Does your dog try to flee when you attempt to trim his nails? Or worse, does he growl, snap, or bite?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is nothing wrong with your dog. He’s not a bad dog, and he’s not stubborn about having his paws touched. Dog’s paws are sensitive. Nail trims do often cause pain as there are sensitive nerve endings within the nail.
It’s common for owners to think that there is something “off” about their dog if they won’t tolerate nail trims or paw grooming. The fact is, this is normal and your dog simply trying to protect himself from pain or the fear that the trim will result in pain.
If your dog responds to attempts at nail trimming with a growl, snap, or bite he is doing so because he is afraid.
When dogs are scared, they go into a fight, flight, flee, or fawn response (just like humans!). If your dog is restrained and cannot flee, he may try and “fight” to protect himself. While it can feel like a betrayal when our dogs bite, to them, it is a means of survival.
It’s not personal.
Read on to learn more about how to help your dog feel less fearful about nail trims and paw touching. Keep in mind that to keep you and your family safe, it’s important to work with a credentialed force-free trainer on this issue. A trainer will help you determine your dog’s triggers, prevent future bites, and improve your dog’s behavior around nail trims.
As mentioned, this is common. Take a deep breath and rest assured that there is nothing wrong with you or your dog.
When we work to help an animal love something they are afraid of, the cards are stacked against us. They already have a neural pathway wired for fear at the sight of the nail clipper or each time you reach for their paw.
In this situation, we need to move even slower with our gradual steps. We would start with introducing shoulder, leg, and finally, paw touches. The nail clipper would be introduced only after the dog is happy having his paws touched.
Be sure to work with a credentialed force-free trainer on this. If your dog is already fearful of nail trims, trying to go it alone with training could easily make his fear even worse.
If you have a puppy, or a dog who is completely neutral about paw touching, let’s start making that experience a happy one right now!
When puppies are 2-18 weeks old they are in the “critical period of socialization.” During this period, they are especially sensitive to good OR bad experiences. As a trainer, it is my job to help your puppy have lots of great experiences early on so he will be a confident well-behaved adult dog.
Where do nail trims fit in here? Making nail trims and paw handling fun and exciting for puppies will result in an adult dog who happily consents to nail trims. It makes life easier for everyone!
The easiest way to start is by touching his paw and feeding a delicious treat. Gradually you can work your way up to introducing a nail trimmer or dremel tool.
Training dogs to like inherently scary things requires a very slow-paced approach. Much slower than you would expect! Teaching a dog to love having their nails trimmed will likely take weeks, not days.
Yes! I’m glad you asked! It can be difficult to train a dog to love nail trimming if he is already fearful. My favorite method is to train your dog to file his own nails.
You can create your own scratch board using a clipboard and sand paper. Or you can purchase one and train your dog to love filing down his own nails.
Whichever method you choose, remember that your dog’s paws are sensitive and we need to move at his pace during training. Moving at his pace will protect him from becoming even more fearful of paw touches and nail trims.