Cutting Kasper’s nails without fear

We adopted Kasper when he was 9 months old – here he is on the first night, completely confused and stressed, bless him ❀

our dog

He was fearful – he was fearful of us (if we moved to stroke him too quickly he’d get his scared eyes on and cower); he was terrified of being left alone (he chewed halfway through a door); he was scared of having his harness put on; he was nervous of strangers; he was absolutely petrified of men; he turned from a playful pup to a nervous wreck when I jokingly called him “naughty”…

Oh, and he couldn’t stand any form of grooming – be it brushing, haircuts or body handling :/

For the first two years we had him we didn’t need to cut his nails, as he kept them worn down himself on walks.

I was a new dog owner. Kasper was my first ever dog; I’d never even lived with a dog before and I knew nothing about nail clipping and how important it was to get him used to it.

Sometime when he was about three years old his nails began to grow, no matter how much we walked him. It was then I began counterconditioning him seriously to having his paws handled, with the aim to cut his nails with a tradition clipper.

Kasper had already been comfortable having his hair brushed for months (it was very easy to countercondition him to being brushed), and around this time I was even able to cut the fur on his ears single-handedly. Big steps…but paw handling was still difficult 😦


*sigh* my stupidly sensitive boy ❀

Over the past two years I have sporadically worked with Kasper and the clippers, but progress was virtually non-existent.

I could handle his paws, I could get him to touch the clippers with his paws, I could even touch the clippers to his paws and build the duration with only very very mild discomfort…but cutting the nails always seemed so far away!

This video is from 4 months ago and is us doing ‘yay clippers are awesome’ training games πŸ™‚

We had a breakthrough a few weeks back when Kasper let me cut some tiny slivers off one of the nails on his front paw ^__^

It wasn’t enough to the make the nail shorter, and Kasper wasn’t 100% comfortable, but it was the first time we’d ever managed it…however I knew I needed to try something else for speedier results.

So for my birthday I asked my parents forΒ a dremel!


Now because Kasper is super sensitive, it will be months before he is ready to have his nails dremeled, especially because he is very sound sensitive! (it took 4 years of counterconditioning to get him like this with the vacuum!)

I’ve touched the dremel to his toes a few times with it turned off, with no issues πŸ™‚


But I needed to get his nails shorter NOW!Β Bring in the hardware file πŸ˜‰


Treats, a mechanics’ file, a clipper and a dremel!

The file is AWESOME!

Kasper hasΒ no issues with it at all. My partner feeds him high value treats and I file away, and we can do 2 – 4 minutes at a time!

I wasn’t sure how effective the file would be in terms of shortening the nails, but I’m actually really impressed! Here’s Kasper’s nail before we tried the file for the first time (I know they are hideously long, I do know)


After the first session


We had another filing session yesterday, but had run out of high value treats! This meant we kept the session really short and I didn’t put much pressure on Kasper’s nail, to keep him comfortable, so I doubt there was any progress yesterday!

Today’s session though πŸ˜€


Really chuffed we’ve found something that works for us, and I assume all the handling / paw restraint and various sensations will be helpful for dremel training too πŸ™‚

*huge sigh of relief* Yay ^__^


16 thoughts on “Cutting Kasper’s nails without fear

  1. I also hate having my nails cut! And so Mum also bought me one of those electrical thingies – but I hate the noise, so maybe Mum’s going to have to get a big file too

    • Kasper sends you his sympathies, and I sympathise with you mum πŸ˜›

      Kasper’s pretty sound sensitive (used to be very) so we’re introducing him to the dremel really slowly…it’ll probably be months before we can use it on his nails. For now the file works well enough and doesn’t cause any stress – we definitely recommend it! πŸ™‚

  2. Chase is the same way, hates the nail clippers.

    When he was younger he got snappy and aggressive about it. I started by putting him in the bathtub with some warm water to soften up the nails and make it easier to trim. I also used treats and a tin can with pennies in it. If he growled or snapped I shook the can, if he let me clip a nail he got a treat.

    Today he is excellent, he gets brushed and nail trimmed with very little struggle and ZERO snaps, growls or other aggressive noises/actions!

    Keep up the great work, they get use to it eventually πŸ™‚

    • I love the idea of soaking them in warm water to make them softer…just need to figure out a way Kasper would be comfortable with me doing that bwahahaha!

      With Kasper it’s really important that he feels able to communicate his discomfort – in all fairness, if he feels scared I WANT him to growl, as he needs to let me know he’s unhappy so I can take it all much slower and help him feel more confident with the process.

      Kasper’s first owners did virtually no handling / grooming work with him, so when he came to us he had zero experience and on top of that he had reason to be afraid of hands moving towards him…I’m proud of how well he’s done, now if we can just get his nails down to an easy-to-maintain level!!

      • πŸ™‚ different approaches for different dogs! I had to get tough (well my idea of tough is shaking the can lol) with Chase because he thought he was the boss of me and a simple snarl, growl and snap would get him out of anything! Not the kind of behavior I wanted to be seeing.

    • Ugh, so lucky!! πŸ™‚

      Kasper’s nails were really, really short until he was about three, and then the walks just didn’t cut it anymore…Zoey is three years old now and her nails still don’t need any attention.

      Raiden’s (17 weeks old) nails are already a fair length so I need to start really putting lots of time into getting him used to nail trims…I’ve read a few times that terriers nails may grow faster as they were bred to dig, so their nails constantly got worn down through digging…no idea if it’s true or not, but interesting either way! πŸ™‚

  3. What great work you’ve done with him to make him feel more comfortable, so happy you found that the file works for yous. I think I will pick up one too as I’ve got Bonnie’s nails nearly at the quick now but her nails are still too long so need to trim them slowly and carefully to get the quick to recede and I’m a bit worried I’ll take off to much with the clippers.
    Don’t know if this will help at all but I’ve heard somewhere that those guillotine style clippers can put a bit more pressure on the nails than the scissor style ones so maybe that style might help a bit.

    • Thank you very much πŸ˜€

      I’m also really nervous using clippers. I don’t show it to Kasper, but I HATE using them…I am constantly terrified I will get Kasper’s quick and traumatise him more, and the fact that most his nails are black really doesn’t help πŸ˜›

      I read that about scissor style clippers too, quite recently, and was bummed I’ve been using guillotine style all these years haha! I did look around our local pet shops for scissor style ones (as I think I’d feel more comfortable with them too) but didn’t find any. Then I asked my parents to get me some for my birthday, but thought if I can keep Kasper’s nails short with the dremel / file, why bother with more clippers?

      I’m definitely planning on getting some scissor style clippers in at some point though because I want to get Raiden (and possible Zoey) used to them – can you recommend any good ones? πŸ˜€

      I really recommend the hardware file; I wish I had known about it years ago as it’s so easy to use…I actually look forward to our daily filing sessions, I find it quite relaxing…so weird hahaha! XD

      • I always thought the clipper / quick guards seemed like a really good idea (because I really do stress so much about quicking Kasper!) but all I’ve ever read about them is how annoying and in the way they are XD

        Awesome, I will be buying those in when I next have spare money hahaha…the Doggone Good Rapid Rewards treat bag arrived today (I went for the orange one) I’ve only used it twice but woah it seems sooo good! I will do a blog review with pics when I’ve used it more – thanks for sharing it ^__^

      • We just started using the treat bag too, it’s brilliant so far. You should def put up a review for it and share it’s awesomeness with more people πŸ˜€

      • Haha what colour did you get?? I’m really impressed with it so far…I do rattle when I walk though as I made full use of the clips to attach torches and clickers to XD

      • My parents got me this brilliant mini-torch for my birhday, it’s the perfect ‘where’s the dog poo?!’ torch hahaha! I have this on one side and a standard size torch on the other clip…I’m weird and like to have back-ups of everything >__<

  4. Pingback: Where there’s a puppy there are pictures | Scarlybobs' Blog

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