Dachshunds are notorious fighters when it comes to cutting their nails. It’s very important to keep them trimmed to a proper length though.
Leaving a dog’s nails too long can cause pain, joint issues, and is one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to cutting your dog’s nails.
I’m going to share my personal stories of how I “won” – how I got my stubborn Dachshunds to let me trim their nails without fighting or acting like I was trying to kill them.
But first, some general tips.
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Why Is It Important to Keep Your Dachshund’s Nails Short
The topic of dog nail length is a new one. Or rather, it’s become a more important topic in recent years.
As veterinarians and scientists have learned more about dog health, they’ve found that keeping your dog’s nails a proper length is more important than once thought.
If you let your dog’s nails get too long, it can cause a whole myriad of serious orthopedic, postural and mobility issues.
Since Dachshunds are already prone to back issues, and nails that are too long could cause them to negatively modify their posture until it puts pressure on their joints and spine, it’s especially important to keep your Dachshund’s nails short.
How to Tell Your Dachshund’s Nails Are Too Long
There are multiple ways to tell if your Dachshund’s nails are too long.
- Your Dachshund’s nails should not touch the ground when they are standing on level ground
- Your Dachshund’s nails should not click loudly on the ground when they walk (with some dogs, a light tapping is sometimes unavoidable)
- If your Dachshund is biting their nails, it’s a likely indicator that they are too long and causing some foot discomfort
- Post a picture to a Dachshund Facebook group and get told by the dog nail police
To the last point, one one hand, I appreciate that there are people trying to educate others about the issue of nail length and dog health.
However, a lot of these people are very passionate and lack any bedside manner.
You must have a thick skin to put a picture of your dog’s nails on social media and ask about the length.
Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Why You Need to Trim Your Dachshund’s Nails
Some people wonder why they need to trim their Dachshund’s nails. They think that walking their dog will wear their nails down and keep them short.
While walking your dog to “trim their nails” may work for a small fraction of Dachshunds, walking regularly won’t keep the nails short enough for most.
Those Dachshunds either don’t walk often enough, don’t walk on surfaces hard enough, their nails are too tough to wear down fast, or their nails grow too fast.
Most Dachshunds will need their nails manually trimmed by you or a groomer to keep them at the proper length.
How Often Should You Trim Your Dachshund’s Nails?
This can really vary and depends on things like how fast your Dachshund’s nails grow and whether you walk your dog primarily on hard surfaces or soft.
The minimum frequency your Dachshund’s nails should be maintained is once a month.
If your Dachshund’s nails truly grow at a snail’s pace, or they wear down enough from walking on hard surfaces, this once-a-month “maintenance” may just be an inspection.
However, for most Dachshunds, anywhere from 1-5 millimeters should be trimmed off once a month.
Dachshunds were bred to burrow and dig. Nails are an important tool for doing that. Therefore, a lot of Dachshund’s nails grow fast.
If your Dachshund’s nails grow fast, they may need their nails trimmed as frequently as once a week.
Grinding Dachshund Nails vs Clipping Dachshund Nails
When it comes to trimming Dachshund nails, there are two ways to do it:
- Grinding Dachshund nails with a dremel for dogs, nail scratch board, or a nail file for dogs
- Trimming Dachshund nails using scissor-style clippers or guillotine-style clippers
You may wonder which method – grinding or trimming and which version of each – is best for your Dachshund.
I can say from experience, it really depends.
However, you will have the best luck with whatever you start using from the time your Dachshund is a puppy.
For some finicky puppies, and most adult Dachshunds, you or your groomer may have to try several methods to see what works best for your dog’s nails and that doesn’t cause them to fight it too much.
What do I use to trim Summit and Gretel’s nails?
If you want to know what I use without reading the detailed stories below, here it is:
- Miller’s Forge Professional Grade Dog Nail Clippers (Summit)
- Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder (Summit – in case I clip the quick)
- Lick Mat with some kind of spread on it for distraction (Summit)
- Small Heavy-Duty Pet Grooming Table (Gretel)
- Dremel 7300-PT Cordless Dog Nail Grooming Tool (Gretel)
Should You Cut Your Dachshund’s Nails Yourself?
Whether you want to trim your Dachshund’s nails yourself, or take your dog to a groomer or veterinarian to have it done, is a personal decision.
It depends on a lot of things, including:
- Does your Dachshund fight you? – You may find it hard to restrain your Dachshund yourself while your dog may be more calm if someone else does it
- Convenience – Do you find it quicker and easier to spend 10 minutes doing it at home or would you rather drop your dog off and just have someone else take care of it?
- Your comfort – are you comfortable clipping your Dachshund’s nails without cutting the quick and hurting them?
- Cost – Giving your dog a pawdicure at home is always cheaper
- The color of your dog’s nails – If your Dachshund’s nails are black, it will be harder to see the quick so you may want to leave nail trimming to the experts
How I Got My Dachshund’s to Let Me Trim Their Nails
One of my Dachshunds – Gretel – came from a rescue at one year old and was very set in her ways.
She hadn’t been socialized well, she was so anxious she was on Prozac and, based on her reaction when I tried to trim her nails, her previous experiences were not good ones.
She is almost 11 years old now and only two weeks ago was I able to clip her nails without a fight or much fuss.
That’s a very long time to be working on getting your dog comfortable with nail trims, right?
Honestly, I might have been able to make it happen a few years earlier but I had given up. Not on cutting her nails all together but I had given up on me ever doing it.
You see, she has IVDD – the disease responsible for causing back problems in Dachshunds (almost all of them anyway) – and she would fight me so hard when I tried to cut her nails I was terribly afraid of hurting her back.
So I decided I was not going to fight her and risk paralysis or surgery just for short nails.
However, I knew her nails needed to be kept at a reasonable length.
I tried taking her to different groomers and eventually discovered she fought a lot less when someone else was doing it and I wasn’t in the room.
So, every 2-3 weeks I took her to PetSmart to first get her nails clipped and later to get them ground with a dremel.
I accepted that her nails would always be a bit too long because her nails grow fast and her quicks never moved back significantly between trims.
She probably could have gone to the groomer for a nail trim weekly but my wallet and schedule wouldn’t accommodate that.
In all of this though, I did realize that the fact she stood upright on a table when her nails were being done was probably part of the success.
Some Dachshund’s are freaked out by being held very tight or upside down like a baby, which doesn’t make the job any easier.
Once we moved out of the big city, and especially once COVID hit, getting her nails done by a groomer regularly became also impossible.
I renewed my effort to trim her nails at home and, again, we tried everything – counter-conditioning (desensitization),swaddling her in a blanket, using a sling with arm holes to suspend her, peanut butter and treats (she was too stressed to have any interest even though she is incredibly food motivated), etc.
Doggy Daddy and I continued to struggle with her, and fight her unbelievable strength, because her nails absolutely had to be trimmed.
Sometimes it barely worked and sometimes it didn’t work at all.
Either way, I was so fearful she would hurt her back again. She was definitely sore after one of the times we did it.
As a last-ditch effort, I decided to try to do her nails the same way it’s done at the groomer – standing on a grooming table and grinding her nails with a dremel.
It worked! Gretel did not like it but I was able to do it. She resisted a little but didn’t fight me or try to jump of the table.
Fingers crossed this will continue to work with her.
My other Dachshund – Summit – came to me as a puppy.
The breeder had regularly handled her paws and trimmed her baby nails so I figured she would be comfortable with me doing it.
Summit is very vocal and would yank her paw back from me and scream (it literally sounded like a scream) when I tried to cut her nails.
I couldn’t get her to hold still and it was dangerous. Primarily, I couldn’t safely cut her black nails without risk of cutting them too short and making her bleed.
So I decided what would work for one of my Dachshunds would probably work for the other so off to the groomer we went.
Wrong again. Mostly.
I took her to one person who was able to trim her nails a very little bit without too much fuss.
They plied her with a lot of treats, whispered sweet nothings in her ear, and she fussed but didn’t downright scream.
I had taken Gretel to a new groomer because we moved and the lady was able to successfully trim her nails. I didn’t want to go to two different places so I tried taking Summit there too.
Let’s just say it went horribly. I don’t blame the lady per-se but Summit was NOT having it.
She went back to screaming, howling, fighting to get out, and, when I stepped in to help, she “put her teeth on me”. (She didn’t bite but would sometimes use an open mouth and teeth to communicate that she was afraid or uncomfortable.)
I told the lady several times up to that point that she didn’t have to do Summit’s nails if she fought her too much.
The lady kept assuring me she could do it and that she had dealt with difficult dogs before.
After her 4th attempt, and the teeth on my hand issue, I told her again she didn’t have to do it and she immediately took her hands off of Summit and said, “Yeah, ok. I’m not going to do this.”
The clincher though was that she groomer asked me if Summit has always been this way and I said yes, more or less. The groomer told me, “well, you’ll never get her to change now.”
A Lesson in not giving up on trimming my Dachshund’s nails
I was so mad. Who was this lady to tell me that I would never be able to get Summit to calmly have her nails done?
A dog can still learn after a year old and she didn’t even know me!
If there is one way to get me to do something, it’s to tell me that I can’t. So I recommitted myself to teaching Summit to let me trim her nails.
I’m happy to say that, after only a couple months, I was able to cut her nails.
Steps I Took to Get My Dachshund to Let Me Cut Her Nails with Clippers
I got a refresher on trimming dog nails
A veterinarian I know – Dr. Buzby – who gave me a sneak-peek of her Dog Nail Care Masterclass: Nail Trimming Without Fear.
Although I didn’t apply all of her tips and concepts, it certainly gave me more confidence that I could do this.
I bought really good nail clippers
I started using some really good, sharp nail clippers that cut nails like butter.
The easier a pair of nail clippers cut, the less they are likely to squeeze the nail and quick, which can be uncomfortable.
Also, the scissor type clippers are better than the guillotine type (a loop of metal with a blade that rises up to “lop off” the end of the nail).
The latter restricts the angle you can cut the nail at and have been known to crush the tail instead of cut it.
Note: Also keep this styptic powder on hand in case I do accidentally make one of her nails bleed. I’ve used several different ones and this one has worked the best.
We played the clipper “touch” game
I did short training sessions several times a week aimed at getting her used to me touching the clippers to her nails.
Honestly, this was the easy step.
So, for this game, she got a small training treat every time she let me touch the clippers to her paw and she didn’t pull away.
If she pulled away, I hid the clippers behind my back and she didn’t get a treat.
If I could touch her paw with the clippers and she didn’t move it, she got a reward and praise.
Once I was able to touch all of her paws with the clippers without her moving, I started holding the clippers there for a couple of seconds and waiting.
If she moved her foot away, no treat.
Only reward your Dachshund if they don’t pull away when you touch the clippers to their paw.
We continued this way until I could hold the clippers on each foot for about 10 seconds.
I got a lick mat and found a treat she couldn’t refuse
Next, I bought a lick mat to occupy her during nail trims.
I tried all kinds of creamy stuff to put on it like peanut butter and cheese but nothing seemed to distract her enough from what I was doing to her feet.
Eventually, what worked was either the combo of goat cheese with a dab of honey (sugar isn’t the best for dogs but it was just a little bit and leaving her nails long was more harmful than a tsp of honey once a week) or cat food (again, not harmful in small amounts and less harmful than nails that are too long)
I then played the touch game with her feet again using the lick mat.
If she moved her foot, I picked up the lick mat. If she stayed, she got to continue licking the mat.
I positioned her to prepare for nail clipping
Have you ever seen a horse getting their feet trimmed and shod? That’s kind of what I did with Summit.
I kept her standing up and bent each foot backwards to work on it.
I found that I got the best view of each foot and nail if my eyes were right over it.
I sat on my knees on the ground, slightly parted, and put the lick mat between my legs. That caused Summit to kind of walk into a “chute” with a barrier on both sides of her.
She could back up but not move too much from side to side or turn around to see what I was doing.
I would then sit up on my knees as needed to position my line of sight right over her foot.
I made it harder for her to get traction to pull away
This one is a bit hard to explain but you can see it a bit in the video above.
Basically, I wrap my arm that is holding her foot under her body and I slightly lift her.
That way she has a harder time using her foot to push off of the ground or move away from me.
I made sure I had really good lighting
I made sure that I could see her small, dark brown nails clearly. I didn’t accidentally cut too much and make the quick bleed.
Really good lighting that allows you to see the nail and quick clearly is very important to a safe nail trim.
I started my renewed effort to trim Summit’s nails in the summer so I’d do it outside in natural daylight.
Later, when the weather got worse, we needed to move inside. Trying to clip her nails under household lights wasn’t very easy. It casts shadows and is not very bright.
My friend mentioned she used a headlamp and I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that??”. I have around 3 headlamps for camping but never thought to use one for nail trims.
I started using this headlamp indoors and it’s been a total game changer.
I went at her pace
I wanted nail trimming sessions to be as positive of an experience as possible.
At first, I just started trimming one nail at a time. I was quickly able to move to 2-3 on one foot.
Once she was comfortable with that, I started doing a whole foot, then two feet, then all four. Really, I was able to progress to doing all 4 at once.
It helped when I got more comfortable cutting her nails and could do it faster. She would get frustrated when I did too much fussing around with a nail.
Still though, we all have our good and bad days. Most times I can trim all of her nails at once. Sometimes I can only do one nail at a time.
I consider our session done if she pulls away more than once, if she makes a “yip” sound when I clip a nail, or she backs out of the “chute”.
I made sure to keep the lick mat as her special treat
She does not get the lick mat, goat cheese, or honey at any other time. She only gets this special treat when she lets me trim her nails.
When the session is done – even if I only clipped a few nails – the lick mat goes away.
The keys to being able to trim my Dachshund’s nails was to work with her, not against her, try a bunch of different things to see what worked best, and to not give up.
No matter which tool you choose, the keys to trimming your Dachshund’s nails without a fight is training (your dog) and confidence built with practice (you).