What are some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog?

Original Question: I have a dog that does not allow me to cut his nails. Can you please let me know how I may settle him down to allow me to do this? Thanks. - Ellen

What are some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Ellen,

Trimming a dog’s nails are not much fun. Here are some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog.

  1. Try cutting just one nail and don’t do them all in one sitting. Trim one nail, then stop and try another nail the next day and use lots of treats, that way the event is not so stressful. Using the pheromone spray in conjunction with this plan may help.
  2. You could try trimming one nail during sleep. Be bold and be quick and it may work.
  3. Find someone who will invest in trimming your dog’s nails. I once had a client who told me that I have to anesthetize her dog to do a nail trim. I ended up trimming the nails without that because I didn’t want to always have to put the dog through it. I just got a couple of employees who were great restrainers and I put the dog in a position that made it quite easy to do a thorough job. It’s amazing to me that this clients’ previous clinic was always putting the dog to sleep, I could do it well without this, so there is no replacement for good technique and dedication to a job well done.
  4. Consider pheromone products and/or sedatives. It’s very difficult to administer something that will calm them down sufficiently enough to perform a comfortable nail trim. I love using calming pheromone products that help relax dogs but it doesn’t tend to work well for something like nail trims. It works well for mild anxieties that are ever-present but not great for really intense acute episodes of stress like nail trims. If you would like to try it, I suggest you pick up a pheromone spray and heavily apply it around the bedding the night before a nail trim event. It may help to calm them but it is unlikely to work to your satisfaction. You can pick it up at most veterinarian clinics or you can order it online and you may find it in pet stores but I don’t think many of them sell it yet. If you absolutely had to give something, it would likely need to be powerful, such as a sedative that your vet could give prescribe.

This is a really difficult task and some dogs are near impossible for owners to do nail trims on them. I empathize greatly with your plight, it’s not easy.  I encourage you to have a look at our video on how to trim a dog’s nails safely for more information on this topic. Try your best and let me know how it goes!

Good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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What are some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog?
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What are some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog?
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Some tips on how to cut the nails of a difficult dog would be to do one nail at a time and not all in one sitting and even while they sleep, find someone who will invest in trimming your dog's nails and consider pheromone products and/or sedatives and I will go over all of these in more detail.
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