How to Cut an Uncooperative Dog’s Nails

By John Martin - May 10, 2021

Dog getting nails clipped

Grooming your dog is an important task that must be done regularly. However, some dogs get nervous as soon as they see clippers in their owner’s hands.

If your dog also gets anxious and you are looking for ways to cut your uncooperative dog’s nails, here are a few tips for you.


Before you actually start cutting your dog’s nails, make sure your dog understands what you are trying to do. Try to communicate to your dog that it won’t be hurt.

Depending on the size of your dog, you can ask it to sit in your lap or on a table. You might even need to use some form of restraint or a treat to make it sit still.

Make your dog smell the clippers so it becomes familiar with them. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and that’s how they familiarize themselves with new things.

Paw Handling

To make your dog familiar with the process, hold its paws for a few seconds as if you are about to cut its nails.

If it is calm while you are holding its hand, give it rewards in the form of treats and praises. Slowly increase the duration of you holding your dog’s paw.

If your dog growls at you while you are doing this, firmly tell it off. Use an authoritative tone and make it sit back down if it is trying to get up.

Make sure you are not yelling at your dog. It can make the situation worse, and it won’t understand why its owner is shouting.

Handling your dog’s paw may take a few days for your dog to be prepared for getting its nails cut.

Related: How to Cut Overgrown Dog Nails

The Right Nail Clippers

There are nail clippers available in the market that are specifically made for trimming dog nails. They come in different types such as dremel tools, scissors and guillotine.

Use the right nail clippers depending on the size of your dog’s paw. There are some nail clippers with a built-in safety guard and it is better if you use them.

Use only good quality nail clippers and buy them from a trusted source.

The Right Time to Cut

Stand in front of your pet and check if its nails are touching the ground. If they are, it’s time for a nail trimming session.

In an ideal situation, there should be a space of a thin sheet of paper between the ground and your dog’s nails.

Another way to know it is time to cut your dog’s nails is when you can hear them clicking on the ground while they walk.

Your dog may even accidentally scratch you while playing around if it has long nails.

How Often Should You Cut

How often should you trim your dog’s nails will depend on your dog.

There are many factors involved that determine your dog’s nail growth. These include genetic factors, the breed of your dog and how active your dog is.

Ideally, you should be trimming your dog’s nails at least once in two weeks. You may need to do it more often if your dog’s nails grow back fast.

Understanding Your Dog’s Nails

A dog’s nail consists of two parts. They are called shell and the quick. The quick is the inner pink part while the shell is the hard outer material.

While cutting nails, you are supposed to cut the shell and not the quick. The quick is connected to a dog’s nerves and may cause it discomfort and pain if cut.

Some Exercise for Your Dog

If your dog is tired, it is less likely to fidget when you are cutting its nails.

Before starting the process of cutting nails, take your dog out for a walk or to play in the park. Try to get it exhausted from exercising.

You can even take your dog swimming as it is also an efficient way to drain its energy.

Make sure you feed your dog a healthy meal after you are done cutting its nails so it can get energized again.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Dig Holes and Lay In Them?

Soft Nails

Soft nails are easy to cut and your dog won’t even feel anything.

You can soften your dog’s nails by dipping its paws in water. You can do this in a bathtub or a kid’s pool.

If you take your dog swimming before cutting its nails, the nails must be soft already.

Familiarize the Sound

A dog is less likely to be anxious once it is familiar with the sound of the nail clippers. Dogs have a keen sense of hearing.

Open and close the clippers around your dog’s ears to show that the clippers are harmless and won’t cause any pain. Use treats for positive reinforcement.

Assess the Reaction

Don’t be in a rush when you are cutting your dog’s nails. Cut one nail and assess the reaction. If your dog seems unaffected, continue cutting its nails.

If your dog is getting aggressive or anxious, wait for a while. Put the nail clippers away and gently hold your dog’s paw until it gets calm.

If your dog is too agitated, call it a day. You can try cutting its nails on some other day with more preparation.


While you are cutting your dog’s nails, find other ways to distract it. You can feed it some peanut butter so it’s focused on licking rather than what’s being done to its nails.

You can ask your other family members to talk and play with your dog while its nails are being cut. Remember to not agitate it too much while doing this though.

The Process

Before you set out to trim your dog’s nails, you’ll need a few things.

  • Good quality nail clippers
  • Flashlight for darker nails
  • Treats for your dog
  • First aid

These are the steps your should follow to cut your dog’s nails.

  • Sit with your dog in a well-lit area.
  • Gently hold your dog’s paw.
  • Hold the nail clippers at an angle of about 45 degrees.
  • Determine how much you need to cut. Use a flashlight if your dog’s nails are darker.
  • Start cutting your dog’s nails in small bits.
  • Make sure you don’t cut too much or else you might hurt your dog.

Don’t Overcut

Don’t go beyond the tip while cutting. If you cut too much and your dog starts bleeding, immediately get some first aid. Apply styptic powder on the affected area.

Prevent your dog’s wound from getting infected by making sure there is no dirt around it. If you are cutting your dog’s nails outside in a garden, take it inside.

If you don’t have first aid lying around, use ice cubes on the affected area. Since your dog will be in pain, give it some extra love to show you are there for your dog.

If the wound doesn’t stop bleeding within 30 minutes, take your dog to a veterinary doctor.


Once the entire process is done, reward your dog. Give it a few belly rubs and feed it some tasty treats to show it has done a good job by being brave.

This will teach your dog to associate nail trimming as a positive experience and it will cooperate the next time too.

You should even reward yourself after the process. You’ve done good work too!

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Steal Your Seat?

What to Do If Your Dog Is Not Cooperating

Your dog might continuously pull its paw away while you are cutting your dog’s nails. It might do this due to panic and fear of being hurt.

In this case, don’t scream at your dog in anger or frustration. Try talking softly while petting it so it understands there’s no reason to panic.

If your dog is too agitated, it might be a good idea to let a professional handle this situation.

What Happens If You Never Cut Your Dog’s Nails

You may give up if your dog is not cooperating and decide to never cut your dog’s nails. It is recommended you don’t do this.

Regular maintenance of nails is essential for a dog’s grooming. Long nails may cause your furry friends pain and may even make it difficult for them to walk.

It can lead to injuries and can be a cause of deformed feet. Your dog may develop poor posture and spine problems due to long nails.


  • Start trimming your dog’s nails when it is a puppy so that it becomes familiar with the entire process early in its life.
  • Keep a positive attitude while you are trimming your dog’s nails. Dogs can sense their owner’s frustration and they get worried when their owner is worried too.
  • Use only dog-friendly clippers. Don’t use clippers used to cut human’s nails.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Like Drinking Rainwater?

The Final Word

Cutting your uncooperative dog’s nails can become easy if you put your mind to it and prepare well in advance before trimming its nails.

Remember to be patient with your dog while cutting its nails. Once your dog learns to trust the process, it will start cooperating every time you do it.