The Would-Be Canine Manicurist

Tips and tricks for maintaining your pup’s nails

By Leslie Phelan



In the summertime when we stroll all day, my dogs’ nails get naturally filed by the sidewalks, and there isn’t much need for grooming. In the wintertime, though, when their nails spend more time buried in my shag rug than outdoors, they can get out of control.

I didn’t realize this until recently, but as soon as their nails extend past the toe and click the floor as they walk, it can be quite painful to a paw. Not to mention how long nails can snag skin and fabric …  I like nice sweaters, so they’ve got to be taken care of.

An elderly lady once told me that she maintained all the nails of her rescues. I was quite surprised, since my dogs (who are not jittery rescues) freak out whenever I try to clip them. I had to ask what her secret was.

Judging from the homemade treats she kept in a little hand-sewn pouch, the woman was clearly the most resourceful dog mother on the block. She explained to me that I can train my dogs to like the experience, which can be a form of bonding if done correctly. Here are the tips she gave me on the trust-building exercise:


1) Hold your dog’s paws and give them treats for not flinching.

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2) Let them thoroughly sniff the clippers and tools you intend to use.

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3) Press upward on the toe pads to extend the nails outward instead of separating the digits, which becomes awkward for the foot bones.

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4) Treats should follow every successful snip. Be confident, not jittery, and the dog will follow suit.

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Happy clipping,