Nail trims can be a tricky situation, especially if your dog is bothered by having their feet handled. While training your dog to get used to nail trims is easiest as a puppy, dogs of all ages can get more comfortable with nail trims by following the steps below.

Start Slow

Starting slow, and remaining patient is one of the first steps to getting your dog used to nail trims. Pick a time when your dog is calm, perhaps even sleepy, and begin by gently handling their paws with no tools attached. Every time your dog lets you gently touch, offer a treat and praise to associate it with a positive experience. If your dog becomes stressed, stop and try again later.

Once your dog is used to having their feet handled, you can add in a few tools. Hold the clipper near your dog’s foot, and gently clip the air first, not your dog’s nail, and then praise and treat to get them used to the sound. You can then gently trim one nail at a time, giving a treat after each trim. If your dog becomes stressed after a nail or two, stop and try again later.

Try Alternative Tools

If the nail clippers are a source of fear, you can try using other objects to trim the nails instead. Some dogs may respond better to a nail file being used, as it doesn’t involve loud noises or moving parts. You can use this to your advantage to help keep the nails smooth and avoid scratches. Other dogs fear clippers due to the pressure on the nails or toes, and a Dremel nail trimmer may be better tolerated.

Reward Calm Behavior

Always reward your dog after a nail trimming session! Even if you only got a few nails done, you want to associate the experience with a positive feeling, rather than a negative one. Any time your dog responds positively, praise and offer treats. If your dog looks forward to a nail trim, he or she is less likely to act fearful and more likely to allow it!

If at any time your dog becomes stressed. Take a break. It may take several sessions, or days to even trim one paw! Over time, your dog will gradually learn that nail trims mean good things will happen, instead of scary ones.

How Sedation May Help

In some cases, your dog may be too fearful or even dangerous during a nail trim. Sedation from your veterinarian may help to improve the experience. Your vet may recommend complete sedation with the nail trim at the vet’s office, or may offer an at-home medication that you can use while trimming the nails and training your dog to accept handling. Again, patience, praise and time are all useful in combination with sedation to help improve your dog’s experience.


Nail trims can be scary, but they don’t have to be! With the above steps, your dog can become more used to nail trims, making the event more fun and safe for everyone!


All photos via Creative Commons/Pixabay for Commercial Use.