How To Train Your Puppy To Let You Trim His Nails

As a puppy parent, there are many tasks that you need to perform every day, week, month, etc., for your precious pup. Daily there’s feeding and watering, of course, taking them for walks, playing with them, etc.

Every week, depending on your pup, you’ll need to brush them and possibly bathe them. During the first few weeks, you’ll also need to take them to your local vet to get their shots and protect them from sickness and diseases that affect dogs.

That’s the life you choose when you decide to adopt a puppy and become their surrogate momma or poppa. Their life, for better and for worse, is in your hands, putting the responsibility to take good care of them squarely on your shoulders.

As a puppy parent, one of the more important tasks you have is to trim their nails, which, like humans, tend to grow rather quickly. However, for humans, long nails aren’t a big problem (and some people prefer them long). 

With a puppy, however, long nails can pose several health risks. For example, if your pup’s nails get too long, they can get caught on something as they walk (carpeting, flooring, trim, etc.) and get torn off, which is super painful and can also cause an infection. 

Long nails also make it uncomfortable for a puppy to walk around and should be trimmed about once a month. Veterinarians suggest trimming them back enough so that their nails don’t touch the floor when your puppy’s walking. 

When I was trimming my dog’s nails the other day, it reminded me of a question I received recently from someone like yourself, a newly minted puppy parent. They asked me a question I frequently hear, how to train your puppy to let you trim his nails?

The answer is that there are several training methods you can and should use to get your puppy comfortable with trimming their nails. One of them is first to train your pup to let you hold their paw, which is not something they do naturally for dogs. Another is to start them as young as possible so they get accustomed to having their nails trimmed and don’t freak out.

Frankly, though, some puppies and dogs will never be happy about having their nails trimmed. For those puppies, you will need a sedative or other method of calming them down. 

There are several other methods for trimming your pup’s nails that I’m sure you’d like to know. Can I trim my puppy’s nails while sleeping, for example, and can I sedate my dog to cut their nails at home? For the answer to those questions and several more, please keep reading. I’ve got them below and some good advice to ease your puppy’s fears during this traumatic but essential grooming task.

Can I Trim my Puppy’s Nails while He is Sleeping?

You can clip a puppy’s nail while they are sleeping, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. One reason is that a dog’s paws are very sensitive, even if they are asleep. If you cut them or hurt them, you can be sure they will wake up with a start.

One thing you might also try is a nail clipper that doesn’t make any sound when you clip their nails. There are several of them on the market, although, frankly, most do make some sound. (A dogs’ nails are pretty tough and will make cracking and clipping noises no matter how gently you clip them.)

Can I Sedate my Puppy to Cut their Nails at Home?

Sedating your dog is possible before you trim their nails, and some puppy parents swear by it. They will be much calmer during the process, and it will be more pleasant for both of you. 

As in humans, sedatives slow down your puppy’s brain activity, making them calmer, less anxious, and, in most cases, better able to deal with having their nails clipped. Below are a few of the most common sedatives that you can give your puppy at home before clipping their nails, including:

Melatonin

Many humans take melatonin to sleep better at night. In a puppy, melatonin helps to regulate their body rhythm. Also, it will calm them down so that they aren’t as anxious when you’re clipping away.

Benadryl

This common OTC medication is an antihistamine that also acts as a sedative. Experts recommend about 1.5 milligrams per pound to calm your pupper down for trimming time.

Calming Treats

There are many “treats” on the market that do double duty as sedatives for your puppy. Calming Bites is one of the most popular, but there are several more.

Natural Herbs

Chamomile, rosemary, valerian, and other natural herbs are excellent for sedating your pup before you trim their nails. You can make them into a tea and put it in your pup’s water bowl, or dip their fave treat into the tea and feed it to them.

What Can I Give My Puppy to Calm them Down for Nail Trimming?

Besides sedatives, there are several other things you can give your puppy to calm them down before you trim their nails. Some work better than others, and all depend on your puppy, their anxiety levels, and other factors.

CBD Oil Puppy Treats

Although they haven’t been on the market very long, there are several different types of CBD oil puppy treats that supposedly work quite well. Although there isn’t a lot of research, the research that has been done shows that CBD helps lower anxiety.

Aromatherapy

As with humans, aromatherapy can be very relaxing and help calm your puppy before trimming their nails. Lavender oil is one of the most popular and can be massaged into their fur or hair. Not only does the lavender oil help, but the massage itself reduces the amount of cortisol your puppy produces, reducing their stress at the same time.

Tryptophan

You’ve probably heard how tryptophan in Turkey is one of the reasons humans get so tired after a big Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. The same effect can be helpful and calm your puppy before trimming their nails. 

Surprisingly, one food product containing the most tryptophan is whole milk, followed by canned tuna. Turkey is next, although you can skip all three and simply purchase a tryptophan supplement for dogs. Alternatively, depending on your pup, a chunk of cheese might have the same calming effect.

Prescription Sedatives 

If all else fails and you’re at the end of your rope trying to trim your puppy’s nails, you can ask your veterinarian for a prescription sedative. Frankly, this is a last resort type of choice as it risks causing other health problems and side effects.

Also, you should never give your dog prescription sedatives without the help and guidance of a trained veterinarian. As in humans, an overdose of prescription sedatives can cause severe health problems and even kill your precious puppy. Prescription sedatives you can give your puppy include:

  • Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.) 
  • Acepromazine
  • Trazodone
  • Gabapentin

Final Thoughts

The thing about how to train your puppy to let you trim his nails is that most puppies fall into one of two categories. Either they have no problem with nail trimming (the minority), or they have a problem with getting their nails trimmed (the majority).

Training your puppy to let you hold their paw and starting when they are young or two methods you can use to train them. However, it isn’t so much about training as it is figuring out the best method to calm your puppy down before you trim.

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed today’s blog and that it answered your questions about how to train your puppy to let you trim his nails. If you have more or would like to learn more about how to take care of your precious new puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. I do my best to fill them with real-world, actionable information.