How to Trim a Difficult Dog's Nails

15 - 20 Minutes
1 Month


Does your dog head for the hills when he sees you reach for the nail clippers? If so, he is in good company, lots of canines do not like any part of dog nail care. With many dogs, it may just be that having the nails clipped creates an unpleasant sensation, while with some, it may be that they have had a nail clipped too short once or twice resulting in sharp pain. This is actually pretty common, accidents do happen. Sometimes dogs may be picking up on your stress, or fear of cutting the nails too short, and resist because they feel something is wrong--dogs are pretty sensitive about such things. 

If your dog does not want his nails clipped, he may try to flee or even become aggressive and bite or scratch when restrained for nail clippings. A dog that struggles and moves while you are trying to clip his nails puts himself and you in danger of injury. In a way, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a dog that is difficult to trim is more likely to have a nail trimmed too short when they struggle, resulting in pain and a vicious cycle, as now the dog will have reinforced his negative experiences associated with nail trims.

Dog's Perspective

There are a few things that may contribute to a difficult situation when it comes to cutting your dog's nails. Trimming requires restraining your dog--most dogs don't love this, and who would? Also, the sensation of having the nails trimmed can be unpleasant. Even when not cut too short, there is pressure applied to the sensitive nail and if your tools are not sharp, a crushing sensation may be felt. If your dog had caught his nail on something like a bush or a carpet, it would be a similar sensation and would cause your dog alarm, as his nail could be ripped. No wonder your dog does not like the sensation of having his nails trimmed! 

Additionally, make sure that you are aware of the proper dog nail length before you begin and learn the in's and out's of the equipment. For example, many pet parents consider the best nail clipper for dogs with black nails is the guillotine clipper which has a stationary ring that the nail fits in and a blade that makes a quick slice. Others prefer a scissor-type tool. Make sure that you use the equipment that you are most comfortable with.  Working with your dog to reassure him that you are not hurting him, knowing what it means to avoid the dog's nail quick, and using the right tools, is well worth it as it will make nail trimming sessions easier in the future.

Caution & Considerations

  • Use caution when trimming a difficult dog’s nails so that the dog does not move and injure himself when trimming. Take time and patience, use appropriate training methods, tools, and restraint to mitigate movement.
  • Have a styptic pencil available to stop bleeding, in case you do nick your dog.
  • Be calm, firm, and gentle at all times, so as not to contribute to your dog's stress.  Do not punish or get upset.
  • Use a muzzle, or have someone restrain the dog, with the dog's face away from them and you, so you do not get bitten, if that is a concern.
  • Make sure all tools are good quality, and sharp, or that motorized tools are in good running order
  • Know how to use nail clippers for dogs and ensure you understand the specific tool's operation before trimming nails (Dremel, scissor clipper, guillotine clipper, file, styptic pencil).


Trimming Toto's nails does not have to be terrifying! It should be a stress-free event for both of you. Be aware of how often to trim your dog's nails so that you do not fret about the frequency, passing this along to your dog. Using the right tools, taking time, working with your dog so that he is comfortable having his paws handled and toes manipulated, and making positive associations with nail trimmers will make nail trimming time a whole lot easier on you and your dog.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Grooming Questions & Answers

American Pit Bull Terrier
2 Years
0 found helpful
0 found helpful
American Pit Bull Terrier
2 Years

MY DOG GOES CRAZY 😝 WHEN WE CUT HER NAILS! IT TAKES TWO OF US YO DO , WITH A MUSEL ON HER AND OVERMITTS ON ME MY HUSBAND TRIMS , we live in Toronto 🇨🇦And want to know a good place where we can take our slightly aggressive pitbull to get her nails done properly !?!???? PLEASE HELP US ! WE USED TO GO TO OUR VET BUT HE DOESNT WANT TO DO IT ANYMORE , IT WOULD COST US 125$ at our vets !

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
0 Dog owners recommended

Hello, sorry to hear you are having the difficulties. I am not familiar with any of the grooming facilities in Toronto. Can your vet give you a recommendation? Perhaps you can look for another vet who works with aggressive dogs? I think that sedating Ruby each time at the vet may be the only answer (and this means working the expense into your budget). I would take Ruby to the vet just for a treat now and then so that she associates the vet office with good things. Otherwise, I suggest that you contact a trainer to discuss behavioral lessons that may help her with her aggression and fear of nail clipping. Look online for behaviorists in your area - it may only take a session or two and then the problem will be fixed. Alternatively, call around groomers in your area to see if anyone is used to working with dogs that show aggression when the nails are clipped. All the best to Ruby!

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Grooming Success Stories

2 Years

I have been living with Wendy for 3 years and her owner never trimmed her nails because she would throw a fit, by yelping and twisting with no blood drawn. I started to handle her paws and nails while I had good to reward her. Within a week and a half of just handling her paws and rewarding for staying still,I was able to get a full nail trim done, all four paws

2 years ago
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