Does your dog hate getting their nails trimmed? Haley’s never liked having hers trimmed and as she got older it became a real struggle. Literally! It was getting so stressful for both of us that I felt it was time to try a new approach. Did you know that you can ditch those old clippers and use a Dremel® tool to trim your dog’s toenails?
At first, I was a little nervous about firing up an electric grinder and having a go at Haley’s nails and I didn’t envision Haley being too thrilled about the idea either. Luckily, I discovered these two videos that helped explain the process.
How to Use a Dremel Tool to Trim Your Dog’s Toenails
Barbara and Dr. Matheson did a great job of explaining how to trim nails, but I want to focus on how to get your pup to that point where they are relaxed and comfortable with a Dremel pedicure. It’s important to use positive reinforcement to condition a dog to the tool and it’s especially important for dogs like Haley that are already stressed about their nails being trimmed. Here’s my step-by-step approach.
Conditioning Your Dog to Be Comfortable with the Dremel Tool
Step One – Get Your Dremel Tool Ready
I purchased the Dremel 8220 model because it’s rechargeable and easy to handle. It also has a nice variable speed range, rather than just a low and high setting. Install the sanding drum accessory, then slide a coarse sanding band onto the drum. Make sure the tool is fully charged. Note: Never use any solid grinding stone or grinding wheel accessories as they generate too much heat.
Step Two – Get Yummy Treats
I like to use real food that both Haley and I can eat, like cooked chicken or ham. Break whatever food your dog loves into little pieces and put them in a small bowl.
Step Three – Build Anticipation
Dogs always want what we have, so I create the illusion that the food is for me. I take the Dremel tool and food into another room so Haley has to follow me, rather than me approaching her with the tool. It helps to build some excitement because she’s pursuing something she wants and is more likely to want to participate in the conditioning.
Step Four – Give Your Dog Treats While Conditioning
Take a bite of the food yourself (now you see why I use real food, haha!) then turn on the Dremel tool. Practice giving your dog food while the tool is running, then stop the treats when it’s turned off. You’re conditioning your dog to associate good things with the sound of the Dremel.
Build on Your Dog’s Success!
After your pup is comfortable with the sound of the Dremel tool and comes running when you turn it on, you’re ready to begin replacing Step Four with the conditioning levels below. Work through each level at your dog’s own pace and only proceed to the next level when they’re comfortable with the current level. Each session should be fairly short and a positive experience with lots of treats and praise.
Have your dog give you her paw while the Dremel tool is running. Treat each time she gives you her paw.
Ask for your dog’s paw then practice moving the running tool close to her paw and then away. Give her a treat each time she allows you to place it near her paw, working closer each time but at a pace she’s comfortable with. Practice on different feet.
While holding your dog’s paw and stabilizing a nail, touch the Dremel tool to the nail for just a moment, then set it aside (while still running) and give your dog a treat. If your dog is startled by the touch, end the session and practice again later with just one touch again. Haley was extra sensitive at this stage. When she seemed resistant, I would touch the Dremel tool to one of my fingernails then eat some food. Yep, a little psychological warfare did the trick. She felt like she was missing out on getting the treats and would give in and cooperate.
Work on touching two or three different nails for just a moment then give a treat. Practice rotating on all four paws.
Now you’ll begin actually grinding away some of the nail material as you increase the amount of time and pressure spent on each nail. Remove just a little bit of each nail before giving a treat and moving on to the next one. End the session when your dog seems to need a break.
Work towards grinding each nail on each paw while still giving lots of treats for your pup’s cooperation. Hopefully, by this time, your dog will be much more relaxed but it’s always nice to work in an occasional belly rub to make the trimming sessions more enjoyable for your dog.
Continue working with your dog until you can grind all of her nails in one session while slowly decreasing the number of treats.
Here, Laurie Luck demonstrates what a positive nail trimming session looks like.
It takes some patience and lots of treats at first, but if you take a few minutes each day, you can work through the levels pretty quickly. I’m so glad I decided to give the Dremel tool a try with Haley. It’s actually fun working on her nails now. Instead of stressing out when she would see those old nail trimmers, she now comes running every time she hears the sound of the Dremel tool. Success!👍
If you want to start using a Dremel tool to trim your dog’s toenails, be sure to watch the videos first and check with a local groomer if you need any additional help. Now it’s your turn to share your nail trimming tips with us in the comment section below!