What to Do If Your Dog Won’t Let You Cut Their Nails

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Many people have dogs who won’t let their parents cut their nails.

Though nail trims are no one’s idea of fun, it is a nightmare if you have a dog that freaks out over it.

There are solutions to make nail trims easier. These are to desensitize your dog to it, use a different style of nail clipper, or use a Dremel instead of a clipper.

If a dog is extremely aggressive and you’re afraid they may bite you, assistance from your primary vet would be the best place to start.

However, if your dog is fearful or overly squirmy, but not aggressive, try different at home options, like recruiting another family member to help or clip one paw a day to lessen the overall stress.

There are also ways to cut your dog’s nails without clippers.

If you can convince your dog nail trims aren’t as bad as they think, it’s much more convenient to trim your dog’s nails at home.

Even if you still bring your dog to get their nails cut it’s a good idea to make them comfortable with the process for their sake as well as the safety of the person doing the trimming.

For me, four dogs mean 16 paws of nail clipping fun. Ginger was our problem child when it came to nail trims and she has black nails, which made the job even more challenging.

Some dogs don’t like their feet touched; Ginger lost her mind!

At first, we would try to hold her paws, and she would cry, scream, and even nibble on the offending hand. It took a long time to get Ginger over her fears, but now she always wants to be the first in line for nail trims.

What Are the Reasons Why Dogs Won’t Let You Trim Their Nails?

fearful dog cowering from big scary mean nail trimming clippers

  • Abuse – so they are fearful of being touched or restrained
  • Previous experiences have been painful
  • Have never been trained to have their nails trimmed
  • Being restrained the wrong way
  • The tool used to trim their nails is uncomfortable or scary
  • Not a fan of having their feet touched

Now that we know some of the reasons dogs don’t like nail trims, let’s figure out how we can get them past this.

How to Trim a Dog’s Nails

If you don’t know how to trim your dog’s nails, you could unintentionally cause your dog harm.

It would be best to get instruction from a professional either someone from your vet office or a trusted groomer. Or you can check out our guide on how groomers cut dog nails.

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You can find detailed instructions online at the ASPCA, but an in-person instruction is best.

What Nail Trimming Tools Are Available?

guillotine dog nail trimming tool chop off paw claw
No, not that type of guillotine!

Sometimes changing the type of nail trimming tool can make a big difference in your dog’s reaction.

There are three main types of nail trimming tools:

  1. Scissor style
  2. Guillotine
  3. Nail Grinder

Scissor Style

This is the style we use.

I feel I have better control of the trimmer and my dogs are more comfortable with the scissor style over the guillotine style.

The scissor style can cut the nails side to side or top to bottom.


This trimmer cuts bottom to top.

The blade comes up from the base of the trimmer to cut the nail off.

Nail Grinder

A nail grinder is a small handheld electric sander that grinds and shapes the nail.

For some dogs, the nail grinder works better than a traditional clipper, but it can be more time-consuming. Be aware some dogs don’t like the vibration and sound coming from the grinder.

It is essential to use a nail grinder that is meant to trim a dog’s nails and not a craft or industrial style one. An industrial grinder can be too powerful, not allowing for the proper control needed.

  • Recommended Nail Grinder – Dremel 7300-PT
    four paws vbs antiseptic quick blood stopper styptic powder
    None of us want to hurt our furry friends, but we need to be prepared in case an accident happens

Blood Stopping Powder

It is always good to keep a blood clotting powder on hand.

Even the most experienced groomer can cut a dog’s nail too short.

I never start trimming the dog’s nails without it.


Regardless of which tool you like best, it is vital to make sure it is well maintained.

For the clippers, that means sharp blades. A dull blade on a nail clipper is like using a butter knife instead of a steak knife. Using a dull blade can cause discomfort to your dog.

For the nail grinder, maintenance is making sure you change the Dremel bit when it’s worn down, or ensuring the sanding disc is in good shape and replaced as needed.

How Do I Desensitize My Dog to Nail Trimming?

Desensitizing is the best solution for changing the way your dog reacts to nail trims.

If you’ve never desensitized your dog, know that this process takes time and patience, but is rewarding in the end.

Please note, I am not a certified dog trainer, and I do NOT recommend attempting this if your dog shows extreme fear or aggression.

If your dog is either extraordinarily fearful or aggressive, you should seek professional assistance before trying to desensitize your dog on your own.

Things You Need to Help Desensitize Your Dog to Nail Trims

Safari professional stainless dog nail trimmer standard size
Look at it! It’s sitting there… menacingly!
  • Awesome treats! The more afraid your dog is, the more awesome the treats need to be
  • Nail clipper
  • Training clicker, if you use one
  • A happy, yet calm voice and calm attitude. If you go into this nervous, tense, or anxious, your dog will pick up on it and often mirror the same emotions. Take some deep breaths, meditate, or visualize a positive outcome. Do whatever you need to bring a calm presence to this exercise.

I cannot stress the last point enough!

Your attitude, energy, emotions, whatever you want to call it, is your most powerful training tool. Whether it’s a positive or negative tool is up to you.

Notice I didn’t list blood stop?

That’s because we aren’t going to clip nails during this exercise.

The First Exercise

  1. Grab your high-value treats and nail clipper. Oh, and don’t forget your dog.
  2. Place the clipper within view of your dog, but at a comfortable distance. We are not looking to change their negative reaction to a positive one. We are trying to avoid a negative response to the trimmer altogether.
  3. When your dog looks at the clipper, give them a treat and using a happy but calm voice praise them. You do not want to bring high energy to this, because then you will have to try and cut the nails of a very excited dog, which also isn’t fun.
  4. If your dog tries to leave the room, cowers, or reacts negatively, you’re too close to the trimmer. Move the clipper further away. If your dog has left the room, attempt to lead the dog back with a treat. If your dog refuses to come back to the area, don’t force them. Stop the exercise and start over later at a farther distance.
  5. Repeat this exercise daily, moving slowly toward the clipper each time. The clipper does not move closer to the dog. The dog approaches the clipper at their comfort level.
  6. Continue this until your dog is comfortable coming to you when you’re holding the trimmer in your hand. If your dog is slinking up to you fearfully, your dog isn’t ready for the next exercise.
    Resco deluxe guillotine clippers trimmers for dog nails
    This is a guillotine-style nail trimmer, which may remind your dog of the French Revolution

I always show my dogs the clipper then call them to me.

I don’t hide the clipper from them because that can breed mistrust. Also, I let them come to me so I know they’re feeling comfortable and won’t feel cornered when we start.

This exercise is meant to link a positive association with the clipper itself.

If your dog doesn’t care about the clipper, this exercise will be relatively quick. The goal for this exercise is getting your dog to feel calm and relate to seeing the clipper with getting a treat. Once you have mastered this (meaning you get a consistent positive reaction), you can move to the next exercise.


  • Do not force your dog into uncomfortable situations.
  • Keep training sessions short 5 minutes
  • Go slow. This is not about getting through each step as fast as you can
  • Keep training sessions positive
  • Skip training sessions if you’re in a lousy mood; all things with desensitizing need to be positive.

The Next Exercise and Every Exercise After

Every time your dog has mastered a level, your next exercise will be the following step you would take in the nail trimming process.

The goal is to link each step with a positive association.

After your dog has mastered the first exercise, move onto the next stage of nail cutting, then the next, then the next, as your dog gets comfortable with the previous stages.

Zuke's mini natural wholesome training dog treats chicken recipe
You might want to get smaller treats because you’ll be going through lots of them
  1. Have your dog sit or lie down with you while you hold the clipper.
  2. Touch/hold/lift the paw near the clipper – This will depend on if your dog cares if their paws are touched. Don’t skip steps or combine too many together
  3. Touch the paw with the clipper.
  4. Put the clipper to nail without cutting.
  5. Add Blood Stop to your list of things you need for this exercise! Cut off just the tips of the nails. I start with one nail then end the exercise and walk away. You can do another nail in a half hour or so, but don’t rush the process

Eventually, you will be able to trim all the nails on one paw each exercise, and before you know it, you and your dog will be pros at nail trims.

Team Work for Nail Cutting

Sometimes nail trimming is more manageable with help

It can help to help to have one person cutting the nails and the other person distracts/rewards the dog with treats.

Another option is picking up and holding the dog.

Daisy has always been great about getting her nails trimmed, but when her arthritis set in, it became painful when I raised her front paw.

Now, my husband picks her up and holds her, letting her legs dangle below. Then I crouch down and trim her nails while my husband holds her.

Another time it’s nice to have help is if your dog requires restraining. Some dogs get antsy or overly excited and need a firm but gentle hug to hold them in place.

If your dog is aggressive, I recommend you seek professional help or use a secure soft sided muzzle.


There are many ways to overcome the challenge of nail trimming and sometimes its easiest to have a trained professional do it.

But if you want to do it yourself, we hope these tips can help you and your dog.

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