Puppy Advice

How to successfully clip a dog's nails

Ruth Morris, Puppy School tutor and registered Veterinary Nurse shares her top tips for successful nail clipping.

Nail clipping 2
As a veterinary nurse for over 21 years, I witness a lot of very upset dogs when it comes to being handled for basic husbandry, such as nail clipping. But it really doesn’t have to be this way. With a bit of gradual training, any dog can become more relaxed and happier to have their nails trimmed and handled. The younger the better for this, as puppies are more flexible to learning new things and have not already had any negative experiences or been surprised by the need for a nail trim.
Ruth Morris
Puppy School Tutor and Registered Veterinary Nurse
  • Nail clipping

Set yourself up for success

 

Choose your moment to practise this. An excited puppy, full of beans, will make for a very busy experience. When too sleepy, your puppy may not be sufficiently aware of what is going on. A calm and relaxed puppy is perfect to work with, in order to develop this important life skill. Treats, treats and more treats if we want our animals to learn something new and be comfortable with a novel experience. It really helps if they have a positive emotion attached to that new experience and that’s where having a tasty treat, whilst they are learning to have their feet held, comes in.

 

  • Touching paws

Slow and steady wins the race

Take the training at the pace your puppy is comfortable with. If they become upset or pull their feet away, for example, then go back a few steps to a level where they are comfortable. Work on the three second rule: handle puppy for three seconds only, then reward and repeat. Working this way means that the puppy learns the procedure only lasts a few seconds, and that a lovely treat follows. Watch carefully for any unhappy body posture from your puppy (pulling leg away, trying to manoeuvre away from you etc). Start by gently stroking down the leg towards the foot and rewarding with a treat at the end. Repeat this process a few times until puppy is comfortable and relaxed. Build up gradually to having the puppy’s paw held using the above process, gradually extending the time that you hold onto the paw before releasing and rewarding.

 

 

  • Nail clipping 2

When nail clipping occurs, it is necessary to hold each individual toe steady, above the nail itself, so that good visualisation of the nail can be obtained. This is the next important step to build up with puppy. This is also helpful if you ever need to examine their paws for any other reason... So not just helpful for nail clips. The next step is to introduce the equipment. You can introduce puppy to the nail clippers by placing them on the floor and putting some tasty treats around them. Hold the nail clippers close to the nail and make the action of clipping … WITHOUT clipping the nail itself.

If you want to use a nail file in the future, now is a good time to start introducing it. Perhaps use it on your own nail whilst holding your dog's foot, so that they can become accustomed to the noise prior to the sensation. Once you have successfully built up to this stage, you can start introducing the same process on a surface like a grooming table or a vets examination table, with a rubber mat... exercise mats are perfect products to practise with at home, as they are very similar. Only cut your puppy’s nails if you feel confident about how to do it correctly. Speak to your veterinary practice who may be able to show you how to determine where to cut, or who will be able to do it for you if you prefer. Either way, the preparation that you’ll have put in, in order to get your puppy feeling really comfortable about the whole process, will be hugely appreciated – both by the vet AND by your puppy!

 

 

Find the Perfect Puppy Class Near You

Discover small, friendly classes across the UK led by our expert, professional Puppy School Tutors. Get hands-on advice and support, to ensure your puppy gets the best start with positive, reward-based training.

Find a Puppy Class Today

Find your nearest Puppy School

Find your nearest Puppy School here and begin your journey with us!

Benji

Testimonials

What Clients say
about Puppy School

  • “Caroline was lovely, clearly knowledgeable, very approachable and patient.”
    —   Sarah
  • “This course was fantastic. Jenny the trainer has a wealth of knowledge. Extremely approachable, and gave sound advice to our queries. She really knows her stuff. The groups size was just perfect, which meant each pup was not overwhelmed. I would recommend the course and definitely recommend Jenny. She was brilliant.”
    —   June
  • “Catherine went out of her way to make sure we all understood how dogs should treated in their early life, she always tried to include every puppy in every exercise and made sure we all fun. ”
    —   Serena
  • “Great experience. I’ve been to dog training classes in the past and the instructors can be very “it’s your fault”, “you’re doing it wrong” to the owners, however, Eleanor was very patient, kind, and explained things in a helpful way rather than making you feel like you were at fault. Loved these classes. Rum loved them too!”
    —   Ryan
  • “Alice was absolutely lovely and helped us with some issues that weren't covered in the syllabus, she was so knowledgeable about everything puppy behaviours and she taught the class well. The venue was great, there was plenty of space for each puppy and for exercises without it being too big and scary. Nelly loved attending puppy school and we learnt so much about dog training and behaviour.”
    —   Mandy