It has been very clear to me that a lot of pet parents struggle with cutting their dog's nails. After recently posting a reel's on my Instagram, I started to receive dozens of messages and comments from people all over the world who were struggling with nails. So let's dive in!
First, keep in mind that nail care is a process. You probably won't be able to cut your dog's nails tomorrow, but what you do today, will help you and your dog in the future! It's all about patience.
"long nails risk getting caught on something and breaking!"
It's not a secret, nail care is important to your dog's overall wellbeing. Long and unkept nails are uncomfortable, they can change your dog's gait (how they walk), and left too long can actually grow into their paw pads. It's also important to mention that long nails risk getting caught on something and breaking! Trust me, I experienced this first hand with Harlow a few years ago. It wasn't pretty!
So how do you start the nail care process?
Check out our free nail care webinar
Reading body language:
An extremely useful skill, reading dog body language is essential when it comes to nail care.
Here is an example:
You take out the nail clipper, your dog lays down and shows their belly. This can be interpreted 1 of 2 ways. 1) Your dog wants their belly scratched, 2) your dog is saying "please don't"... While it might look the same, how your dog feels is very different in both these scenarios.
To be able to tell the difference, we need to recognize subtle signs of stress.
Here are just a couple of examples:
Licking their nose (it can be a very quick lick too and easy to miss)
Ears are pulled back
Looking away/avoiding eye contact
Once your eye is "trained" to see these signs of stress, you'll start to notice them more in your own dog, as well as "cute" videos on social media. You need to know when your dog is uncomfortable so you can adjust your training accordingly.
This is my favourite resource on canine body language!
Handling their paws:
BUT! When it comes to handling their paws, the old advice of "playing with your puppy's paws when their sleeping" is dated. This is because, you won't be actively creating positive experiences, and creating positive experiences is essential.
If you touch their paws when they're sleeping, you can startle them and I don't know if you had someone touch your feet while you're sleeping? I haven't, but I'm sure it would be annoying to say the least (maybe a little weird too!)
First question to ask yourself, are you able to simply touch their paws? Yes? Great! No? Well this is where you need to start before you take out the nail clipper. Start creating positive associations to having their paws touched with make nail care more fun and as less difficult.
Start slow! Touch their shoulder then give your dog a piece of food. You are helping them create a link between being touched and their favourite treat. Do this a couple of times, if they don't pull away or show signs of stress, go a bit lower like their elbow. Continue this process till you get to their feet.
A nail file or a dremel are both excellent options, especially to get you started!
Choose a new tool:
Using a nail clipper is definitely the quickest way to trim your dogs nails. However, it's not the only tool you can use. A nail file or a dremel are both excellent options, especially to get you started!
When your dog has such a deep negative association to something, it can take a long time to undo it. It's not impossible but will take longer. This is why I suggest starting with a new tool all together, once you can start working on your dog's nails, you could eventually go back to a nail clipper if you wish!
Online Nail Care course
If you are looking into DIY nail care, whether you have a puppy, a dog who hates nail care or just want the experience to be less stressful, my online nail course is an excellent resource for pet parents and professionals alike!
This courses goes through everything you need from reading your dog's body language, body handling and using your nail care tool.
I hope you found this helpful to get you started in caring for your dog's nails!