My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Clipping Dog Nails


Clipping your dog’s toenails is a wrestling match for many but it doesn’t have to be. The issue is that most of us do not handle our dog’s feet and toes except when we plan a pedicure. Daily handling mixed in with something they enjoy will make most dogs relaxed about having their feet handled. (Most dogs. If your dog growls or threatens you – stop! If you think he might or could – STOP! Get professional hands on help. Only you can know what is or isn’t safe with your dog.)

The trick? Going from liked to less liked and back again. An example? Rub his belly, run your hand down his leg brushing over his paw, then rub his belly again. Repeat until he is relaxed about that then up the ante: handle his paw briefly. Go back to that belly. Hold his paw, rub his belly, gently grasp his toe, rub his belly some more. By linking something he enjoys (belly rubs) with something he is not too sure about (having his feet handled), you can improve his view of paw handling.

Do this daily as part of your normal routine and he’ll soon lie with his feet happily in the air.

Now, add in the nail clippers. This can start a whole new flurry of concern. No matter. Go back to the beginning and work forward again with the clippers in hand. Improvement won’t take very long this time.

Now you’re ready to trim. When you start to cut his nails, don’t try to get them all cut at once. Snip the tip of one, belly-rub for a while then quit while you’re ahead. Accept victory. Do another tomorrow. This will take a few sessions to get them all done, but who cares?  It’s not a race.

As your dog gets more relaxed, do two nails in a row. More success? Three. Never push it. Always quit on better. And enjoy your success!

It was easy and painless for all concerned. It even, believe it or not, can become nearly fun. Really. It can.

NOTE: Get instructions from your veterinarian or groomer on how to nail trim before you try to do this. If you cut the nail too short, it is painful for the dog (bad for him) and they can bleed profusely (scary for you).

By Sarah Wilson, author of the two handbooks of My Smart Puppy (Kindle Version here) and Childproofing Your Dog (Kindle Version here)

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