Nail clipping can be a stressful event for both you and your dog. Whether your pup has never seen a pair of clippers before or has already had a negative experience with them, the following desensitization steps will set you both up for success.


A Note About the “Quick”:

When cutting your dogs nails, you will want to be careful not to hit the quick, which is the vein that supplies blood to the nail. Keep a styptic pencil or some QuickStop powder nearby to stem the bleeding, in case you make a mistake. On dogs with light-colored nails, the quick is easily visible—it’s the pink part. On dogs with dark or black nails, it can be a little trickier. To be on the safe side trim only the very tip, where the underside of the nail begins to curve. The longer your dog goes without nail trimming, the farther the quick extends into the nail and the more difficult the task becomes. When in doubt visit your vet—he or she will be able to show you exactly where to trim your dog’s nails.

The Steps:

1. Before you get out your clippers, make sure that your dog isn’t stressed by having his feet picked up, legs flexed and his toes manipulated. Don’t attempt to clip a nail until he is no longer showing stress. Start slowly, even if it means just reaching out and lightly touching his foot and giving him a treat until he no longer flinches.

2. Take the clippers out of the drawer where they will be kept and sit somewhere where you would normally spend time with your dog. Hold the clippers visibly in your hand and a bag of rewards within easy reach. Be relaxed and mellow.

3. Let Rover come to check out what you have in your hand and if he reaches to sniff at the clippers, say, “Good Boy!” and offer him a treat.

4. Squeeze the clippers in the air and offer rover a treat if he doesn’t get nervous at this stage. If he balks when clippers are activated ignore and once he has settled down, squeeze clippers again and quickly toss a treat to him. Do this for however long it takes the dog to realize you are holding something that he need not fear.

5. Depending on the size of your dog, you will need to get them lying in your lap or on his side for nail trimming. Work on getting the dog comfortably in that position while you praise and reward him for calmness.

6. Once your dog is in position, pick up the clippers and slowly touch his foot with them. Praise and reward for calm behaviour.

7. When your dog is relaxed, not fighting your touch and can handle having the clippers touching his feet, then you can begin to actually trim ONE nail. Pick up the foot and clip just a tiny bit off the nail. Reward generously. Release his foot and give him a pat or a tummy rub and then calmly lift the foot again. Whistle a happy tune, and clip another nail.

Only proceed from one step to the next if your pup is perfectly relaxed. Otherwise, end the trimming session and try one nail again later, gradually going for as many nails in a session as he is comfortable with.

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