How to Desensitize Your Dog to Having his Nails Clipped

Does your dog run away when he sees you pull out the nail clippers? Does he fidget, get nervous, or try to bite when you clip his nails? Don’t give up! It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to get your dog to accept and even like having his nails done, using a desensitization program. The purpose of this is to teach the dog very gradually to accept having his feet touched, manipulated and finally having his nails clipped, using treats to reward when he is accepting you touch his feet. Depending on how nervous your dog gets about having his nails done, this process might take some time, so be patient, it will be worth it in the long run!


*** VIP**** If at any time during the desensitization process your dog shows that he is uncomfortable with your touch, immediately stop and make it easier for him by backing up a step.


  1. Get a supply of tasty treats cut into tiny bites. Use something      the dog loves and doesn’t get often, such as cheese, cooked chicken,      freeze dried liver. Train in 5 minute sessions and always end on a good      note!
  2. Start without the clippers. Get your dog lying quietly and just      run your hands down his leg towards his foot. You want to stop and a point      that he is calm and not reacting, say “YES” and reward. Do this      with all four feet and then end your session. Depending on the severity of      your dog’s phobia you may have to do this for several 5 minute sessions.
  3. Next step is to run your hand down the leg to the foot, touch      the foot briefly, say “YES” and reward.
  4. Next pick up the foot, hold it briefly and then say      “YES” and treat.
  5. Next pick up the foot in your hand and put light pressure on      the toe above the nail, when the dog accepts it say “YES” and reward. Do      this for all 4 feet, but remember to keep the session short and fun.
  6. Repeat the above step but take out the nail clippers and leave      them sitting on the floor next to you during your session.
  7. After this, hold the paw and pick up the clippers, but do not      bring the clippers close to the nail. Again when the dog is calm say “YES”      and reward.
  8. When the dog accepts you picking up all four feet and pulling      pressure on his toes, while holding the clippers, you can graduate to just      clipping the very tip of the nail. Always mark the behaviour you like with      an upbeat “YES” and reward right away.
  9. Start with just one nail at a time, keep sessions short and      upbeat.
  10. When he calmly accepts getting the tip of his nail taken off      you can finally start to clip his nails shorter!



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Last updated: June 28, 2021

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