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Fear Free Nail Trims: Home Edition

Posted In: Behavior & Training, Feline Health & Wellness, Canine Health & Wellness

Does the thought of trimming your dog or cat’s nails have you anxiously biting yours? Nail trims can be stressful for you and your pet. But with a little patience and work, you can make those necessary trims much more enjoyable.

First, it is important to understand why we need to cut our pet’s nails. Long nails that touch the ground can affect a dog or cat’s gait, lead to joint problems, cause injuries, and make walking extremely painful. Left uncut, the nails can curve and grow into your pet’s footpad.

Before you break out the nail clippers, spend some time getting your pet comfortable with having their paws handled. For some pets, this isn’t a problem, but other pets don’t like having their paws and nails touched. Pick a place in your home where your pet can get comfortable, such as a blanket or dog bed in a relaxing spot, and grab some yummy treats. Gently touch your pet’s paw and immediately offer a treat and words of encouragement, such as “Good girl!” Repeat this with all four paws as often as you can. If your pet seems uncomfortable with this, go slower and expect to spend time each day touching their paw then giving a treat. The goal is to help your pet associate paw handling with good things like yummy rewards.

As your pet gets comfortable with having his or her paws touched (and maybe even happy about it!), increase the amount of time you are touching the paws. Gradually work up to holding the paw and putting a little pressure on the underside of the paw so your pet’s nails extend.

The next step is to get your pet used to the nail clippers. Set them on the ground next to your pet and give a treat. Set treats around the clippers and let your pet eat the treats. You can then pick up the clippers, set them down, and give a treat. Again, the goal is to get your pet comfortable with the clippers, and to avoid that all-to-common behavior of running away when he or she sees you with the nail clippers.

If at any time, your pet starts to feel uncomfortable or shows signs of fear, anxiety, or stress, take a step back and repeat exercise you’ve been doing. It takes some pets longer to get used to handing and nail trims. Just don’t give up!

If you have a family member or friend that can help with the next part, that’s even better! When we do nail trims in our clinic, we use Fear Free techniques. One of our team members distracts the pet with treats. Peanut butter for dogs or canned cheese for cats on a pretzel stick works great! The other team member gently and swiftly cuts the nails. If you are on your own, you can purchase a treat mat to spread the treats – they can be suctioned to the wall or to the ground to keep your pet occupied and happy.

With time, your pet can learn to accept nail trims as part of their normal routine and associate them with delicious treats. For more ways you can incorporate Fear Free techniques at home, visit https://fearfreehappyhomes.com

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at two locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.