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How to Trim the Nails of a Difficult Dog

By Doghaus University, Apr 10 2016 05:58PM

How to Trim the Nails of a Difficult Dog

Do you get those nail clippers out only to have your dog run for the hills? While frustrating, having a dog that dreads this necessary aspect of dog grooming is surprisingly common. All it takes is one bad clip, enough to pierce the quick, a sensitive blood vessel located inside the nail, and a dog may never endure a nail clipping without a fight again. However, there are a few tips that can help make clipping a dog's nails a little less stressful.

Try a File

If your dog is absolutely terrified of clippers, the nail clipping stress will start as soon as you even pick them up. They have become a symbol of what is to come, and all a dog knows is that they don't want them near their paws. Filing with rotary tool made specifically for dogs is not only something new that your dog has no experience with, but it is a gentler experience. Instead of guessing where to make the right cut, you can gently file the nails down without risk of cutting the quick.


If your dog won't even let you touch their paws, then the nail cutting process begins long before the actual act. While you and your dog are lounging around, start by gently petting their paw. At first, they will pull away since the only time you touch their paws is to trim their nails, but as you pet and hold their paws while just relaxing, they will start to be desensitized to the experience.

Trim One Nail at a Time

After a bad cut, your dog will always think "Ouch!" when the clippers come out. However, if they are particularly fussy, it is best to just clip one nail a day while reinforcing positive behavior with lots of treats and love. Eventually, providing the clipping goes well, they may not even mind having them all clipped at a time.

Some pet parents state that they can only clip a nail if the dog is asleep. While effective, this may not be a good choice in the long run as springing that on them in their sleep is a big breach of trust.

Don't Hold a Dog Down

It may be frustrating and you may feel your temper running short, but those who want long-term peace when it comes to trimming a dog's nails will want to resist the urge to hold your dog down tightly. When you wrestle them to the ground, pin their body, or wrap your arms tight around them to keep them still, it only serves to make the dog more panicked. A dog harness, like what groomers use, is a great device for keeping a dog still while grooming. However, having another person gently holding and petting a dog can work as well.


While it can depend on the dog, a distraction can work well. By having something else for a dog to pay attention to, it takes their mind off your attempts to clip their nails. Try placing a little bit of peanut butter on the bottom of a deep bowl for your dog to lick off. The bowl prevents them from seeing what you are doing and the food prevents them from caring.

Gaining your dog's trust again in order to trim their nails in peace is a long road, and sometimes, an impossible one. Those with a difficult dog come nail clipping time know that even the smallest pup can be wily and surprisingly strong, enough to overpower a single person. The absolute easiest way to clip a dog's nails is to have someone else do it!

For dog owners in the Madison area, Dog Haus University offers not only pet sitting and doggie daycare, but we also offer full dog grooming services. Contact us today to learn about the full pampering we can offer your pooch. Your dog may be difficult, but we'll still love them anyway.

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