Nail Trims in Dogs: The Missing Factor that Determines Where your True Relationship Stands

Even as a professional dog trainer, I struggle to keep up with my dog’s nail trims. Not many people, it seems, love to trim their dog’s nails. Not even the groomer you are paying! From a behavioral standpoint, I am here to tell you that there is more benefit to nail trims than just your dog’s health. Your relationship depends on it, and you don’t want to overlook this correlation. The foundation of your dog’s lifelong respect towards you reflects if they trust and allow you to trim their nails.

When dogs come to us for our Full Service (Board and Train) programs, we integrate nail trims into their training sessions. We expose a fundamental issue that most owners have not taught their dogs to accept this practice. Maybe they have tried a few times or nicked their dogs quick, which was enough to discourage any more efforts. All it takes is a dog resisting and the owner not following through for the dog to successfully avoid future nail trims. Young pups might even experiment with biting the hand of the owner or being vocal to protest that THEIR feet are off limits. A boundary has now been created between dog and owner that is not crossed again without a fight. Most clients then put up the clippers and leave them for the vet tech or the groomer to address. But, nail trims are the basis for a healthy leadership activity, not a quick appointment. Vet techs and groomers don’t have enough time to create a relationship, train, and associate your dog’s nail trims with a positive experience. Often when a dog finally gets in for the nail trim, they are older and more mature and now need to be restrained by multiple people or muzzled. That leaves an awful experience for nail trims for the rest of the dog’s life.

Could you imagine if your toddler protested teeth brushing, so you quit pressing them and left it for the dentist 2x a year?

We break this horrible cycle during training because nail trims determine the genuine relationship between the handler and the dog. Trust and respect are earned and developed by both the dog and handler. Many clients miss this beautiful opportunity by not creating this foundation when their dogs are puppies, but it is not too late to get it back. We demonstrate to the owners how to take back this incredible bonding moment.

So why don’t we offer nail trims for boarding dogs even if they are previous training graduates?

When a dog returns for boarding, we don’t offer nail trims (even to the dogs we trained) in fairness to them and the association we want them to have at the kennel. We believe nail trims depend on an ongoing relationship between owner and dog. They are not convenient quick solutions that can take place during a weekend boarding trip. Remember, this process requires dedicated work for at least three weeks to build that relationship with our trainers. Then the owners are responsible for maintaining that respect for long-term success. The dogs here for boarding may develop social bonds with the staff, but there is no intensive one-on-one training relationship where respect has been earned, and leadership is trusted for something as personal as a nail trim.

To re-emphasize, when your dog comes for boarding at The Doghouse LLC, the bathing, brushing, and ear cleaning services ensure your dog has a basic level of cleanliness before going home. If you know your dog will likely play in the pool, roll in the dirt, and play with other dogs during their stay here, be sure to request a bath at drop-off, or you may take home a happy but dirty dog! We do not intend our services to replace the relationship nail trimming reinforces or professional grooming. We encourage all clients whose dogs have hair or fur that gets easily matted to keep them on a consistent schedule with a qualified groomer the dog has built a relationship with.

We know that nail trims can be a dreaded part of dog husbandry for people and pets, but it’s our responsibility to ensure we keep our dogs healthy and happy, even if it means doing uncomfortable things. Ultimately, your relationship with your dog will benefit from going through the process needed to do nail trims in a cooperative way. It is the ultimate expression of trust and respect, something we all want with our dogs. If you’re struggling with nail trims, check out our resources or reach out for help. Remembering that it’s all about the relationship, not the nails, is the key to long-lasting success and harmony with your dog.

It’s never too late to reset nail trimming with your adult dog!

We have a few videos to help if your adult dog has regressed in accepting nail trims. Remember to start slow with a few toes and build up. You can also try the Dremel, as some dogs like that better. Brush dogs with hair like poodles and doodles daily, and consider keeping them in a short cut to avoid tangles. Regular work handling your dog and getting them used to grooming procedures will make it easier for you and more enjoyable for the dog.


Adult Dogs: