My Dog Won’t Let Me Cut Their Nails (and What to Do About It)

Part of having a dog is taking care of their grooming. Some dogs require a lot of regular grooming, including haircuts, while others are relatively low maintenance.

No matter what kind of dog you have, though, they all need to have their nails trimmed on a regular basis so they can walk properly and pain free.

Some dogs are really sensitive to having their paws touched, and this can also mean they don’t want you trimming their nails.

Dog Nails

They may run away and maybe even curl up in a ball so you can’t get to their paws. At some point though you will need to make sure to cut their nails as it can become really painful for them to walk on nails that are too long.

Is there an easy way to help your dogs become more comfortable with cutting their nails? Well, it probably isn’t easy but there are a number of ways you can get your dog to at least tolerate having their nails trimmed so you don’t have to worry about them getting too long.

It’s important – or at least interesting – to do a little investigating into why your dog doesn’t want his nails trimmed. If you know the why, you might be able to figure out how to make him more comfortable and therefore it won’t be such a big deal to trim them in the future.

It’s weird and uncomfortable

We cut our own nails regularly so we might not think of it as something weird to have our nails trimmed. But, if someone just grabbed your hand and starting cutting your nails would it be weird and uncomfortable?

Probably. So that’s how your dog probably feels if you just grab their paw and start trimming.

If you don’t approach your dog in the right way it can make them anxious and that’s not going to help at all.

Nail trimmers may appear threatening

Let’s be honest: the tools used to trim your dog’s nails aren’t exactly fun looking. They don’t look like a toy or something your dog could have fun with.

Additionally, you probably don’t stop to give your dog the option to sniff and explore the nail trimmer before you take it right to their nails.

Dogs learn and explore their environment by smelling and sometimes even licking objects. If you just take the nail trimmer right to their nails they have no idea what this foreign object is and it can cause them to freak out a little.

So, now that we know why let’s move on to the how.

Ways to fix your dog’s fear of having their nails trimmed

All dogs have a unique personality, so the exact approach needed to make your dog may be slightly different but there are a number of ideas you can use try on your dog. The specifics may change for your dog, but the ideas are general enough to use for almost any dog.

Cutting dog nails

Make it a slow start

One of the best things you can do to make your dog comfortable with having their nails trimmed is to regularly touch and play with their paws.

Some dogs, depending on their history, may not be super comfortable with you touching their paws right now.

To do this, you can start by touching their shoulders and make sure they are relaxed and comfortable. Your dog’s favourite treat can also help to ease the tension and make him much more comfortable in the situation.

As you start moving your hand from his shoulder towards the paws, keep talking to your dog in a positive and affectionate voice.

Notice your dog’s mood as you move your hand towards the paws – it’s important to make sure he is still comfortable and relaxed.

If he starts to show tension or discomfort at any time then take the time to stop there and give extra attention. Don’t move forward until your dog is relaxed and comfortable again.

Once you get to his paws, try taking a paw in your hand and just holding it as you would when you taught your dog to shake a paw.

As your dog becomes more and more comfortable with holding his paws you can try touching the nails on a paw. If your dog is comfortable with this, or when he becomes comfortable, the final step is to put some pressure on the nails themselves.

The point of doing this is to mimic what they will likely feel when you cut his nails. If you can mirror the pressure, he won’t have such an issue with it when you trim his nails.

This process of getting your dog comfortable with having his paws touched likely won’t happen all in one sitting, especially if your dog has been previously really uncomfortable with it in the past.

It might take several tries to get to the point of touching his nails – but that’s ok. It’s important you don’t push too much or make your dog feel uncomfortable without pulling back to comfort them.

Your dog will react to how you’re feeling, so if you’re calm and comforting during this time your dog will feel much more at ease.

Show the tools

As mentioned before, dogs explore the world with smells and tastes. If you just take this foreign object right to their nails they will likely feel very uncomfortable with it. Give your dog time to get used to this tool – whether it’s clippers or a grinder.

For the first few times you bring out the tools also present your dog with his favourite treat. This will form a positive association with the trimming tools and they will be used to it being around without feeling like it’s attacking or a threat.

Pet nail Trimmer

After a few times of doing this, you will likely notice your dog is significantly more at ease with the trimming tools and won’t be on the defensive when you bring them out.

You can also slowly ease the trimming tools towards your dog’s paws without actually trying to cut them just to get your dog used to it being around their paws.

As long as your dog is comfortable with his paws being touched you can hold his paws while bringing the cutting tool closer.

Provided your dog is comfortable with you holding his paw and having the trimming tool close to him, you are likely ready to move on to the next step: actually cutting his nails.

Cutting your dog’s nails

So you’ve introduced your dog to having his paws held and to the tool you’re doing to use to do the trimming. At first, you should hold your dog’s paws like you’re going to trim his nails with the clippers in your hand but don’t actually do anything – yet.

Pay attention to your dog’s reactions while you do this: is he anxious or nervous, or does he try to pull away?

If your dog doesn’t display any signs of being uncomfortable, you can start trimming a bit at a time.

And that’s it – you’re trimming your dog’s nails! You’ll want to move slowly and go a little bit at a time; you might even get only one paw done at a time.

Don’t forget to give your dog some treats during the process so they continue to have positive associations with this experience.

PRO TIP:make sure you don’t cut your dog’s nails too short as you can cut the quick and this is painful for them. Not only is it painful, but it will cause a lot of bleeding.

What if your dog is just really hyper?

Well, when it comes to training your dog it’s commonly said that a tired dog is a good dog. So why not use this to your advantage now?

Cutting Dog Nails

If you have a dog with a lot of energy, let them run for a while. If your dog is tired out they will be easier to work with and be much more comfortable in cutting their nails.

Additionally, you could give your dog a bath after their playtime. A warm bath can be very soothing for your dog and in turn calm them down.

As an added bonus warm water will soften the nails so it will probably be easier to cut your dog’s nails after a bath.

It’s pretty common for dogs to not like having their nails trimmed. It’s probably not the most fun feeling and it’s also likely pretty uncomfortable for them to have someone manipulating their paws in all directions.

As explained, there are a number of reasons as to why your dog doesn’t like having his paws touched, and it could be especially bad if someone previously didn’t take enough care when trimming his nails and forced him into an uncomfortable situation.

Training your dog to do something he really doesn’t like can be tough – especially if you have a strong-willed dog. With patience and treats, maybe a lot of treats, you can teach your dog to at least tolerate having his nails trimmed so that you can do it safely and keep your dog walking pain free!