Trying to get your dog used to having his nails trimmed can definitely be a stressful situation — especially if you wait until your dog is past the puppy stage to try it for the first time.
While some dogs take longer to get used to the process of nail trimming than others, success ultimately comes down to 2 things:
- Your ability to be consistent when teaching your dog how to behave while having his nails done.
- Your underlying determination for trimming your dog’s nails yourself, rather than taking him to a groomer to have his nails done.
With a little time and a lot of patience you will be able to trim your dog’s nails with little to no fuss.
Here are my best tips to help get your dog get used to a nail trim…
How To Get Your Dog Ready For The First Nail Trim
You can’t go into this thinking you’re just going to trim your dog’s nails quickly and correctly the very first time. No way. You can’t and you won’t. It’s a learning process — for both you and your dog.
That mindset alone will go a long way.
The idea is to spend several days (or weeks) in a row getting your dog used to all of the little movements and maneuvers that come into play when trimming a dog’s nails:
- Have lots of treats handy for rewards.
- Start slow by just showing your dog the nail trimmer — and then give him a treat. Do this several times in a row to get your dog used to seeing the nail trimmer.
- Then put the nail trimmer next to your dog’s paw — and give a treat. Do this several times in a row to get your dog used to having the nail trimmer close to his nails.
- Next, practice grabbing your dog’s paws and squeezing their toes — give a treat each time. Do this several times in a row to get your dog used to what it’s like having their paws handled.
- Then, since it’s easier to trim a dog’s nails when the dog is lying on its side, practice getting your dog to roll over on his side — give a treat each time. Do this several times in a row.
You want to do each of these things several times in a row and over several days before you actually clip the first nail.
That’s how you get your dog to relax while having his nails trimmed.
How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails For The First Time
If you’re wondering about the steps involved with trimming a dog’s nails, here’s everything you need to know to trim a dog’s nails.
Personally, I think the most important thing to remember is to keep it fun for your dog. Otherwise, your dog will stress out… and so will you.
That might mean only doing one nail at a time — because that’s all your dog can sit still for at the moment.
One nail at a time, a couple times a day, might take you a full week to do all of his nails for the first time — but that’s okay! It’s not about how quickly you can trim your dog’s nails, it’s simply about getting those nails trimmed.
This video from a veterinarian has some great ideas for dealing with a dog that doesn’t like having his nails trimmed:
Remember, you’re also teaching your dog how to sit still and have patience with you and how to get comfortable with the process of having his nails trimmed.
The more often you do it, the quicker your dog will accept having his nails trimmed regularly — and it will no longer be a stressful situation, but rather some good quality time that the two of you can enjoy together.
My Dog Snores Through Nail Trims Now!
I’ve been through this exact same nail training routine with 3 dogs that I’ve raised from puppies over the past 20 years.
In addition to keeping it fun for your dog, I think the next biggest thing is to start early — preferably a few days after you first bring him home. Of course, most people don’t think about trimming their dog’s nails during those first few days & weeks — so I know it’s not realistic, but it is helpful if you could fit it in.
The younger your dog is when he starts having his nails done, the more quickly he will adapt to the process — trust me.
With my third dog (now 5 years old), the process is incredibly simple. He will lay on his dog bed — on command — and roll over so I can reach all 4 paws easily. He pretty much lays there (snoring!) until he notices that I’ve stopped touching his toes. That’s when he gets all excited because he knows he gets a “fun treat” for being so good while having his nails done.
Now that kind of calmness didn’t happen overnight, but I can tell you it was definitely worth starting early with him — and I was always consistent with what I expected from him.
This is how I taught my dog to relax and enjoy (or put up with) the process of having his nails trimmed:
- I started by getting my dog familiar with the nail trimmer and the many ways that I would need to hold and squeeze each paw and each nail.
- I gave a treat every time he played along and did what I asked him to do.
- I trimmed only one nail at a time (one day at a time) until we eventually became comfortable with doing many nails in the same sitting.
- I ended with giving my dog one of his all-time favorite treats for making it through each nail training session — no matter how long or short it was, and no matter how good not-so-good he was.
What if your dog doesn’t play along and do what you ask him to do? Maybe he won’t sit still and he just wants to run off…
You end the nail training session (without giving a treat). There’s no yelling, or reprimanding, or obvious frustration on your part — because it doesn’t make any difference. Your dog has already checked out. Get ready to start the nail training session again whenever your dog is already in a calm state. Over time, he will get better each time and last longer each time.
Oh, and I forgot to mention this one last thing…
At first, you should go to your dog — wherever he is (while he’s already in a calm state) — to trim your dog’s nails. Eventually, you will be able to get your dog to come to you to have his nails trimmed. I usually ask my dog to come to his dog bed — which I’ve positioned to be in the best light in the room — and I’m already sitting there when I call him. (Yes, he gets his first treat just for coming to his bed on command.)
I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about "outside the box" Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I've always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what's 'normal' and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I'm not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've written over 500 articles for dog owners on this site!