As a Los Angeles dog trainer, I get a lot of dogs that will not tolerate their groomer, vet or owners trying to trim their nails. Most dogs will snatch their paws away, scream or even trying to bite you. It’s universally uncomfortable for them in my experience. Knowing this, I like to make sure all my dogs are ok with having their nails trimmed. Nail trimming is a recurring part of maintaining your dog’s health. Nails that are allowed to grow too long can break, affect the structure of the foot, make walking difficult and potentially contribute to arthritis. Training your dog to tolerate nail trimming is an important life skill.
I don’t want to lead you guys on… for a lot of dogs this will take a lot of repetitions before your dog is genuinely ok with it, however it’s soooo worth it. Some of the skills taught when training your dog to tolerate a nail trimming will also help you pass grooming portion of the CGC. (Learn More about the CGC – Los Angeles Dog Trainer)
How To Do It
First – I like to just get my dogs comfortable with their paws being handled. I will get a handful of high-value treats and let the dog eat out of my hand while I lift, grab and squeeze their paws. I’ll do this 3 or 4 times in any training session alternating paws in the front an back.
Second – Once I’ve done this a few times and my dog could care less about the touching and is all about the treats, I will usually put the paw groping on cue. I’ll say PAW as I go to grab the dogs paws and wait a heartbeat before I present the treats. At this point, I also like to push the dog a little… I start squeezing a little harder and become a little more intrusive about the way I touch their feet.
Third – When my dog is comfortable with considerable paw touching and groping, I like to introduce the trimming tool. I will pull out the tool and lay it next to the dog, then say PAW. I’ll handle the dog’s paw a little bit then reward them with a treat. I’ll make sure I pick up and put down the tool every time before I go to the next leg. Make sure you repeat this for every paw.
Fourth – I will get my treats and trimming tool, cue the dog PAW. Once I’m holding the dog’s paw, I’ll touch it a few times with the tool, then say GOOD and pay the dog. I repeat this sequence for each paw.
Fifth – Here comes the clip… I wlll cue PAW and clip the very tip of one nail per paw at a 45 degree angle. In between each foot, I’m still rewarding with treats. Cutting the very tip makes less of a sound, gives you more to clip the next day and it helps you avoid hitting the kwik (blood vessel in the dog’s toe nail) Here comes the patience… I will do one nail per foot and do that over the course of a few days.
Sixth – Once the dog is tolerant of getting this done every day, I may start clipping more than one nail per foot. I always mark and reward after each paw. Over time your dog will get comfortable an allow you to do all of his nails with no fuss.
You will need to do this over the course of a month or so. Your dog will learn to tolerate it and maybe even like it. Even if you are not the one clipping your dog’s nails, this will make it way less stressful for the vet or groomer that you hand them off to.
If you’re local, research a reputable Los Angeles dog trainer (like us, LOL) and set up a few sessions to learn how to train your dog to tolerate nail trimming. We can help give you and your dog the tools you need to last a lifetime.