Dog Won’t Let Me Trim Nails: What Should I Do?

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Keeping your dog’s nails short is more than a cosmetic; it’s essential for their health and comfort. Overgrown nails in dogs can cause various health issues.

In the short term, long nails affect your dog’s posture, making them walk awkwardly and can cause the nails to be broken and cracked. In the long run, these overgrown nails may lead to joint problems and arthritis.

Despite the importance, most dogs won’t make it easy for you to cut their nails. All it takes is just one bad clip, and your dog will flee the room every time they see a clipper.

More Reason Why Your Dog Won’t Let You Trim Their Nails

Lack of proper training. This happens a lot if you adopt an older dog. If they are not trained to relax during nail trims when they are a puppy, your dog will stress out when you suddenly touch their feet and try to cut their nails.

Nail clippers are a strange object for your dog. If this is your dog’s first time seeing nail clippers, they might be scared of these threatening-looking metal tools. 

Previous bad experience. Your dog might have had a bad experience before when you or someone else trimmed their nails too short and cut the quick. Once your dog has this bad experience ingrained in their memory, the fear seldom goes away and actually increases over time.

What Can You Do?

For extremely aggressive dogs who growl and bite when you try to trim their nails, bringing your dog to the vet is the quickest and perhaps the most proven solution.

However, if your dog is a puppy or if they don’t react too much, you may find the following at-home tips helpful.

How to Train Dogs to Let You Clip Their Nails

1. Start slow.

Before introducing your puppy or dog to the nail clipper, you need first to train your dog to let you touch their paws. Start small, try to lightly touch their shoulder while both of you are lounging around.

When your dog looks relaxed and comfortable, reward them with their favorite treats, and then gradually continue to work down the legs toward the paws. 

Once your dog let you hold their paws and is still relaxed, you can continue to try touching their nails with your fingers. If they are still relaxed, try to add a little pressure as you touch the nails, so your dog will be familiar with the feeling as you do the actual nail trimming later on.

2. Introduce the clipper.

The next step is to introduce the clipper to your dog. Show the clipper to your dog at a comfortable distance, then give them a treat and praise them. 

If your dog reacts negatively and storms away from the room, stop this exercise and start again later. The next time you start the exercise again, move the clipper a bit further. The goal here is to let your dog comes to the clipper at their own pace.

Repeat this exercise several times until your dog is comfortable coming to you with you holding the clipper. 

3. Practice the Trimming

Once your dog feels comfortable having their paws touched and held, the third step is to practice the nail trimming. 

Hold your dog’s paw in one hand and take various objects, such as a pencil and eraser, on another hand. Touch your dog’s nails with those objects.

One they are comfortable being touched with various objects, tap the end of their nails with the clipper. If they remain relaxed, put the clipper over the nail without cutting. Repeat this exercise for each of your dog’s nails and treat them with a treat as they stay relaxed.

The next step is to make your dog comfortable with the sounds of the clipper. Stand close to your dog, then make a sound with your clipper by squeezing it. Give them a treat every time you make a sound, and they stay calm.

The last exercise is to combine the two activities above. Hold your dog’s paw and squeeze the clipper next to the paw as though you were about actually to clip their nails. If your dog has been comfortable with this exercise, they are ready for the last step, the actual nail trimming.

If they look uncomfortable, then go back to the first exercise in this step three and then slowly repeat the exercise again.

The step no one, two, and three should be held as short as possible, 5-10 minutes at most per training session.

4. Do The Nail Trimming

After your dog has felt calmed and associate seeing the clipper with getting a treat, the fourth step is to do the nail trimming. 

Call your dog and get them to sit or lie down with you. Hold your dog’s paws and let the paws touch the clipper. Put the clipper to the nails, then cut off the just the tips of the nails.

For the first few times, you may want to clip one nail a day to make it easy for them. After several times, if everything goes smoothly, gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one day. Continue this process until you can clip all their nails in one sitting.

Remember, as you progress, whenever your dog shows a positive reaction, you want to reward them with lots of treats and praise to reinforce positive behavior.

More Nail Trimming Tips

Don’t hold your dog down. Sometimes dog owners might get frustrated while trimming their dog’s nails. No matter what you do, don’t hold your dog down to keep them still, as this only serves to make your dog anxious and fearful.

Ask someone to gently holding your dog if you need to, or if you have more budget; you can buy pet grooming arm like Downtown Pet Grooming Arm to make everything easier.

What If Your Dog has had a Bad Experience with Nail Clippers in the Past?

If your dog has had a bad experience in the past, such as getting their quick clipped, you may want to change the nail clipper to start with a clean slate.

By changing the old clipper to a new model that your dog doesn’t have a negative association with, you can start anew. You can switch to a new clipper or try using different nail clipping solutions like dog nail grinders.

Personally, I find using dog nail grinders is easier and safer than nail clippers. You may want to check out my review for the best dog nail grinders, along with the step-by-step instruction on how to use it to trim dog’s nails.

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