Getting Your Puppy Accustomed To Having Their Nails Clipped
Today we’re going to discuss a great challenge that most puppy owners encounter – getting your puppy accustomed to having their nails clipped or ground.
I know, it can be tough, but fear not! I've got some helpful tips to make nail grooming a breeze for both you and your adorable fur baby.
Before we dive in, let's clarify the terminology. It's "nails clipped" if you're using traditional nail clippers and "nails ground" if you're using a nail grinder. Each method is perfectly fine, and we'll cover both so you can choose what suits you and your pup best.
With that in mind, let’s get into the tips.
7 Tips for Getting Your Puppy Accustomed To Having Their Nails Ground or Clipped
If you only take away one principle from this article, let it be this:
PRO TIP: To get your puppy accustomed to having their nails ground or clipped, you need to desensitise them to the process.
That is, you want to make the process less scary and uncomfortable for them.
The following tips will help you do that.
1. Start Early and Take It Slow
If you want to make nail grooming less of a hassle for the rest of your dog’s life, start early.
You can introduce your puppy to nail grooming as early as eight weeks old.
As a first step, I recommend you simply get them used to having their paws handled.
During playtimes or rest times, hold your puppy’s paws for a few seconds and reward them. Slowly get them accustomed to you touching their paws until it feels normal to them.
You can even train them to give you their paw with commands like “paw”, “high five”, or “shake”.
From there, you can hold individual claws for a few seconds to get them accustomed to that sensation too. No grinding or clipping yet. Just holding. This will feel even more alien to your puppy but trust the process.
Then you can introduce them to nail grooming tools, which we’ll talk about next.
2. Choose the right tools
Like with everything, the tools you use can affect the outcome. If you cut your puppy’s nails with a dull clipper and you’re in for a struggle.
Not only does the quality of the tool matter, but also the type of tool you choose.
Because when it comes to nail grooming tools, you have options.
Nail grinders vs nail clippers – which should you go for? Let’s take a look at both.
Nail grinders work like sandpaper to smooth down the nails and shave off the length slowly. It has a revolving drill bit. Occasionally you can control the speed of the drill bit to take off more length.
The benefits of dog nail grinders are:
- Nail grinders are very precise
You can shave off the slightest sliver of nail very easily.
- Grinders work amazingly for dogs with thick, overgrown nails
Perhaps less of an issue with puppies. But if you have a large dog breed, super thick nails can be a hassle to trim with clippers.
- Grinders can be more appealing to dogs than clippers
If your puppy has negative associations with clippers, grinders can be a gentler alternative.
You can check out our top picks for nail grinders here:
5 Best Dog Nail Grinder Options Australia
Nail clippers are scissor-like clamps that snip off the nail with a clean cut.
The benefits of dog nail clippers are:
- Nail clippers are fast
Nail grinding is a much slower process because you don’t want prolonged contact with the nail. Clippers are far quicker.
- Nail clippers are cheaper
Because clippers have no electrical component, they are cheap and readily available in most pet apparel outlets.
- Nail clippers are portable
Puppy nail clippers especially are small enough to slip into your pocket or bag. Great for travelling.
You can check out our favourite nail clippers here:
I’d recommend trying both approaches to see which one your puppy prefers.
But before you use the tools, get your puppy accustomed to them.
Let them sniff the tools before you use them.
If you’re using a nail grinder, switch it on and allow your dog to get used to the sound. Notice their reaction. Some dogs are extremely averse to vibrations. Others find it quite soothing.
Related: How To Stop Your Dog From Slipping On The Floor.
Once you have a preferred method that works for both of you, stick to it. This will make your nail grooming sessions smoother for years to come.
If your puppy dislikes both equally, then choose the method that allows you to work the most comfortably and efficiently.
I prefer nail grinding because I can see what I’m doing more easily.
3. Create positive associations with nail care
Use positive reinforcement during nail grooming by offering your puppy treats and praise.
I recommend clipping or grinding one nail and giving your dog a reward after that nail is complete.
You don’t have to do this every time. But for the very first sessions, you want to encourage calm behaviour.
Whenever you bring out the nail clippers or grinder, give your pup a treat for good behaviour.
This positive association will help your pup feel more at ease during the process.
4. Keep nail grooming sessions short and sweet
Keep the nail grooming sessions short, especially in the beginning.
A few minutes are enough. Even if you don’t get through all of your dog’s nails during that session, that’s okay! It’s better to only groom a few nails on one day and keep the session short, than to rush the process.
You can come back to the other nails in another short session.
Gradually increase the time as your pup becomes more comfortable.
Related: Should You Trim Your Dog's Dewclaws?
5. Be mindful your dog’s body language
Your puppy can’t speak but they can express themselves through body language.
Pay attention to how your puppy reacts during nail grooming.
Signs that your dog might be anxious include:
If they seem anxious or uncomfortable, take a break and try again later. (1)
Building trust is essential, so don't force it.
6. Learn about what to do if things go wrong
It’s fair to say that nail grooming can be a bit of a hazardous task if you or your dog are nervous about it.
I know that I’m simply not a great dog nail clipper because it makes me nervous.
Because of those nerves, I have clipped my dog’s nail incorrectly before and made her bleed.
Luckily, it’s quite simple to stop your dog’s nail from bleeding.
All you need is some styptic powder on hand. The full name for this is ferric subsulfate.
It’s a blood coagulant that stops bleeding quickly. You can find it easily sold on Amazon. Horse care stores stock it as well.
Related: How To Treat A Dog Nail Separated From Quick In 7 Easy Steps
After you have calmed your dog down from the distress and pain of having their nail clipped too far, dip their bleeding nail into the styptic powder to stop the bleeding.
Once the bleeding has stopped, you can disinfect the area with alcohol.
Knowing that you have a proven method to stop bleeding if you do make a mistake may help settle your nerves around the whole process.
If you’re finding it difficult to cut your dog’s nails yourself, perhaps it’s time to involve the professionals. Let’s talk about that.
7. Seek Professional Help if Needed
Now some of you might want to jump to professional help from the very beginning.
Related: How To Deal With Aggressive Dogs During Nail Clipping?
And I don’t blame you! I think this is an excellent idea and so do the experts.
“If you’ve never clipped a dog’s nails before, you may want to have your veterinarian or vet tech give you a lesson on how to do it,” - Dr. Jerry Klein, American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer (2)
Likewise, you can contact a professional groomer to show you the ropes or take over the job entirely.
If it’s not your skills but your dog’s anxiety or misbehaving that’s causing your struggles, seek out a professional trainer or groomer to help.
They can provide valuable guidance on what might be causing the anxiety and help make the process easier.
Related: How To Cut Black Dog Nails?
If your dog’s anxiety doesn’t improve over time, your vet may recommend a sedative, CBD oil, or other anti-anxiety remedies you can use during nail grooming time.
Because unfortunately, you cannot get out of caring for your puppy’s nails. It’s a necessary evil!
My Final Thoughts
And there we have it! That’s our brief guide to getting your puppy accustomed to having their nails ground or clipped.
Remember to take it step by step, use positive reinforcement, and show your pup that nail grooming isn't scary at all. With a bit of patience and love, your pup may even grow to love nail grooming – or at the very least tolerate it.
Want to learn more about keeping your dog’s nails healthy? Here’s what to read next:
- Kriss, R. January 5, 2021. “Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved July 25, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/treating-dog-anxiety/
- Meyers, H. September 29, 2022. “How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails Safely”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved July 25, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-trim-dogs-nails-safely/