Dogs who don't like nail trimming

Dogs who don't like nail trimming

How to help a dog who does not like their nails trimmed using place board training

We can use Place Training to go through a process that desensitises the dog to nail clipping and instead build positive predictability in the three parts of the nail trimming process: 


  1. The setup 
  2. Being touched
  3. The equipment 


Step One: The setup

If you have had issues in the past, do this training in a new room to where you have previously tried. 

You will need a mat, this can be a Place Board, which we will use to create a unique picture for the dog. This setup will become a positive predictor to your dog that good things (food!) are about to happen.

Your dogs' optimism when the training mat comes out will be used to incite positive emotions about the rest of the nail trimming process.


  1. 2-3 x a day get out your Place Board or mat and sprinkle food onto it.
  2. When this is well practised, encourage the dog onto the Place Board or mat and ask for a ‘sit’, then feed them treats to their mouth while seated on it. 


Is your dog waggy & expectant when mat comes out, showing you, they are optimistic about the setup? Go to the next step.


Step Two: Being touched

Teach that being touched predicts treats.


When they are sitting on the Place Board or mat say a body part, touch, then treat.

  1. For example: say 'shoulder', touch shoulder and treat after.
  2. Say 'paw' and touch his front feet.
  3. Say 'foot' and touch his back feet.
  4. Practice touching the toes and lifting their paws to mimic the nail clipping procedure. 


Is your dog optimistic about being in the room, being on the Place Board or mat and being touched? Go to the next step.


Step Three: de-sensitisation process, reversing the negative feelings to build optimism around clippers.


In front of the dog, not near their feet yet.

  1. Click the manual clippers or turn on the dermal for a few seconds behind your back where the dog cannot see them and treat the dog when they hear the sound.
  2. From behind your back, bring the clippers out so the dog sees them (no sound) and treat the dog.
  3. Let your dog smell clippers and treat them.
  4. Hold the clippers an arms-length, make a short sound with them and treat the dog.


Is he comfortable when he hears the clippers? You are ready to gradually combine the three parts:


  1. Get the Place Board or mat out and sit him on it.
  2. Say paw, touch his paw with one hand.
  3. With your other hand clip the clippers far away from him.
  4. Practice the mat, touch and clipper sound routine moving the equipment progressively closer with each success. 


About the author:

Hi 👋 I’m Emma, accredited as a professional dog trainer by the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT). I help owners of energetic dogs achieve the dog-owning life they envisioned by providing robust obedience & agility training for dogs in Balsham, near Cambridge.

DisclaimerThe content of this article does not include personalised advice and is for information purposes only. If you need individual advice or other enquiries please click here to get in contact or if you're not local to Anglian Dog Works, you can find a trainer in your area by going to the IMDT website:

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