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How I Trim My Dog's Nails Without Causing Him Fear or Pain

How I Trim My Dog's Nails Without Causing Him Fear or Pain

2 min read • By Wyatt West, Staff Writer & Outdoor Fiend, Timberdog®

I personally don't like nail clippers for dogs. While they may be faster to use, it is easy to take off too much of the nail, causing excruciating pain for dogs, especially if they have black nails. Having black nails means the quick will be black as well, and next to impossible to spot, making it easy to cut into. This will set up an immediate negative response and fear association with nail clippers.

I know from experience. I used nail clippers on my dog Angus when he was a puppy, not knowing what damage they could do. Even after reading articles and arming myself with knowledge, I mistakenly cut a nail too short, and unintentionally caused my puppy pain. Never again. I spoke to friends at the dog park and they recommended I use a Dremel type nail grinder - i.e., a tool that has rapidly spinning sandpaper to file your dog's nails down.

Though using such tools takes longer and are messier (with all the nail dust flying around), it's worth it to not cause fear or pain in my dog, and I'm much better able to assess how much length to leave on his nails. The other added benefit is that you can nicely round out each nail, much as one would using a file on human nails. (Pro tip: Make sure to get a Dremel that has an RPM speed between 10,000 - 15,000. Anything less than 10,000 is too slow, and anything more than 15,000 will generate too much heat. I prefer the Dremel PawControl Nail Trimmer and Grinder.)

Though Angus is still not fond of any type of nail trim (the con of using Dremels is that they can be loud with their high-pitched whine), I have created a Pavlovian association by pairing nail time with the highest-value treat I've got: cheese. I only break out the cheese for anything he's afraid of (while peanut butter is used to reward less intense situations). I do this by allowing him to smell and inspect the Dremel, and immediately giving him a piece of cheese after. Then, after each foot has been trimmed, I give him a small piece of cheese. Finally, after the last set of nails have been filed down, I cheer (he loves this), and give him a large piece of cheese. Doing this has cemented that nail time -- though not fun -- will be handsomely rewarded. 

Though Angus doesn't come running when it's time to trim his nails, he no longer fusses and waits patiently and excitedly for each piece of cheese.


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