Teaching your dog how to relax for nail trims

Just like people, dogs can be anxious about certain activities. Nail trims can be one of the less pleasant experiences for your pet (and yourself). Luckily, there are ways to make the process more enjoyable and comfortable for both of you. Positive reinforcement can greatly impact your dog’s behavior while you are working with their feet. This usually takes time, consistency, and lots of high value treats. We can demonstrate hands-on the steps we take to our clients in Seattle, WA. We will break down the process we use below.

How to get started


First, you want to determine what your dog is comfortable with. They can either be laying down or standing. Start by petting them on their back and then work your way down to their legs/ paws. When you get to their leg, hold the leg with a very loose grip in your left and have treats ready in your right hand. If your dog pulls away, let go. At this point, your dog is telling you they have become uncomfortable with you handling that area. Your starting point may be just above their leg or at their elbow. But that’s okay! Keep a positive attitude and celebrate the small victories. It takes time for some dogs to accept that leg/ paw handling and realize nail trims don’t have to be scary.


The steps, tools, and treats.


Making note of where your dog is okay with you handling their leg/paw, start rewarding them. Hold the area of the leg/paw and give a treat. Let go and repeat this process about 10 times for the first session. The broken down steps will look like this: Hold leg/paw – Click your clicker (If you are using one) or use a verbal marker such as “Good job!” – Reward – Release – Repeat! In future sessions, try to go a little lower down the leg each time. You can also start holding the leg/ paw for larger amounts of time. Count 1 second and then release, 3 seconds then release, 5 seconds then release, etc. Doing this every few days will only take a few minutes, but it can make a huge difference in how they feel about nail trims.


For most dogs, letting us touch their paws is a lot to ask. In exchange for this, pay them with their favorite things! Those stinky fish treats they only get on special occasions? This is the time to use em. Stay away from their usual kibble, we want them to associate this with a high-value reward. If your dog doesn’t like treats, try to reward them with toys you can do short tug sessions with. If your dog doesn’t like any of those options, use verbal praise. While not as effective as treats, phrases such as “Great job!”, “What a good pup!”, or “You’re so brave!” are our go-to’s. Food, praise, and a clicker combined are what we recommend.


Contact us for more information and tip


Do you want more hands-on tips about how to make your dog more comfortable with nail trims? Email us to book a house call service, or check our calendar to see where our next event will be. Steps can be shown to you on your own dog before we start the nail trimming process.