Most dog owners I meet dislike or even refuse to trim their dogs’ toenails, and I don’t blame them. Unless the dog has been systematically desensitized to feet handling and nail trimming while young, it is likely the dog will be afraid, especially if the quick in the nail has been accidentally clipped (ouch). Forcing the dog to be still will only make him more fearful and possibly even defensive.
It is possible to teach your dog to not be afraid of having his nails done. The key is to start easy, proceed slowly, and pair it with food your dog goes crazy over. I have been working on desensitizing Chase to a Dremel his entire life. He hated the feel of clippers pinching his toenails (even to this day) and prefers having his nails sanded. But he always looked a little worried when I did his nails, so I decided to teach him to actual relax during his manicure. I rewarded lying on his side and gradually re-introduced the Dremel. At first, he got into position but I could tell he wasn’t totally relaxed. With practice though, he got calmer and calmer. Affect the body and the mind will follow! Here is my video of the process:
The secret is to resist pushing to the point that your dog gets worried. This may mean starting out by just showing him the clippers and giving him a treat, over and over again. Then proceed to touching his foot (or even his shoulder if he is super sensitive) and giving him a treat. There are many videos on YouTube for nail trimming. Watch several of them and see which suits you and your dog.
Make it a goal to trim 1 nail a day for several days. Then gradually increase the number of nails you do per session. Take off teeny tiny slivers. You can always go back and do more, but if you cut the quick and cause pain because you took off too much, it will be a huge setback. So what if it takes you a week or 2 to do all his nails. You are nurturing your relationship and instilling trust, which is more important than getting it all done at once and causing panic. Chase and I now enjoy our “together time” doing his nails. He comes running to me when I get the Dremel out. Our next challenge to overcome will be ear cleaning. That will be a tough one!