If you read the title of this post and are wondering what a vlogcast is, it’s a blog post with a video of a podcast episode. And it’s all about cutting your dog’s nails at home. Over the years, there have been thousands of questions here on my blog, on social media, and by email about nail trimming, and in the podcast video below, I’m sharing the three steps that create success from our Pedicure Please Program.


Let’s look at the three stages to help you trim your dog’s nails at home, but first, make sure you check out what my friend Dr. Leslie Woodcock shared about the importance of short nails and the cut line in the video we have here on my blog for you.

1. Creating a Positive Conditioned Emotional Response

A positive C.E.R. will move your dog beyond tolerance and toward a love of nail trimming and husbandry in general. We need to establish a C.E.R. to the sight of the tools you’re going to be using to trim your dog’s nails. We need to establish a C.E.R. to the sound of the nail trimmers, either the sound of a nail being clipped, or the sound of a Dremel being turned on. We need to establish a C.E.R. for you picking up and holding their paws. We need to establish a C.E.R. to you manipulating and isolating one single toe that’s going to be worked on.

If you visit my video blog, “Help! My Dog Hates His Nails Cut … What Do I Do?” I’ve covered some of the elements of nail trimming to consider for creating a positive conditioned emotional response.

2. Game On Position

The “game on” position your dog’s going to adopt will tell you, “I’m ready for my pedicure, please!”.  Now I like to shape my dog to lay flat out on their side. It’s just so darn easy for my dog to give me clear communication. If a head comes up, they are saying, “Uh, I don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t want you to go any further.” And I wait until her head comes down, and if the head doesn’t come down within a few seconds, I say, “Okay, come on, get off. We’re done. And we’ll come back to this another time.” Or I might say, “Do you want to try it again?” and we’ll work at it again.

So first, we have to shape the dog to lie flat out on their side and use the foundations of ItsYerChoice, so the dog is clear about what starts and stops the game. Then we build duration, and when your dog is totally comfortable start doing things like stroking them or holding a paw. Make some notes from the video above where I covered this. Always be aware of what your dog is telling you with their game on or off position.

3. Trimming Nails

I will tell you when you’re moving into stage three, you will get a regression with some dogs. Your dog will tell you how fast you can move, and if they lift their head up, or they exit stage left, you know you’ve moved too far too fast. Take a step back and return to just conditioning.

Eventually, your dog is going to let you touch the Dremel to their toenails or take a little trim with the clippers. And then you’re going to go back to just making the noise with the Dremel and massaging their body and manipulating their paws and their pads and toes. You’ve got to take this super slowly, but your patience will be rewarded when your dog is asking for a pedicure please!

Now, for those of you who say, “Sounds like this is going to take a while.” That length of time depends on what stage of love or hate your dog is in right now about nail trimming. For most dogs, it’s going to take several weeks, maybe even a couple of months, to move through all of these progressions.

Next, you might ask, “Well Susan, what am I going to do in the meantime?” … and there are two things that I recommend you do. The first is conditioning your dog to a lick mat, and you can see how I did that with my puppy, This! in a video here on my blog called “This! One is About Conditioning the Dremel for Puppy Nails“.

The second thing you could do is use a scratchboard. Now you can google this and find how to build a scratchboard. It’s also in Your Dog’s Pedicure Please Program, and I show how to make and use a scratchboard so that you can get your dog’s nails sanded down while you’re working on helping them to say, “Can I have my pedicure, please?”.

Start with conditioning a positive emotional response for your dog.

If you’d like the transcript of the podcast episode above, and to get the audio, then that’s over on our podcast episode page. Below is a list of my nail trimming resources for you.

Let me know in the comments when you start creating a positive conditioned emotional response for your dog and what you notice!

Today I am grateful for all of your notes on my podcasts and blogs and your suggestions on what you’d like me to cover coming up.