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Q. How can I teach my dog to let me trim her nails? She hates having it done, and it’s so stressful for both of us that we often forgo it entirely.
A. Your dog isn’t alone in her distaste for nail trims. Many dogs cower or flee the room at the mere sight of clippers. The trim process can be even more of a struggle if the dog flails, growls or attempts to bite. Many pet parents opt out of trims altogether or defer trims to the groomer or veterinarian. But a fear of nail trims seldom goes away on its own and can actually increase in intensity as time goes on, making it difficult even for a professional to trim a frightened dog's nails without the help of an extra person, the use of a muzzle or, in severe cases, sedation.
It’s best to start teaching your dog to relax during nail trims when she's a puppy, but if you're dealing with an adult dog who already fears the process, it’s not too late to arrange a training intervention. There are different elements to trims that pets may dislike: being restrained, having a paw touched, the clipper sound and the feeling of a nail being clipped. In addition, a bad past experience — such as getting the quick clipped — can make future nail trims more difficult for you and your dog.
It is important to start with a clean slate. Dogs often have a negative association with clippers that have been used in the past, so switching to a new pair of clippers that is distinctly different from the old pair gives you and your dog a fresh start. You can opt for a pair of clippers with a different look or choose a completely different type, such as a Dremel-like clipper with a motorized file.
When you first introduce your dog to the new clippers, have a gigantic puppy party the moment she sees them. Take the clippers out from behind your back or somewhere hidden, and as soon as your dog sees them, immediately begin rewarding with ample treats. Then put the clippers away and stop the flow of treats. Repeat as many times as it takes for your dog to understand that the presence of the clippers means that good things are going to happen.
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