The Dreaded Nail Clippers


Trimming nails can be, and often is, extremely stressful for both the dog and the owner!  Coral was no different from most other dogs in that she didn’t like her feet touched, let alone, held and clipped. So, after quite a bit of trial and error with the rest of the crew, and some research on best practices, we have landed on a method for doing nails that alleviates the stress of nail trimming in the long run.

The way that  has worked best for our dogs is slowing down the process and helping thme, and us,  form a positive association with having their nails done.  This type of “teamwork”, where dog and human are putting faith in one another with positive results, also builds trust and strengthens the bond between them.

The main focus of our plan is to make sure that every experience our pup has with the nail clippers is a positive one.  The video below is the second time I’ve sat down to clip Coral’s nails.  As you can see it makes her very uncomfortable and I am constantly treating and praising her while I’m positioning her to get to her nails and trim them safely(more to come on this in later posts).

Our first time I just had the clippers in my hand and kept giving her bite size treats, as well as praise, for about 2 minutes before I even touched her feet.  After that I just played “gimme your paw” for a bit with her while teasing her nails with the opposite hand, to get her used to me touching them.  She pulled her leg back the first few times when I started to try to get the clippers around the nail. This is ok and we should never use force to keep a hold of the dogs foot/leg if she is dead set on pulling away.  This will just cause her to react with more fear/discomfort, which we want to avoid at all costs.

In the video below you can see that Coral pulls her leg away and I let her go, reassure her that it is all going to be ok, and give her a treat.  After that I resume the process and would have continued to do the same if she pulled away again.  Patience is key, dogs are great at sensing frustration from our body language, so I make sure I’m in the right mindset before I begin.  I also go somewhere quiet, without distractions, to make sure I have her full attention on me and what we are doing.

As with all things when a dog is afraid or unsure, I always err on the side of doing less rather than trying to push the dog too far before he/she is ready.

The first time we sat down to try to do Coral’s nails, I only did one.  This time she was much, much more comfortable so I decided to do two.  As you can see I probably could have done more, but stopping and making a fuss over how awesome she did will build that positive association in her brain for the next time!

Please comment below with any stories or methods that you have found work for you and your dog!


3 thoughts to “The Dreaded Nail Clippers”

  1. Great tips and video! We are much too nervous to trip our dog’s nails and take him to a groomer. We do trim the nails of our cats though, which is definitely a two person job.

    1. I’ve had cats my whole life and I’ve never clipped their nails!? I always thought that scratching posts and trees helped them to keep their nails sharp and short. I’m going to have to have a look at figsy’s now that you said that(our cat and unsung hero of the rescue)

      1. Our cats are indoor only. Perhaps if yours go outside they’re okay. We had indoor/outdoor cats when I was growing up and I don’t ever recall my parents trimming their nails!

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