in one go, he trims the nails one paw at a time. The less time he spends cutting his nails, the less ordeal it will be for them. This continues to give your dog more good experiences and increases his trust in you.

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