How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails When They Give You A Hard Time

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails When They Give You A Hard Time

Some dogs are fine with it, while others will fight you till the end.

Do you know what we’re talking about?

Nail trims, of course.

If you’re the owner of a dog that gives you a hard time or even transforms into a terror during nail trims, this article is for you.

Some dogs don’t mind nail trims but for others, it’s the bane of their existence. For those owners, nail trims are stressful for both them and their dog. Fear of nail trims is often due to being painfully ‘quicked’ in the past, which can easily happen on dogs with dark nails, such as German shepherds.

For those dogs that have had a painful experience, nail trims make them anxious and scared. Something they don’t want to repeat.  Unfortunately, when trying to trim the nails of a fearful dog, accidents happen easier, which only reinforces their fear.  Not to mention, owners are often also nervous, afraid they’ll make another mistake.

Some dogs simply don’t like their paws handled, have never been trained to tolerate handling, or have an irrational fear of nail clippers. Which is why puppy conditioning is so important. These dogs will often yank their paws back and even run when they see a nail clipper but they usually don’t fight much.

If your dog gives you a hard time when you try to clip their nails, conditioning your dog to accept their paws being handled and the nail clipper can help.

Hire a professional

If you’re as nervous as your dog, it might be best to hire a professional. Sometimes dogs will behave better with someone they don’t know and if you’re not feeling confident, your dog can feel it, too.

To keep everyone, calm, it might be best to have your vet or a groomer trim your dog’s nails. It’s not very expensive and often you can even find a mobile groomer or nail trimmer willing to help.  This is especially a good idea if your dog is comfortable with your vet and accommodating when being handled.

Train them to allow you to touch their toes

One way to train your dog to allow their paws to be handled is by giving them a dog massage. While everyone is relaxed, rub their shoulder working your way down their leg, to their paw, eventually massaging each toe.

Continue practicing this until they are comfortable with you touching and holding their toenails. You can even train them to give you their paw (shake) and allow you to touch each toenail before giving them a treat.

Reverse the negative association to the nail clipper

Reintroduce your dog to the nail clipper. To do this, allow your dog to see and smell the clipper but don’t try to use it on them or force get close.  This step just gets them used to the clipper and being in the same room with it without causing them to react.

Reintroduction to the clipper will be a process so don’t expect miracles the first time you try it.  Its best to start right after the last trim so that you have plenty of time to work up to the next one. 

Once they tolerate the sight of the clipper, begin calling them to you while you hold the clipper. When they come to you while you’re holding the nail clipper, give them a lot of praise and a treat. Practice this several times a day until they are no longer concerned about the clipper being in their presence.

Get them used to the sound clippers make

Once your dog is accustomed to the clippers, get them used to the sound they make without them getting overly fearful or anxious. To do this, hold the clippers in your hand and open and close them while your dog is in the room.

In the beginning, don’t force them near you. When your dog no longer reacts to the sound, that is when you begin calling them to you while you make open and close the clipper and reward them when they are relaxed and calm around them.

Handle paws while holding the clippers

Once your dog no longer reacts to the sound of the clippers opening and closing, work on paw handling while you have the clippers nearby. Once they allow that, handle their paws while you hold the clippers and work your way up to opening and closing the clippers. 

Give them big praise and high value treats when they are calm and relaxed during this step. Don’t try to force things or trim their nails too soon because German shepherds are clever and will see right through you if you try to trick them.

Touch the nail clipper to the nails

Once they allow you to handle their paws while you hold the clipper, train them to allow you to touch their nail with the clipper.  Give them extra big praise and a treat for this step. Once you can touch each toe with the nail clipper, begin opening and closing the clipper next to their toenail without actually trying to trim one.

Trim a nail or two

After you master touching their nail with the nail clipper, try trimming one nail. Be careful not to cut the quick and only trim the end to ensure the experience will be painless. If they allow you to cut their nail, give them a big praise and super high value treat.

The first time, only trim a nail or two to reduce the stress and anxiety. Spread the trimming over days and each day, give them lots of praise and rewards for allowing you to trim their nails.

Use a grinding tool

Another way you can trim your dog’s nails is with a Dremel or grinding tool. To do this, you’ll want to follow the steps above to acclimate your dog to the grinder.  Some dogs don’t mind the vibration of the grinder, preferring it to the nail clipper and for others, the clippers are less stressful. Either way, you will have to get your dog comfortable with the tool. An advantage to the grinder is that you can’t cut the quick but it also takes longer and can bother dogs that are very sensitive to having their paws touched or the sound or vibration.

Trimming tips

  • When trimming your dog’s nails, always use a sharp, high quality nail clipper.
  • If you’re worried your dog will bite or has a history of biting, teach them to wear a muzzle.
  • For truly traumatized or dogs that show aggression, talk to your vet about a sedative.
  • Sometimes dogs will allow a ‘pro’ to trim their nails easier than their owner.
  • Walking on concrete can help keep your dog’s nails naturally trimmed.
  • Start small on dark nails so you don’t accidently cut the quick.
  • Keep Kwik Stop powder on hand that contains benzocaine to numb the pain as well as stop the bleeding. Use pressure, sugar or flour in an emergency.
  • Use long lasting treats as a distraction while doing nail trims.

We hope these tips help you and your dog.  Please feel free to share with your friends.

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