Chapter 23 - Cutting Toenails

Just add "playing with the foot" to Lifting The Front Foot, and you're ready to cut toenails.

I prefer to sit on a low stool facing the back of the llama so I can rest the folded foot on my knee. Be extra careful the first few times that you don't cut into the quick.

Training the llama to have his nails cut is a lot more important than doing a good job of cutting his nails TODAY. If you're using a chute, you can use a soft rope to hold the front foot up. This seems to make the llama feel a little more secure and means that you don't have to have the muscle to hold the foot up yourself.

Before we started using the rope, my husband did all the nail cutting. Now he hardly ever gets to do it! The loop of the rope goes around the llama's front pastern. Lift the foot with the rope gently, then reward him by letting it down again. Lift, reward. Lift, hold it up for a few seconds, reward. Finally, lift it up, tie the rope off, and start cutting nails. Be sure to use a knot you can untie in a hurry in case he gets in trouble.

Your best position to cut the left back toenails is probably the lift position. Stand facing backwards at his left hip, and lift with your right hand. Once his foot is up, shift your grip to hold it with your left hand and cut with your right.

Note that the easiest way to keep his back leg up is to fold the foot backwards. I'll probably never cut back toenails again without using a rope. The rope makes the whole event so much easier! Work up to it just as you would if you were going to do it by hand. The rope shouldn't be a surprise, but a normal part of training.

Put the rope around the bone just above the hock and lift up and back. Lift, reward. Lift, hold, reward. Lift, hold longer, reward. Left, hold, tie off, cut toenails. To cut his left back toenails, stand facing backwards at his left hip, fold his paw up and cut the nails.

WARNING - If the rope pulls his back leg out to the side, he could dislocate his kneecap. NOT a good thing. If you're using the rope to lift his left back leg, tie the rope off above him on his RIGHT side, so it's pulling the leg more toward the midline rather than off to the outside.

Llamas truly don't mind you cutting their toenails. The only part they'll need to discuss is the handling-the-feet part. Once you can handle their feet, you'll be able to cut their toenails with no trouble at all.