How To Clip A Dog’s Nails When The Dog Is Scared Of Clippers

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Is it that time again already, when the click-clack sound of your dog’s nails reminds you that your cute pooch is about to become the ultimate drama queen?

If this sounds like a familiar scenario, you’re probably wondering how to clip a dog’s nails when the dog is scared of clippers. 

Although most dogs aren’t fans of having their paws touched and their nails trimmed, most tolerate this grooming routine just fine when rewarded with tasty treats.

Unfortunately, though, some pups would rather suffer the pain of long nails than spending a second in the same room with a pair of clippers.

How to clip dog nails when dog is scared of

Extreme fear of nail trimming is common in dogs who got “quicked” at some point and now have anxiety whenever you try to touch their paws or nails.

My pooch has completely black nails, and I had the misfortune of cutting into his quick a bit. Although the cut was very small, my pooch remembered it for the longest time and liked to throw tantrums whenever he saw the clippers after that experience.

Seeing my dog anxious makes me anxious, too, so I’ve tried several things to make nail trimming more fun and less stressful for both of us. In this article, I’ll share with you how to trim the nails of an anxious dog without sedating your pooch or using a calming aid.

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Why Are Dogs Scared Of Having Their Nails Clipped?

A dog’s nails and paws are highly sensitive, so it comes as no big surprise that some dogs react to nail clipping like it’s their worst nightmare. If given a choice, most dogs would prefer that you don’t touch their nails or paws ever, unless you are willing to dole out a huge amount of high-value treats

In many cases, dogs develop an extreme fear of nail clippers and nail trimming after a previous painful and traumatic nail clipping experience. Some pups develop severe anxiety at the mere mention of nails or even to the sight of nail grinders. 

For most dogs, the initial trauma stems from the fact that their nails have been cut too short and that they have been “quicked.” Trimming your dog’s nails too short and injuring the quick can be extremely painful and often leads to bleeding. 

Even if you have cut into your dog’s quick just once, one time is usually enough for most dogs to become permanently afraid of nail trimming. And if you think about it, cutting into the quick and bleeding is painful and stressful for people too, so why would it be any different for our canine companions?

Once a dog develops a fear of having their nails trimmed or is afraid of nail clippers, some owners can make matters way worse by trying to restrain their dogs. Furthermore, many owners won’t admit that they are scared to trim their dog’s nails but will get too emotional during the whole ordeal and increase their dog’s anxiety level. 

By adding to your dog’s original trauma, you make the nail trimming experience seem much worse than it actually is, deepening your dog’s fears and anxieties. But while things might look hopeless, the good news is that with patience and effort, you can teach your dog to have a non-stressful nail trimming experience at home. 

Why Are Long Dog Nails A Problem?

Since fear of nail trimming is a common issue in dogs, many owners decide that the best course of action is to avoid the issue altogether. But, while you won’t have to deal with an anxious dog or temper tantrums whenever you pull out the nail clippers, you’ll have an even bigger problem on your hands.

Allowing your dog nails to grow too long and letting them remain long can create problems for your dog’s health. 

The first issue associated with long nails in dogs is foot pain. As your dog walks on hard surfaces, their nails contract, pushing the nail back into the nail bed. Not only does this sound uncomfortable, but it is extremely painful and can put pressure on all toe joints or cause the toe to twist in an unnatural position.

In both cases, toes become extremely painful and inflamed, sometimes even developing arthritis. And when even the slightest touch is painful to your dog, you can imagine how uninterested and afraid of nail clipping they will be in this situation. Before you learn how to trim a scared dog’s nails, make sure that your pup’s toes aren’t inflamed and too painful to touch.

And if this hasn’t sounded bad enough, the second problem caused by overgrown dog nails is even more serious. Dogs, like all other animals, rely on the nerves in their feet to move through the world and provide accurate information and process gravity.

For millions of years and through the process of domestication, wild dogs have filed their nails down and kept them short by running on hard surfaces. So, the only time a dog’s nails have ever come into direct contact with the ground was when they were climbing a mountain. 

A dog’s brain is still wired to make the same assumption. So whenever your pup’s nails are clicking on the floor, their brain sends them a signal to shift their body accordingly to accommodate a climbing position. 

Essentially, your pooch is shifting their entire posture, leaning forward over their front legs, and also has to compensate with its back legs to avoid falling on its face. 

Research has shown that this type of posture results in over-used muscles and overused joints, especially in the back legs. This in turn decreases a dog’s mobility, making it hard for them to walk normally, jump into the car, or climb stairs, and they’ll even have a hard time laying down and getting up. 

Learning how to clip a nervous dog’s nails can seem like a cure-all, especially for dogs who already suffer from problems with their back legs, caused by overgrown nails. Having short nails can improve your pup’s overall well-being, and regular trimming can be a great preventative for these serious health conditions.

While trying to cut the nails of a fearful dog might seem like a bad idea, letting your pup develop serious health problems due to overly long nails is even worse. So, let’s see how to clip a dog’s nails when the dog is scared of clippers and won’t allow their paws to be touched.

How To Clip A Nervous Dog’s Nails

While clipping a nervous dog’s nails might seem like an impossible feat, there are simple steps you can follow to train your dog to tolerate nail trimming. Even if your pooch is afraid because you have injured their quick before, you can desensitize your dog to nail clipping.

You should have realistic expectations, though, and don’t expect to see any major changes or miracles happen overnight. However, with lots of patience, consistency, and rewards, you can teach your dog to stop being afraid of nail clippers.

Follow these steps to teach your dog to feel comfortable in the presence of nail clippers. And don’t forget, this is going to be a long and challenging process, so be prepared to spend every day working with your dog.

1. Get Your Dog Accustomed To Seeing Nail Clippers

The first thing you will need to do to get your dog to tolerate the sight of nail clippings is to get them used to seeing this tool. Bear in mind, your dog may associate nail clippers with a past negative experience or may be completely new to the world of nail trimming. Whatever the case, go slow and give your dog time to get familiar with the clippers.

To help your pup overcome their fear of nail clippers, call them to come and hold the clippers in your hand in your dog’s presence. Act happy and untroubled while you pick up and hold the clippers and give your dog a tasty treat.

Repeat the whole process several times a day for a few weeks or until your dog feels completely at ease in the presence of clippers. After a few days, your pooch should associate seeing clippers with rewards and praise. So when your pup starts being excited about this, you can move to the next step.

2. Teach Your Dog To Allow Paw Handling

When your dog starts to be more relaxed and accustomed to the clippers, you should start training them to tolerate having their paws touched. Start by lightly touching your dog’s shoulder, going all the way down to their paw. Praise and talk with your dog using a soothing voice to keep them as calm and relaxed as possible while handling their paws.

If your pup seems content, you can start focusing on their toes, giving each one a gentle squeeze. After you are done with the toes, turn your attention to nails and touch each of your dog’s nails while applying gentle pressure.  

If at any point your dog becomes too scared or anxious, stop what you are doing and give your pup time to completely calm down. During the entire process, you can also give your dog treats in addition to using praise as rewards for positive behavior. 

However, you shouldn’t praise or reward your dog in any way when they remove the paw or become too anxious to allow handling. Continue repeating this step a few times a day for as long as it takes for your dog to feel completely at ease while you are touching their paws. 

3. Familiarize Your Dog With The Sound The Clippers Make

To get your dog used to hearing the sound of the clippers without experiencing an anxiety attack, you will have to repeat the first step with a single addition. So instead of just holding the clippers in your hand, you should open and close them, producing the tell-tale sound all clippers make. 

While doing this, talk with your dog in a calm and soothing voice and give them treats. As your dog gets used to hearing the sound of clippers, slowly decrease the distance between your dog and the clippers without touching your dog with the tool. 

Once your pup starts to be excited when they hear the sound of the clippers and starts looking for treats and praise, it is time to raise your training to the next level. Keep in mind, your dog may need several weeks to learn to stay comfortable while hearing the sound of the clippers, so don’t rush the process. 

4. Mix Paw Handling With The Clippers

The main goal of this step is to teach your dog to tolerate being touched by the clippers. Call your pup and sit down on the floor with them while they are completely calm and relaxed. Start touching your dog’s paw with one hand while you open and close the clippers with the other, before placing the clippers on the floor. 

Repeat the same thing over and over again, but also gradually and slowly move the clippers in your dog’s direction. Bring the clippers closer and closer each time, and if your dog stays relaxed, try to touch one of their toes with the clippers. Don’t forget to be very gentle and continue praising and talking to your dog using a calm and soothing voice. 

If your pup remains relaxed, proceed to touch each one of their toes with the clippers. If by any chance your dog becomes nervous or scared at any step of the way, stop completely and give your dog time to calm down and relax. If necessary, take a small break and wait a few minutes before attempting to touch your pup’s toes.  

5. Try To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

If your dog now remains calm through all previous steps, the day has come when you can actually attempt to trim your dog’s nails. Hold their paw gently and slowly grip one of their toes. Use the clippers to trim only the tip of your dog’s nail, making sure that you don’t cut too much and injure the quick the very first time. 

After you manage to trim your pup’s nail without incident, praise them enthusiastically and offer high-value rewards. And while it may seem like you are on a roll, don’t tempt your luck by trying to cut all of your dog’s nails at once. 

Most dogs react way better to nail trimming when the entire process is divided into several shorter sessions. Ideally, you should try to trim one or two nails at a time, at the most, followed by a break, praise, and treats. 

If your dog is in the mood to continue after the break, you can trim more of their nails. If not, leave the rest of their nails to be trimmed the next day or in a few days. As your dog gets more and more used to the routine, you may be able to cut all of their nails in a single day, taking shorter breaks in between.

With a bit of patience, consistency, and perseverance, you can teach your anxious dog to stay calm during nail trimming and even learn to enjoy this grooming routine

However, if your pup shows signs of severe anxiety or extreme fear, including panting, drooling, trembling, snapping, or growling, you should consult your vet to see what your best options would be. Your vet may find that your dog needs a calming aid to keep their anxiety levels under control and help you get a chance to trim their nails. 

FAQs About How To Trim A Scared Dog’s Nails

How Can I Calm My Dog To Trim Their Nails?

Try to calm your dog by talking to them using a calm and soothing voice, and giving them praise and rewards. But, if your dog seems way too anxious or nervous about having their nails trimmed, you should talk with your vet about using a calming medicine.

Most dogs react well to Benadryl, a mild antihistamine sedative that can help keep your dog calm in extremely stressful situations such as nail trimming. You can also try melatonin supplements or a natural calming aid, and talk with your vet about the safest option for your pooch.

We recently put together a blog post that included natural calming aid remedies for dog anxiety that you might find helpful.

How Do You Cut An Uncooperative Dog’s Long Nails?

If you have an uncooperative dog, start by holding their paw gently but firmly and place the clippers at a 24-degree angle from the nail.

Squeeze the nail clippers and only cut tiny pieces of your dog’s nails to not traumatize them any further.

When you notice a small, white-greyish dot in the middle of your dog’s nail, stop clipping since that is your pup’s quick. 


Clipping a dog’s nails is rarely an easy task, but it can be almost impossible and overly dramatic if your dog is nervous.

If your pup’s nails are clicking on the floor and becoming way too long for their comfort, you probably want to know how to trim a scared dog’s nails. 

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Train your dog to feel comfortable in the presence of nail clippers
  • Don’t cut too much, too soon, to avoid injuring the quick
  • Consider calming meds and natural calming remedies to soothe your dog’s anxiety

Do you trim your dog’s nails?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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My Dog Is Scared of Clippers!? How Do I Clip His Nails? Yellow Lab lying on grass getting nails clipped.
My Dog Is Scared of Clippers!? How Do I Clip His Nails?

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How To Clip A Dog’s Nails When The Dog Is Scared Of Clippers was last modified: April 25th, 2021 by LTHQ

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