How to trim dog nails without fuss

Do your regularly trim your dog’s nails? We just found out that a dear friend’s dog can only get nail trims under anesthesia. Consequently, this gorgeous five-year old Great Dane has only had this vital grooming procedure a couple of times in his life.

Fortunately, while long, his nails haven’t yet started to curl back into his paws. Probably because he’s a city dog, and goes for miles of walks on concrete, which helps keep his nails from becoming worse than they are.

Gotta help if you can

We’re working with our friend to turn things around for his boy Frankie. At this point, we don’t know if it’s going to work, but we have to try. It’s a great opportunity to put our convictions to the test. Frankie has to cooperate and consent. There’s no way we can force a 135-pound Great Dane to do anything. We have to teach him that it’s okay. He weighs more than we do. 

Fortunately, Frankie adores his person and is an eager and fast learner. We’re hopeful.

Step #1: Get used to the noise

We’ve told our friend to get a corded, handheld multi-tool with a sanding drum. While many people use nail clippers without an issue, we’ve never been fans. Probably because we’re terrified of hurting our dogs – especially the dogs with black nails that we can’t see through. Once you’ve “quicked” a dog, you’re a bit hesitant.

Boston Terrier shows consent to dog care by calmly allowing nails to be trimmed

Add to that the tremendous success we’ve had with the grinding tool. We even trim our Bearded Dragon’s nails with it! 

Boston Terrier Simon usually naps during nail grinding. We had to wake him up to take the picture.

The first step, after you get the tool, is to just plug it in and let your dog get used to the sound. Run it for a minute or less, feeding your dog yummy treats the whole time. If your dog is terrified, distance is your friend. Have the tool as far away as possible, and only gradually get closer as your dog adjusts. 

This may be a great time to use a “lick mat.” Just spread a soft food (peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, whipped cream) on the mat and freeze it. Save this special treat to use for nails only. If your dog adores something about the process, the rest of it will be easier.

Step 2: Play patty-paws

Get your dog used to you handling his/her paws. At first, without the grinder. In time, you can add the grinder turned on – but only if you also use the lick mat, or some other really high value reward. If your dog has a favorite chewy treat, use that if you like. 

Getting your dog to accept nail grinding is a process, especially if it’s been an issue in the past. We’re being completely honest with the dog. We need to do this. We want you to be comfortable with it. We’re going to give you every opportunity to adjust and accept.

Step 3: Moving on

When your dog is comfortable with the grinder in close proximity, and with you playing with his/her paws, you can try grinding one nail. If you have two people, have one person stay with the dog’s head and lick mat. The other person will be in charge of the grinder. Start with a back paw. Hold it gently. Tell your dog what you’re doing – you never want to try to fool your dog. 

If your dog pulls his/her paw away, don’t hold on. Just gently take hold of it again and try again. The harder you hold on, the more your dog will resist. This is the part that takes the most patience. Try a few times, or as long as your dog is working on the lick mat. If your dog freaks out, stop trying to grind the nail. Just let the grinder run while the dog finishes their treat.

Don’t give up

Getting your dog comfortable with normal grooming procedures is important for optimal health throughout your dog’s life. And it saves both time and money if you’re able to do it yourself. Think of it as an investment in your dog’s long, healthy, happy life with you.


2 thoughts on “How to trim dog nails without fuss

  1. Carlene

    This is where I am at right now. One nail, barely touching it with the grinder, treat. She’s starting to roll her eyes (metaphorically, but I swear I’ve heard a sigh) and let me. 🙂 AND I totally didn’t think of it for this purpose, so thank you, but I just ordered a lick mat (she licks her paws to self-soothe; it’s almost like nailbiting behavior. She gets in the zone).

    1. Golly Gear Post author

      Making progress is wonderful! We’re happy to hear that she’s already at the stage where she’s tolerating the touch of the grinder. What a good girl! Let us know how the lick mat works out, please!


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