How To Tackle Toenails on your Dog

Things You Will Need

Nail Clipper, for your pets size
Nail File, coarse
Round sponge Nail File
Running Shoes
Kid with a Skateboard

By doing a bit each week you and your pet will gain confidence and look forward to some interesting quality time together.

Step 1
Choosing Nail Clippers:
There are two styles of nail clippers on the market, a guillotine type and a scissor type. Purchase one that will accommodate your pets nail size and you feel most comfortable using. The key here is for you, the owner, to get confident. I elevate the dog on a table if possible or have a trusted friend or family member gently hold a small pet in arms and a large pet around the neck and massage the ears. If you are a beginner just clip a very small portion of the tip of the nail, this way you will not make the nail bleed and you and the pet will gain confidence. There is always next weeks trim to take a bit more off. Just before you clip give a quick blow in your pets face. This is a great distraction technique I learned from a nurse who never made my children cry when she gave a shot. After you clip get all excited and give your pet a treat, NEVER forget the treat. Get as many as you can at one time, remember there are many more hours in the day and days in the week to do this.

If this is too much for either of you try the next approach.

Step 2
Filing Rather than Clipping:
Try with a coarse straight file first. if this does not work we have a backup plan.
I find the best place to file a nervous pet is while watching TV on the coach. Get them in the mood with a quick leg massage. Once you both are relaxed gently place the paw in your hand and file under the nail slowly, picking up speed as it is accepted. Gently talk in encouraging tone and words to get your pet to look at you rather than what you are doing. After you feel you have gotten enough filing done give them a treat and a tummy rub.
Back Up File:
Use a round sponge type file that will fit into the palm of your hand and use it gently during the massage portion. If the dog starts to suspect something is up go back to the massage.
Remember there are many hours and days to get this done.

Step 3
OK so you are past the uncomfortable stage and almost a professional Pedicurist of Pups, but the dremmel still has mysteries. The biggest challenge is keeping hair out of the equipment. This is important as it can make for a very unpleasant experience and could cause harm to your pet. If your pet has long coated (or just long like a Hound Dog) ears put a snood around them. You can make a snood by cutting the foot off of a regular or knee hi sock, taking the ankle part and pulling it over the dogs head. If they are fluffy and insist on getting body coat near the foot put a T-shirt on them. And you thought that was only a fashion statement. The most important, for hairy feet, is a piece of panty hose to put over the foot and push the nails through. This gives you all the freedom to move around the nails without worrying about getting hair caught in the dremmel. After putting all that gear on your pet you need to give them a really big treat!

Step 4
Running Shoes:
If everything else turns into one big fight just run, with your dog. Running, not walking, will force your dog to curl their toes towards the ground to push forward. This action will start the natural filing process and get you both in shape. The best surface for this is a sidewalk, I call it the Urban Nail File. If you have a Retriever, or a dog who will retrieve, get a ball, Frisbee or fave toy and throw, throw and throw some more.

Step 5
Kid with a Skateboard:
Great alternate to running shoes! Use a harness with some padding and a control collar or gentle leader and let them go. Big dogs and small dogs LOVE this as well as the skateboarder.

Once you have mastered the terrifying toenails get out that polish or oil, for the boys, and enjoy this time together even more.

Prepare your dog to have his feet handled by gently rubbing and massaging them daily. This will also get you more comfortable with handling the feet and will give you more confidence to trim the nails.
Some dogs like to cry when you work on their nails, cry along with them. While you both are busy trying to cry louder than each other, you both forget what you are actually doing.


A cute dog and a skateboarder tend to attract attention AKA Chick (or dude) magnets. You might want to rent your pet by the hour.

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