Successful Nail Trims: WITHOUT a Peanut Butter Face!

April 26, 2020

Successfully trim your dog’s nails without peanut butter on your face

Most of you have seen the video floating around the internet about the woman who spread peanut butter on her head to help her dog with a nail trim. I am not going to tell you what a terrible idea this is, but instead give you some guidelines on how to help nail trims not become World War 3.

Getting Started

If you have a baby puppy or a dog who has never had a nail trim, then you have a head start. You can begin right now making this a better situation for your dog. If you have a dog who already has feelings about getting their nails trimmed then you have a bit more work to do. We first have to establish where our dog is okay with the nail trimming process.

A few behaviors we like to have already trained, are a stationing behavior, or a “go to mat,” and be able to give you a “paw.”  It definitely serves you to train these behaviors before we ever think about getting the nail clippers. By training these two behaviors away from trimming nails, you have a way to tell if your dog is mentally ready for you to begin the dreaded task.

Are you ready?

Consent is such an important part of any husbandry behavior because it allows your dog to tell you they are ready for whatever you are about to do. Now you are thinking “ha! my dog is never ready for a nail trim!” and you are correct because you have never explained to your dog what you are doing and you are not cutting their toes off. Once you take some time to explain to your dog that you are listening to their fears and you are not going to “make them” do things they are not ready for, it builds the trust your dog has in you.

The Process

Slow and steady wins this race. It is important to break down each part of the nail trimming requirements and make sure your dog is accepting of the process. Lets take a look at the individual steps you need to train before you get the clippers. Each step of the way should be paired with lots of cookies to make sure your dog is feeling confident that he is doing it right!

  • Pick up each foot. Your dog should be able to weight shift to allow you to lift a back foot, and they should be able to offer you a front paw.
  • Hold each foot for at least 30 seconds without pulling away. If they do pull away, then restart and ask for a shorter duration next time.
  • Separate toes with your fingers. Feet can be ticklish! Make sure you train that!
  • Tap each toe with something that feels like clippers. If your dog has no feelings about nail clippers then you can use the clippers, if your dog has big feelings use a screwdriver or metal nail file.
  • Clip ONE toe nail! Celebrate!

Here is a VIDEO Callie created with Forge showing how she was able to get him comfortable with his nails being trimmed!

You can see that for dogs with big feelings about having their nails trimmed, this process could take some time. In the meantime, your dog will need someone to trim their nails. We recommend finding a grooming salon that is willing to be “the bad guy” while your dog is working through this with you. Try to avoid the vet clinic being your “bad guy.” They are really busy saving lives and we want the vet to be a happy place for your dog. Most veterinarians can help your dog by prescribing some medications to help your dog feel better about the situation. We recommend Trazodone for most dogs, but consult with your veterinarian for the best option for your dog.

if you do not feel comfortable with trimming your dogs nails it is still important that you work through this process with your dog. Whoever you trust to do the nail trim will have a much easier time getting it done, and not contribute to any negative feelings your dog might have.

Extra Help

If you think you and your dog could use a little extra help sign up for our Virtual Nail Trim 101 class. This is a self paced course that shows you all the skills your dog needs to get through a nail trim successfully. Even if you have no intention of ever trimming your dogs nails, having these foundation behaviors will greatly help your dogs feelings through the whole process!

Nail Trim 101 Virtual Workshop



About Us

At The Freckled Paw, we are committed to kindness towards both you and your dog. We understand that every dog and owner team is different and will have their own unique challenges. We pride ourselves in listening to your challenges and coming up with a plan that will help you reach your goals for your life with your dog. Let us help you navigate your challenges and come up with a plan that works!