Nail Trimming Can Be Fun! (No Really, It Can. I Promise!)

Shiva and I are on holiday all week. Well, I am, Shiva still needs to work hard to earn her kibbles. Fortunately, some of our fellow bloggers have agreed to step in while I laze around drinking beer and eating cheese. Today’s post was written by Tena Parker of Success Just Clicks. She describes her blog as “tangents on dog training and life with dogs” but it is a whole lot more than that. Dog trainer extraordinaire, she combines helpful information with a wicked sense of fun. Her photos of her brilliant dogs Shayne and Rio are nothing short of stunning.

First of all, I want to thank Kristine for inviting me to do a guest  blog!  I was so humbled and quite excited – I’ve been a daily Rescued  Insanity reader for quite a while (since probably right after I started  blogging) and absolutely love her stuff!  Once I accepted her offer I  was suddenly hit with this mildly concerning thought….”What the heck  am I going to write about… should it be serious? should it be funny?  This is quite a lot of pressure writing for someone else!!”  I got over  it and decided to try a little bit of both.  I first want to  apologize to those who also read my blog since I sort of wrote on this  topic recently, but it lent itself to my serious/fun game plan so I went with it. PLUS it involves the making of a video.

“The Serious”

I’ve noticed a lot recently (since our weather has been extra rainy and  getting colder) that more and more of the dogs I see have nails that are overgrown.  Nail clipping really is an important part of dog  ownership.  Whether you do it yourself, take your dogs to a groomer, or  have your vet do it, it is something that needs to be done.  Extremely  overgrown nails can cause a variety of problems from sores on the paws  and actually growing into the foot, to even causing structural change in the foot (which in turn changes the gait, which in turn causes injuries to the wrist/elbow/shoulder like debilitating chronic arthritis if it’s an older dog).

It’s really easy to clip both of my dogs’  nails–mani/pedis happen probably every other week and both dogs are done in  less then 5 minutes.  Shayne, for all of her issues, came to me that  way… she’s never once had a problem with me clipping her nails but  I’ve also never clipped a quick or fought with her about her feet.  When I got Rio, the very first handling work we did was about feet touching  and ultimately nail clipping.  It wasn’t a super slow process but it  took some time on the final steps to get him to sit still long enough  for me to clip more than one foot at a time–it wasn’t stress/fear but  puppy wiggles.  He’s not happy about nail clipping but he tolerates it  without any fuss.  Bandit, my mom’s Shih Tzu, on the other hand, is a  pain.  He tolerates me clipping his nails most of the time but he has  given the groomer (our neighbor) such a hard time with his feet that I  just do them for her.  So I decided to teach him something that will  help keep his nails short without me having to clip them (more on this in a moment ).

So, what are you to do if your dog currently HATES  nail clipping?  Basically a lot of desensitization and counter  conditioning.  I would start at getting my dogs used to getting their  feet touched during normal cuddling/petting time. So while petting the  dog I would start petting my dog’s shoulder and then running my hand down the top part of the front leg and slowly going further down the leg  until I could run my hand all the way down to the feet.  If the dog is  extremely reluctant, even in the context of just being pet, you can use  food to reward each time you pet the shoulder/leg/feet.

I would  also start teaching the dog to shake and rewarding the dog for giving me their feet.  I may start hold the foot for a little longer before  rewarding and letting go.  Eventually I would like to squeeze the foot  gently and touch each toe like I would when clipping nails before rewarding.

When  the dog has no problem with me handling their feet, I would introduce  the clippers and just let the dog sniff them and get rewarded.  Next  step for me is to generally just have the clippers around when I’m  handling their feet.  If that doesn’t create any fear/stress response  I’ll start just holding the clippers in one hand while I pet the pup  with the the other.  Then I’ll start picking up the feet while holding  the clippers and eventually move to touching the clipper to the foot  quickly (and rewarding after each time the clipper comes near).  I  slowly then work up to mock clipping of nails while gently pinching the  toe to replicate the pressure of the nail clippers (rewarding after each nail) and if the dog is calm about all of that, I’ll start clipping one nail at a time.  Clip a nail, reward with food and release the dog.   I’ll do one a day for a while (being very careful not to clip a quick)  and then slowly increase the duration to two toes, then three, etc.

You can also go the route of a getting a Dremel nail grinder (and I’d  suggest desensitizing in a similar fashion) but I would only buy a  professional grade one.  The commercially available ones are okay for  up-keep but take quite a long while if the nails are long and break easily.

“The Fun”

One of my favorite tricks of the trade about nail clipping is that you can  teach your dog to file their own front nails!!  Just buy an inexpensive  skateboard and you are ready to go!  No fighting with your dog to get  their mani/pedi, no worry about clipping the quick, and it’s basically  fun to watch!  I couldn’t get clear shots of the before/after of Shayne  and Rio’s nails but with just a few scratches the nails were noticeably  shorter and nicely rounded–Bandit hasn’t really gotten into it and his scratches were much lighter but I could still feel/see a  difference!  Here’s a video of all three of my dogs learning to file  their own nails.

Now this is far from perfect for a variety of reasons… it doesn’t get the dew claws and it’s not effective for back feet.  BUT it’s a great  option if your dog, at this point, wont allow any type of nail clipping  or for quick and easy up-keep of the nails. When training this, make  sure you keep an eye on your dog’s nails so they don’t file down to the  quick and so their pads don’t get scratched!  I’ve also noticed that to  get the back-feet, two or three fetch throws on the driveway keep the  back nails under control without hurting the pads of their feet or  quicking their nails (drivey Shayne has been known to do some SERIOUS  damage to her feet while playing fetch while never showing a sign of pain  until later).

I recently heard that some groomers/vets are  charging upwards of $15 for a nail clipping… it depends on the dog,  but I’d say nails need done an average of once a month (my dogs, who do  most of their running on grass/mud, need it done more frequently).  If  you went once a month to a groomer charging $15, you’d save $180 a year on nail clipping for the  cost of a $10 skateboard.

How would YOU spend the $170 you’d save by not going to a groomer/vet?

Have fun teaching your pup to do their own manicures and THANK YOU Kristine for sharing her blog with me today!!!

27 thoughts on “Nail Trimming Can Be Fun! (No Really, It Can. I Promise!)

  1. We clip both of our dogs’ nails. Thunder has it a little harder than Storm just because his nails are so big and thick. We make sure our clippers are nice and sharp so that helps. At first they really didn’t like nail clipping, but with patience and treats they are both fine with us doing them. I also clip my kitty’s nails. She is the best when it comes to nail clipping. 🙂 The giant emery board is a great idea.


    • I clip my cats nails as well… and 2 of the 3 are perfect (but they had their front feet declawed before we adopted them so they only have two feet to tolerate). My polydactyl/Hemmingway/Extra Toes kitty is less excited because he takes twice as long and I have to fight to get some of his non-functioning nails because they are hidden LOL!


  2. I love the skateboard idea. I’d have never thought of that. Even if you clip, filing can help keep the nails from being so sharp.

    I find trimming goes much easier if I do it when Honey’s nails are wet. Thats when I do my nails so why not do it for the dog. Everything goes much faster when the nails are softened.


    • Hmmm.. never thought about wetting the nails may give that a go on some larger dog’s nails that I clip! I think they skateboard is really fun upkeep. Just a few scratches a week during the training and I didn’t have to clip anything but a 2 dew claws 🙂 And it really does make for smooth edges


  3. I slowly get my dogs used to having their nails trim, almost identical to what you described above. At this point, two of my three dogs love nail clipping, and the third is coming around. My cats even enjoy it now. Behold, the power of treats! I also try to do trimmings every other week, Leah and Meadow both came to me with extremely long nails, and I try to just take a little each time. I don’t want to ruin their trust by taking off too much and hitting the quick! PS – the skateboard idea is just plain adorable!!


    • Shayne is the closest to loving nail clipping, when I have the clippers she comes up and curls lays on her back in front of me for her turn (she will push Rio out of the way so she can go first). The every other week definitely makes it easy to just take the tips off w/o worrying about taking off too much!


  4. We are lucky that Pearl came to us without any problems with us handling her feet. I am always nervous about cutting her nails too short though. I think we end up having to clip her nails less often because we walk a lot on sidewalks and they get filed down.


  5. I have never had a problem trimming the Newfs nails, I just wait until they are asleep and it takes less than 5 minutes! My beagle on the other hand ahd never liked his nails to be trimmed and I recently found that if someone stands in front of him holding a spoonful of peanut butter I can get all the nails trimmed without a problem!


    • Jen, I clip my dad’s bulldog’s nails and the only way I can get them done is to smear peanut butter on the glass door so he spends the time licking the door (HAHAHA!) while I clip his nails. I tried having my dad hold a spoon but he was less than helpful!

      I can’t believe I forgot to mention the peanut butter trick, it’s so helpful either on a door or, y’know, more conventionally on a spoon!


      • at work we use Easy Cheese(cheese in a can) and squirt it all over the wall! It makes a HUGE mess, but it is well worth it and it works great on puppies who don’t want to stand still!


    • Hey Jen – Just for my own info, do you use a dremel/nail grinder or a clippers on the Newfs? We’ve never had to worry about Moses’ claws before, but on reduced exercise and a different gait, he’s not wearing them down like he used to and we may have to start considering it.


      • I use the clippers on them, but I have dremmel and I have used it.
        The dremmel was recommended by the vet since Sherman has very brittle nails. However, Sherman is afraid of the dremmel. Leroy is fine with it, but it just takes a lot more time to sand down each nail rather than just clipping it.
        I have a Craftsman dremmel that we got at a hardware store, I didn’t but any of the designer pet ones:)


  6. i absolutely agree about the commercial filers being a waste of time and money. luckily, we already owned a dremel trio, so we decided to use that on desmond, and we introduced it to him carefully with a lot of treats. he’s so good now that my husband can file his nails without me there to hold/distract desmond, but whenever i am around, i join in and just shovel treats into desmond’s mouth every few seconds as a bonus for being so good.

    also, i second pamela’s point about wet nails. after a bath is a great time for clipping or filing.


    • Really like the wet nails thing… I’d never heard of that before! Thanks for teaching me something new!

      Yeah the non-professional grinders are ‘okay’ if you grind them a few times a week…but if you let them grow they take FOREVER and often if you have dogs with long toe-hair (lol) it gets wrapped up and all crazy.


  7. Sadly I’m the one with the problem on clipping nails, I need training! Beryl and Frankie are fine with me touching their feet. I’ve even trimmed a few of Frankie’s nails as they’re white and soft. But I’m petrified of quicking them. These are good tips though. I should try the skateboard idea out:)


  8. Wow. Really great advice!
    I actually clip all my dog’s (and cat’s) nails too. Daisy is easy, but Jasper is an absolute bear. Totally my fault since I forgot some of my past training on desensitization. We’re working on it now, but I am waiting for bath time so I can clip them then. Pamela’s idea seems worth a try.

    I love the skateboard idea too!
    Really great post!


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