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As a Malamute owner, I really struggle with trimming my dog's nails. He hates having his paws handled and gets extremely wiggly and restless when I try to clip his nails. I've tried giving him treats and toys to distract him, but the second I go for his paws he gets antsy. He'll jerk his legs around and squirm away from me.

I know it's important to trim his nails regularly to prevent cracking and discomfort. But it's nearly impossible with how wiggly and worked up he gets!

For fellow Malamute owners - what methods or techniques work best for you to calmly trim the nails of your wiggly Mal? Any tips or tricks are much appreciated!

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    Welcome to pets.SE! Did you search for general nail trimming in dogs here? And if you tried to follow the tips there, what was the problem special to the breed of your dog? Oct 25, 2023 at 21:25
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    Thanks for the suggestion! I did look into general nail trimming tips. However, my Malamute's strength and aversion to paw handling seem breed-specific.
    – Sam Steel
    Oct 26, 2023 at 10:52
  • Huskies are well known by dog groomers to be adverse to having their paws handles, so it makes sense that Malamutes would as well. Oct 27, 2023 at 23:52

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Many pets have what is essentially a ticklish reaction to having their feet handled. (Many humans do too, of course.) My solution has always been to stage an extended campaign of handling feet at petting times when I am not trying to trim claws, so the pet learns that this is nonthreatening. I've gone so far as getting my cat used to foot massage, despite her thinking I'm weird for doing it.

Getting the pet relaxed and properly positioned before bringing out the clipper also helps, as does warning it by carrying it in a pocket for a while.

You may find you can only get a few nails per session. That's OK, you can get the others later.

I'm presuming you know not to trim the nails too close to the quick.

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I don't own a Malamute, but I have a dog who is incredibly freaked out by having his nails addressed in any way in spite of having regularly handled and clipped his nails since I got him at 8 weeks. Initially, anyone could do his nails without protest. I don't know what happened, but that changed over time. He is so freaked out that he throws himself around wildly, and I fear broken bones or sprained ligaments.

Things I've tried:

  • treats
  • praise
  • distraction
  • lick mats
  • treating it very matter of factly
  • softening his nails first with prolonged exposure to warm water
  • quiet electric nail grinders
  • super sharp clippers with a rubber stopper (quick, and no "click" sound)
  • little emery boards
  • doing only one nail a day
  • literally everything else I could think of.

Our vet recommended giving him a sedative before doing his nails. I tried it once, and it was pretty effective; he still put up a fuss, but once it was clear I was going to do it regardless, he just quietly gave up and I was able to do all of his nails without drama. (I used a quiet nail grinder and held each toe such that the vibrations would be mostly absorbed by my fingers.)

Since then, though he still hides when I get the grinder out, he limits the dramatics to just a minute or two.

When I had Border Collies, I never once had to do their nails or trim their paws, because they ran on any number of surfaces a lot (miles per day). It was only when I started slowing down that my dogs started growing nails. So I have to take some responsibility for (sadly) not insuring my dogs get enough exercise outside that their nails are ground down naturally.

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  • Same for me, I have a Border Collie mix who is now slowing down, and I she does NOT let me do anything to her nails... It is going to have to happen though. first I am going to get her sedated at the vet, then I will try the emery board. How did the emery go for you ?
    – CaroZ
    Nov 3, 2023 at 0:42
  • @CaroZ That dog above? Half BC, lol! The emery board was too slow; prolonging the process. Did my mutt (whom I love deeply) again last night with a nail grinder. So much faster, and can round the tips nicely. BTW, when I had BCs, only one grew old enough to slow down (at 17) and grow nails. Also HATED having her nails done. Nov 3, 2023 at 14:01

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