In this first installment of my nail trim how-do blog, I am going to talk about what we call “desensitizing” your dog to the nail trim process. Stay tuned for next month’s installment, and soon you will be an expert at trimming your dog’s nails!

Trimming nails on my dog? I don’t know how!

The thought of trimming a dog’s nails may send some pet owners running for the hills! And the sight of the nail clippers? That may send some dogs running for hills! I often get asked as a technician here at Frontier to demonstrate how to properly trim a pooch’s nails. When given the right tools and advice, trimming your dog’s nails needn’t be a catastrophe. Most of the work is actually getting your dog comfortable with the process; then learning how to properly trim the nails is a breeze!

Desensitizing Your Dog

First and foremost, you will need to condition your dog to having his feet touched and manipulated. Luckily, food is a very motivating reward for most canines and it will be your best friend while taking this nail trimming journey.

Start by touching or holding your dog’s leg above the “wrist” and below the elbow, as you touch his leg offer a small treat. When he finishes the treat remove your hand from his leg. Repeat this process multiple times, always giving a small treat while you are holding his leg. We want your pooch to associate you touching his leg with a positive experience (aka food).

Once your dog is comfortable with you touching his leg, you can move your grasp further down the leg. Once you reach a place down the leg where your dog is uncomfortable or resistant, you will need to desensitize him to this “new” handling location. Again, you will offer a small treat while your hand is on a lower part of the leg, once the treat has been eaten you will remove your hand. Continue this process until eventually he is comfortable with you holding onto his paw. Depending on how adverse your dog is to having his feet manipulated, this process can take multiple conditioning sessions (each session should be no longer than 5 to 10 minutes per day).

After your dog has been conditioned to allow manipulation of his feet you can begin to condition him to the nail clippers. Present the clippers to your dog and allow him to sniff and investigate them; offer treats during this process as well. Next you will just lightly place the trimmers over your dog’s toe nail or tap them lightly against a toe (we are not actually trimming the nail yet). If he is very adverse to this, you will need to condition him with treat rewards to accept the nail clippers. We want your pooch to associate all things regarding the nail trim as positive and fun.

Getting your dog to first accept handling of his feet and then getting him comfortable with the nail trimmers can take multiple 5 – 10 minute sessions over a couple of days to several weeks. I’ll give you the next couple of weeks to work on this process, and then I’ll be back with the easy part – the actual nail trimming!

Ready to start trimming? Click here for part 2!

Have questions?

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