Stress Free Nail Trims

Stressful Nail Trims? North End Animal Hospital Can Help!

Does your pet hide when the nail trimmers come out? Do they squirm and move their paw away? There are steps that you can try at home to counter-condition your pet to nail trims. These steps can help make nail trims as low-stress as possible. The key is to not overwhelm the pet by doing too much at once. Training sessions should only be 5-10 minutes long and if your pet starts to lose interest, stop and try again later. Each step could take days or weeks depending on your pet. Do not move to the next step until your pet is comfortable with the last.

Step 1: Accustom your pet to the nail trimmer

Take your nail trimmer and lay it beside your pet. Give your pet a treat each time they interact with them. This step should be repeated several times.

Step 2: Acclimate your pet to the sound of the trimmers

For most pets, especially dogs, it seems the sound of trimming nails is almost as bad as touching their paws. With this step you will get your pet used to the sound. You can do this by clipping a piece of pasta by your pet’s nails, then giving a treat. Repeat until your pet is no longer stressed or scared by the sound.

Step 3:  Touch your pet’s paw

If your pet already knows the command for “paw”, use this to your advantage. If not, start by gradually moving from their shoulder
or hips and run your hand down to their paw without losing contact.  Once you reach the paw, give a treat. Once your pet is comfortable
with their paw being touched (not pulling it away), continue past the paw and touch the nail. Give a treat and repeat until your pet is comfortable with you touching their nails. This is something that can be worked on while your pet is relaxing beside you. Always playing with your pet’s paws and nails will be beneficial.

Step 4: A gentle squeeze

Building onto the last step, we want to go through the motions of gliding your hand from their shoulder/hip to the paw to isolating the nail. Give a treat after gently squeezing the paw to isolate a single nail. Repeat until your pet does not move their paw away.

Step 5: Putting the nail trimmer up to the nail

Once your pet allows you to isolate your nail, without actually trimming anything put the nail clippers up to the nail. Give a treat. The picture below shows this.

Step 6: Actually trimming the nail!

Once your pet shows no stressors with the other steps, you can then start trimming the nails. Start with one, clip and give a treat. Continue on to more nails if your pet allows. Remember we do not want to overwhelm them, so it is important to only do what they will tolerate. If that is one nail per day, do that until they are okay with doing two! Spreading a high value treat on a lick-mat is a good way to keep your pet focused on a positive thing rather than the actual nail trim.


Try to avoid quicking the nail (the vascular part of the nail, typically pink in color) by only trimming the tops of the nail and trimming little pieces at a time. Quicking can make your pet have a negative experience towards nail trims. If you do not feel comfortable trimming your own pet’s nails, we still encourage you to go through these steps as it can make your pet less stressed at the veterinary clinic.