Trimming nails very difficult, help!

Good grooming practices are essential for maintaining health and happiness for you and your dog. This is a forum to exchange tips and advice for proper care of your dog's hygiene needs.


She's a beast.
Barked: Thu Jan 12, '12 4:28pm PST 
I hope I'm posting this in the right area. smile My girl has always had issues with getting her nails trimmed. It's something that boggles me a bit because ever since she was a puppy I always touched her paws and nails, so it's not like she's not used to someone touching her paws. I'm hoping maybe someone can offer up some suggestions to make the process go a bit smoother and create less stress on my girl. Here's a short story on our experience thus far...

It takes 3 people to trim Fenway's nails. A couple months ago a tech decided she needed to be muzzled because she didn't like Fenway looking at her as she clipped her nails. Fenway didn't like it but it went ok, the usual difficulty of kicking and having to hold her, etc.

Well, the last time we went it was the worst experience ever! I reminded them of the muzzle and they brought it in but wanted to see how she'd be without it. The tech had to put her in a head-lock and had her wheezing and gagging and yelping because of it. I did my best to stay calm and talk to her to help her calm down.

I've been avoiding going back because the whole thing was so stressful on her. I've been wondering if there was maybe a light sedative I could give her just to help her calm down. I just don't want to create that kind of experience ever again for her. A friend of mine suggested giving her half a children's gravol and I'm going to ask about it with my vet but I just thought maybe someone on here would have a better suggestion.

Sleeping Bosley
Barked: Thu Jan 12, '12 5:15pm PST 
I think a problem your having is that, if I'm understanding correctly, you're not there when the nails are trimmed. You or someone the dog loves or trusts should be there to make sure they know it's alright and they're not just with a bunch of strangers. How would you like it if a bunch of strangers put a muzzle on you and took you into a room away from your master and started cutting your nails? Doing the nails yourself would be a good idea, and it would also make the dog less stressed as you would be in a familiar and loved setting, with the following tips...
Probably the best tip I ever heard was, to put the dog on a slippery surface. It may be hard if your dog is big and heavy, but trust me, it'll be worth it to know that the nail trimming isn't causing too much pain or stress for your dog. Any stainless steel surfaces, like a table, washing machine, etc. could work... and if you can't go for slipperyness, just go for height. If a dog is on a slippery surface when you're trimming their nails, they'll be more focused on keeping their balance than you and their nails. If their on a heightened surface, they'll be more focused on that than you an their nails. A combination of the two work nicely, but, as well as this works, it's easy to see why it may be impractical. If there's no way to accomplish this, you may want to try something different. Get a friend or a neighbor to do the nails. Make sure you tell them exactly what they have to do and guide them through it so that nothing goes wrong. Make sure you're there and act happy, so that your dog can feel secure as you are there and are giving off an aura of confidence and contentment. I hope that makes sense. You're dog will be more focused on the excitement of a visitor than their nails. If nothing else, just get someone your dog is familiar with but doesn't see very often to come and hold the dogs attention via petting/treats etc. while you do the nails.
Basically what you're aiming for in trying any of these methods is to take your dog's mind off of nail trimming and get them focused on something more pleasant. Muzzles and being surrounded by strange people would just put more stress on your dog.
Another tip to reducing stress is doing nails one at a time. I've read in various books that getting all 20 nails trimmed at the same time is like a child getting a bunch of shots all at once. Spreading them out and maybe only doing 2 nails per day is definitely a good, stress-reducing idea to try. I wouldn't recommend sedatives unless as a last resort.
Hope I helped!

Edited by author Thu Jan 12, '12 5:22pm PST


The Boy Wonder
Barked: Thu Jan 12, '12 5:41pm PST 
My first question is do you feel comfortable doing the nails yourself. At this point you're going to have to do a lot of back work to get rid of the bad association.

I generally recommend trying a dremel on the nails, some dogs tolerate them, other's don't care for them, but as a whole you are less likely to do damage And as an added bonus when the nails are done they have a smooth edge.

If you dog is food motivated, and since you said he doesn't mind you touching his feet I would cut out some of his food and start this program.

(if he will lay on his side while you handle his feet it will work better)

Have him lay down, hold his paw let it go and treat
Have him lay down, hold his paw hold nail, let it go treat.
Do this several times the first day

Have him lay down, hold his paw, hold the nail, let it go and treat
Have him lay down, hold his paw/nail and touch dremel to nail, while dremel is off, let it go and treat
Do this multiple times a day until he ignores the dremel

Have him lay down, hold his paw, cut on dremel, don't put it near the paw yet, cut it off and release the paw and treat.
Vary routine where you are touching more than one nail until you can handle all the nails for a few seconds with no pulling, and on all feet.

When he is ignoring the dremel touch it to the end of the nail and put foot back down and treat. Eventually you will be able to work on his nails yourself and he will not only not mind but will look forward to the goodies. The point is to move slowly and start with small steps, do multiple sessions a day, and with hope you won't have to have the vet do his nails ever again.


Ball?! Did- someone say- BALL?!!!!!
Barked: Fri Jan 13, '12 1:30pm PST 
I would do and have done similar to what Happy suggested. It took about a week of daily toe tapping before Tyson wouldn't jerk his foot away. We were only doing it once a day, though.

We have the Peticure but basically it's a less powerful Dremel (I wish I had the Dremel instead) with a shield. If you do go this route, do not hold the drum to the nail for too long as it can get hot and cause pain. When I use this tool, I usually do it after I've clipped them to help smooth out the rough edges.
Otto - Registered- Service Dog

ADI cert. - the only one- that matters!
Barked: Fri Jan 13, '12 2:43pm PST 
I agree - dremel is the only way to go! I don't have the hand strength to clip Otto's nails, and thanks to this site -

http://homepages.udayton.edu/~jmerenski1/doberdawn/dremel/dreme l.html

I was able to educate myself, acclimate Otto in record time and found very quickly he was happy and excited when I tell him it's time to dremel!happy dance He actually comes running!!!

I would recommend the cordless dremel with the rechargeable battery. I don't think the "pet" specific types are as sturdy. Also, make sure you always have a pack of sanding drums so you can change them when necessary.

*Please note - use the sanding drums, as recommended, NOT the flat disk things.

I bought mine on Amazon but check places like Home Depot or Lowes. I buy the disks at Home Depot.

Good luck. I hope you find the site as helpful as I did.way to go

She's a beast.
Barked: Fri Jan 13, '12 8:09pm PST 
I guess I left that part out but I'm always in the room with her, I'd never let her go in by herself I know how freaked out she gets. What I've been doing for the last couple of weeks has been touching her paw, then touching her nails and getting her to relax while I'm doing it. I've been hoping she would eventually be completely relaxed over time and not try and jerk her paw away and for the most part it's been half-pull away and half not...but she still has bug eyes and watches me like a hawk. I'm really the only person she even lets me touch her paws.

She's a very food motivated dog and I can't believe I haven't thought of doing it with a treat until reading your posts. I'm going to try what you suggested and take it really slowly again. My only issue with trimming her nails myself is that most of her nails are black so it's hard to judge where the wick is. The last time (over a year ago) I trimmed her nails she jerked as I clipped and I got her wick. It was horrible, I felt so bad. I'm also going to look into the dremel, that might be the best alternative. But for now I'm just going to take it nice and slow, again i can't believe I never related food to this before. *shakes head* lol
Grunt CGC

WWGD or What- Would Grunt Do?
Barked: Sat Jan 14, '12 6:36pm PST 
Hubby will sit with Grunt and feed Pupperoni to him while I grind the nails. It takes less than a 2 minutes to complete the task! Easy as pie! way to go

aka: Barkly- McBarker
Barked: Tue Jan 17, '12 7:09pm PST 
How about making a doggie nail file. Basicly a board covered with a
sandpaper product. Go to "www.shirleychong.com" for instructions on how to make
it and how to train your dog to use it. Makes nail grooming fun for dog and owner. My son's dog is difficult to trim and we are making one for him.

Somewhere on youtube there is a video of a dog using one. I lost the link for it though.
Mischief BN

Barked: Mon Jan 30, '12 11:19am PST 
I feel like we've already tried all of this twice already. The only thing that Mischief didn't absolutely hate was the sandpaper board thing, but that only does the front paws and even those end up very uneven. A groomer friend at our training club suggested pulling the front paws up from the side (similar position to how you would shoe a horse) because it keeps the dog from seeing you going for the nails with the clippers, and that worked at first, but she wised up to it pretty quick.

Back to the old drawing board... I guess we will try introducing the dremel again.