Nail Trimming - Next Steps

Alright, now your dog is used to you touching their feet, what's next??

  • Introduce your dog to the clippers or Dremel. If he starts running away the instant the nail clippers come out, don’t wave it in his face right off the bat. Lay it on the ground a short distance away, and reward him when he gives signs that he is neutral or even curious about it being in his vicinity. If he ignores the clippers, great! Give him a treat. If he ventures up to it and takes a tentative sniff, even better! Give him more treats! The goal here is to encourage him to stop viewing the clippers as something to be afraid of.

  • Taking baby steps, gently desensitize him to the clippers or Dremel. Once he tolerates the clippers at a short distance, move it closer to him, then hold it in your hand while sitting next to him. Touch his paw with one hand while holding the clippers in the other. If you are using a Dremel, turn it on and give him treats to override his apprehension toward the noise it makes. Don’t try to do all of this in one sitting! Rather, you should spend a few days at each stage, constantly rewarding him along the way, no matter how long it takes or how many failed repetitions you end up doing. Even the littlest bit of progress is an occasion to reward him and remember to give him a break after a few minutes of doing this. Once he stops minding the clippers or Dremel being near his paws, you’re ready to move on to the next step!

  • Touch your dog’s paw with the clippers or Dremel. This has to be done gradually so as not to overwhelm him and send him into fight or flight mode. Start by tapping the clippers momentarily on one of his nails. Praise and reward. Repeat until he stops squirming or resisting, then build up the time interval that you touch the clippers or Dremel (turned off) to his paws.

  • Time to trim! Now your dog should be at a point where he can tolerate you holding his paw and touching the nail trimming tool of choice to it for 5-10 seconds. If you’re using clippers, use it to trim just one single nail, then heap praise on him and call it a night. Do the next nail the following day, and repeat until all of them get done. Because Dremels take longer to grind down nails than regular clippers, the process of desensitizing him to nail trims will take more time. Use the Dremel to grind one single nail for 1 second, reward, then repeat for another second and reward again.

  • Consistency is everything. If you start by trimming a single nail each day, by the time you’re done with all four paws the first nail you trimmed will have grown out enough to need trimming again. Doing it this way helps to slow the process down into tiny manageable sessions that are repeated regularly enough to remove your dog’s fear of nail trims. Keep doing this and eventually, he won’t mind you doing two nails in one day, and then three nails, four nails, and so on until you only need to do one session every two weeks for all four paws.