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Dog pulls away when cutting nails (What to do)

If your dog pulls away when you are cutting their nails, it can become a serious problem. You don’t want to traumatize your pooch, which can make the situation worse.

On the other hand, not cutting their nails can cause physical problems for them. Why are they pulling away? 

Why does my dog pull away when cutting his nails?

There are two basic reasons why your dog pulls away when you cut their nails. The first, and most common, is that they are scared. The other common reason is that getting their nails cut is painful for them. 

Let’s take a closer look at why your pooch is pulling away, and what you can do to make the process easier. 

Doesn’t Like Paws Touched 

Many humans are very particular about their feet. Do you want someone touching your feet? Do you find them more sensitive than most areas of your body? Chances are, your dog feels the same way. 

Your dog’s paws are more sensitive than most areas of their body. They are also important for their survival. An injured paw makes it difficult to walk, which can impair their ability to hunt and defend themselves. 

Of course, your pooch doesn’t have to hunt for their dinner, but the instinct is still there. This makes it easy to understand why your dog may not like their feet touched. 

To discover if this is the issue, simply try to touch your dog’s paws when you aren’t trimming their nails. If they pull away, this is the issue. 

Scared of the Nail Tool 

Your pooch may not mind their paws being touched, but fear the nail tool itself. Some dogs are scared by the sound of the tool, while others get scared by the way it feels when their nails are clipped. 

Negative Association 

Dogs have a strong associative memory. This is why they can be trained using positive reinforcement. They associate the task with a positive outcome, usually a treat. 

Unfortunately, this works both ways. If they have a negative experience when getting their nails trimmed, they will remember this. The next time their nails are clipped, they will expect something bad or painful to happen. 

This can occur due to pain from trimming their nails too short. It can also happen because your dog was scared during the process. If they are fearful of their feet being touched or the nail tool, they will have a negative association with having their nails trimmed.   

It’s also possible that the experience happened with someone else. Professional dog groomers and vets can also give your dog a negative experience. This usually isn’t intentional. They may not be aware of your dogs fear, or they may simply be in a hurry. Regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same. 

How to get my dog to stop pulling away when cutting their nails?

It may be hard to imagine right now,  but with time and effort, you can teach your dog to enjoy having their nails trimmed. To do this, you’ll need to take it a step at a time. 

What Not to Do 

The most important thing is not to make the situation worse. If your pooch gets scared, this reinforces their negative association. If you try to force them to allow you to hold their paw, this is also traumatic for them. 

Remember, they are likely following their natural instincts. Do not yell at them or punish them for their “bad” behavior. Instead, be gentle and patient. Do not move forward if your pooch seems nervous or tries to pull away. 

Take a Paw

You’ll need to get your dog used to having their nails trimmed through a desensitization process. Begin by placing them in your lap. Get them comfortable, which may include petting and conversation. 

Then, start touching their paw. You may need to begin with their leg, and slowly make your way down to their paw. Use a gentle touch that is enjoyable for them. 

If they begin to pull away or seem uncomfortable, move your hands away from their paw and back to their leg. 

Keep working on this until your pooch will allow you to touch their feet with no stress. This can take many sessions. Once you can touch one foot, repeat the process with the next, until you can hold all of their paws.  

 Once they are comfortable with this, start touching their nails as well. You aren’t trimming them. Simply run your fingers over their nails gently. 

Densitization to Nail Tool 

Now you’ll work on desensitizing them to the nail tool. You will hold the tool near your pooch while petting them. Use the tool in the air. If it’s clippers, you’ll click them together. If it’s a grinding tool, turn it on near them. 

This can also take several sessions. If your pooch gets scared or stressed, you’ll need to move the tool away or stop. After they are settled, try again. 

Use Treats 

Throughout the desensitization process, you’ll also use positive reinforcement. Give them high value treats when they allow you to touch their paws or hold the nail tool near them. 

You’ll want to start out giving them treats and praise very frequently throughout the process. If they pull away, don’t give them a treat until you are holding their paw again. 

This will help them associate nail clipping with something positive, treats. Over time, your dog may even look forward to nail trimming, because it gets them treats. 

Once they are comfortable allowing you to trim their nails, you can gradually cut back on treats. You may begin trimming by giving them a treat after each nail. Over time, you’ll gradually cut down the amount of treats. 

Be sure to give at least one treat at the end of the clipping after training is completed. It’s also a good idea to plan an activity they enjoy after the nail trimming. This will strengthen their positive association.  

Change the Nail Tool 

If your pooch is scared of the nail tool, or has had a negative experience with it, it’s a good idea to get a new tool. You can choose a new tool of the same type, or a completely different type of tool. 

If your pooch doesn’t like the nail tool, it’s much better to change the tool instead of attempting to desensitize them to the one you currently have. 

After the tool is changed, you’ll need to present the new one. To do this, present the tool as you would a new toy. Be excited and let them check it out by smelling and looking at it. Give them a treat when you present the tool as well. 

This will start them out with a positive association. You should also go through the desensitization process with the tool after you’ve presented it. 

Choosing a Nail Tool 

There are three types of nail tool. The most common is scissor clippers. These work similar to scissors. They are best for large dogs who can remain calm. If your pooch pulls away, this type of nail tool isn’t ideal. 

Guillitone clippers are another option. You’ll place the nail into the hole. A guilitone blade drops down, cutting the nail. This type is better for small to medium pooches. 

Lastly, you have nail grinders. Instead of cutting the nail, this type of tool grinds the nail to the desired length. It’s easier to avoid cutting too short with this method.