6 Tips for Clipping Your Dog’s Nails

We we’re at the vet the other day for a routine checkup and the tech ask if we want to have Rio’s nails clipped. I politely decline and mentioned that we do them ourselves. Meaning, I do them. Antonio refuses as he might cut them too short.

6 Tips for Trimming Your Dog's Nails | lolathepitty.com

When looking at the prices, I found that they charge 20-something bucks for a nail trim! I mean, I know I’m frugal and all, but seriously? Hire me, I’ll clip your dog’s nails. Totally not out to bash my vet (that we love), because I realize nail trims can be a total pain in the a_ _ for dogs like Lola, so this might be a case of where one ruins it for all.

Back to clipping dog nails. It sucks. Just ask Lola.

Rio on the other hand, piece of cake. 10 nails, followed a biscuit and he’s good to go within a few minutes.

Lola’s nail trims run more along the schedule of a trip to get a manicure. They take forever. She would literally run when she saw the clippers. She would yelp at every trim (drama queen). She would pull her paw away at the very last minute almost causing me to clip her toe off. You name it, she was not an easy patient.

But we’re finally there! I can clip her nails without her running from me, without help from Antonio and without her yelping at each “click” of the clippers. I may be the only one that can trim her nails, but that’s fine by me.

Please note: hardly anything in dog-land is an overnight fix. Everything takes time (and patience). We got to this point with Lola after several months. Months. So obviously don’t expect these tricks to be miracle workers – you still have to put in the time, but over time, your dog will should come around.

So let me save you some time and stress (for yourself and your dog) and share the little tips and tricks for trimming your dog’s nails that have worked for me!

Courtesy of Rich Health Kwik-Stop
Courtesy of Rich Health Kwik-Stop

1. Learn how to properly clip nails.

It’s important to learn how to properly trim your dog’s nails before diving in. If you clip too short, they will bleed. Which brings me to my second tip:

And make sure you have good clippers! Crappy clippers can mean un-clean cuts and pain for your dog. We use the Miller’s Forge brand and they have been awesome (and I think we only paid about $10 for them).

2. Always keep Kwik Stop nearby.

This is where Murphy’s Law comes into play – if you don’t have it next to you when trimming your dog’s nails, you’ll accidently cut too short.

3. Trim often.

This is a weekly routine with Lola. The more often you clip, the faster the quick will pull back.

4. Trim near a light or in daylight.

I’m lucky, Lola and Rio have white paws which means I can see their quick. So when I’m trimming their nails, I always make sure to have a bright light behind me or do it in the daytime near a window. This just gives me a little extra insurance and enables me to get as close to the quick as possible without causing the nail to bleed.

5. Bend their front paw back.

This is probably the one tip that helped me make progress with Lola. I eventually got to the point where back paws being trimmed were fine, but front paws? A nightmare. My theory: because she was watching me, she would anticipate the clip and it would freak her out. Here’s my solution:

I started asking her for a sit, giving her a treat and then grabbing her front paw, folding it under so that her paw was facing the ceiling and then I clip one front nail at a time. Treats are given in between. Here’s a visual below:


6. Bring on the treats!

Treats are essential. Don’t even bother if you’re not willing to reward. Lola now associates nail trims with fun and deliciousness. One nail = one treat. A tiny treat, but a treat nonetheless.

I started small, by desensitizing her to the nail clippers. I would touch her feet with the nail clippers and in return she would get a treat. I did this for several days. In between I would also get her used to me touching her paws, something she isn’t particularly fond of either.

Next I would do a few nails at a time and be done for the evening. You can work up to this as well. Start small, if you are making great progress, don’t push  it. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s 10 times easier to do this when they are absolutely pooped out?

*If you’ve given up all hope and have a dog that either gets aggressive over nail trims or you’ve truly tried it all…check out this awesome solution from my friend Jen at Dogthusiast!

42 Replies to “6 Tips for Clipping Your Dog’s Nails”

  1. This is such an excellent post!! My girls don’t like having their nails done, either. Phoenix is very much like Lola! We’ve been working on it since we got her. I’m with you $20 is ridiculous. LOL Just pay me! I’ll do it.

  2. Great tips! I do clip the dogs’ nails myself but I definitely need to do it more often! They are good about it but don’t like it. I also give tons of treats & do it after exercise so they are a bit pooped:) I recently bought a dremel & was excited that the dogs took to it well. I think they like it much better than clippers.

    1. What is it about the dremmel- my dog also does not mind it but very much dislikes the clippers!! If I was s dog I would be the opposite!!

  3. Great tips! It’s a two man (well one woman, one man) job here at Haus Of Pug! It is so stressful but the two dog’s nails seem to grow so quickly.

    We took them to the vets once to get it done but after a $40 bill the fiancé decided that we would do it from then on…

  4. Thanks for the tips. I was wondering whether the kwik would recede. Baxter seems to have very long kwiks (in part because he nails grow a little long since trimming is so challenging), so I never feel like I’m getting his nails short enough. I’m going to share my experience, even though this will be a very long comment, as I hope it might be helpful to someone. When we first got Baxter, we consulted with my vet tech friend for our first nail trimming. It took three of us–my friend, my husband and me–to do one clipping. Baxter went BANANAS. There was yelping and drama, but also snarling, growling and attempts at biting. We bought a muzzle and resigned ourselves to wrestling matches every time we had to cut nails. It was incredibly stressful for all of us. For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been doing something very close to what you suggest: lots of feet touching, lots of touching with the clippers, tapping nails with the clippers, holding nails and wiggling them, holding the clippers around the nail but not clipping. This went on for several weeks. I worked hard to be patient and not rush him before even attempting to clip a nail. Then my technique was to clip one nail a day. Now we’re up to two nails after every walk. For us, the front are better than the back. I’ve found bending his back feet back (as you do for Lola’s fronts) and clipping from the underside is helpful. For me, Baxter is so, so sensitive about his feet, I wouldn’t let anyone, even a vet, clip his nails. His trust for this is so important, and I don’t want anything to derail the progress we’ve made.

  5. Haley’s not a fan of nail clipping either, but she’s much better than she used to be. They do have a way of pulling their paw away just as you’re about the make the cut. Good light is a great tip for the white nails, but I usually end up leaving Haley’s black nails a little longer since I can’t see the quick. I’m glad Lola’s coming around and getting used to the process. Rio should be a role model for all dogs, lol!

  6. oh my goodness.. had NO idea that the blood supply would recede!! I have never, ever clipped my own dog’s nails because I was terrified. My last girl had black nails, so I always had the vet do it. My new baby has white, and there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to do it, however I noticed the kwick was SO close and had NO idea how people ever got the nails short. ha! so good to know this..thanks for sharing!

    1. Isn’t that great!? Lola’s nails are a bit longer than Rio’s but that’s because *I* need to trim them about every 5 days to work them back. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I had NO idea that the blood supply would recede if trimmed back slowly..NONE! I am so relieved to hear this, as I wondered how the crud anyone could get their nails cut short! I am a big weenie when it comes to trimming nails and always had the vet do it, but now I will take the plunge. I think I can handle *a little* at a time. Thank you so much for enlightening me!

  8. Fantastic tutorial! I have a dog (Charlie) who is a nightmare to clip his nails. We do the treat distraction too. It’s the only thing that works. My other dog (Sam) practically sleeps through the nail trimming. Thanks for the great info. I’m going to link to your article for my readers. 🙂

  9. I had to laugh re:$20, because at our vet (where I had to take Mort before we had a “solution” because the nails got too long during our attempts at “desensitization” over… 8+ months) it’s something like $16 for a regular dog. However: I go to the desk, and they bring up my file, and choke as they say “That will be $60 please… wait… wait… no that can’t be right… you are in for a nail trim?” and I have to go “noooo, that’s right. We had to take some alternate measures. I’m getting a deal. Just take a look at the room we were in…”. About six different eau-de-Mort’s in there… it was *not* pretty. Not to mention he tried to bite a vet *while sedated* which was apparently a first for that guy!

    1. Hi Jen, oh my goodness! Haha. One of our old neighbors actually had to have her dog sedated because he would become aggressive. So, needless to say, besides pounding the pavement – the only time his nails got trimmed was during a vet trip that involved teeth cleaning/shots/nails. Wish I would’ve seen your tutorial before I knew her ;). Thanks for stopping by!

    2. My mom’s dog is like this, she’s 8 lbs of rip your leg of fury! When she lived in Calgary there was this magical groomer that would get my mom to hold the dog and she’d pop around and clip the nails no problemo. Some people just have a good vibe, maybe you need to try a different groomer?

  10. I love this post by the way!
    We’ve struggled and struggled with Ziva’s nails…she turns into a nervous wreck and yelps like we are trying to kill her! We reached a point of success with a dremel and then something changed and she began to hate the dremel so we went back to clippers became frustrated – so we stopped because we were in the wrong mindset…
    And felt so defeated about it we have taken a break. Not a good thing…
    Thanks for the reminder, patience, and treats and just expect that it will take time. She improved once so we just need to get back on that road to success.
    In the meantime I think we’re back to using a dremel. 🙂 I loved the nail graphics by the way, it just reinforced that we were doing it right to begin with.

  11. These were all great tips. Lucy is great when it comes to cutting her nails.. She is small, we roll her onto her back, I’m at her head (to praise her, love her, and to keep her steady) and my husband is at the other end to clip the nails (he talks to her quietly, praising her,etc.). She now holds pretty still, though, this didn’t come over night. It’s taken practice and time. Lola’s mom is quite right when it comes to clippers. We purchased our current ones from Petco, after trying many others. Since Lucy is small, the ones that work for her look different than the ones above. You put the dog’s nail in a nail-shaped hole and when you grip the handles together, it clips the nail quickly. With small nails, this works great. Lucy is also rewarded with a doggie treat at the end. When we get her in position, we start talking about the expected treat and about 3/4ths of the way thro, we talk about the treat again. I even scratch her belly, kiss her & luv her up, when the back paws are being clipped. She loves this.
    She is 12y.o. now, and is fine with the routine. We have even perfected not clipping the kwiks (practice & we’re lucky). Lucy only gets a little nervous at the very beginning of the ‘routine.’ Routines are great for dogs; the learn what to expect.
    LOVE LOLA & RIO 🙂 🙂 🙂

  12. I have been a dog groomer for over 20 years and I have to commend u on your post. It was very well written and your steps are accurate. Minus the treats, of course. But, as I do this about 50x a week,I’m a little more advanced than the average home nail trimmer. I, especially,like the Murphy’s law comment. Because, yes, you will bleed it if you don’t have it. Also, I love the bend the foot back rule. Most home groomers don’t know that. I have not read all the comments but I’m going to add something if it hasn’t been brought up. Don’t over restrain. Some dogs get more freaked out the more u hold them because when two or three people come at them, they know it’s for something bad. Try putting the leash on and hold it about 8-12 inches above their head to keep it taut. Well, a second person should so u can use both hands to clip. If no second person, try tying to a kitchen knob or something so they can’t run. 🙂

  13. I can imagine the part of bringing the front paw back, so the paw is facing the ceiling, but I can’t imagine how to get in there and have enough room and light with the clippers if the paw is back. Can you post a picture here or on IG?

    1. Hey Tamlin, it took me forever, but I finally added a photo of how I bend her front paw back. And instead of holding my phone with the other hand to take the photo, I’m holding the clippers :). Hope this helps.

  14. I like your fifth tip to bend their front paw backwards while you trim. I think that this definitely helps in eliminating the anticipation the dog will feel with every clip because this way they can’t see what’s going on. I think also, this will help you get a better angle on the nails. From the bottom, you can see how long they actually are and you can make sure that you’re not clipping the nails too short.

  15. We always had traumatic experiences until one day the guy that trims our dogs nails sat in the floor and put them on his lap with their back against his chest. They all three sit there like that and let him trim their nails with no whining, crying or trying to get lose. It was a complete transformation in their actions. I think it was the fact that they had to stand on three legs while he was doing it that freaked them out. I always make sure he is working when I take them in.

    1. Hi Julie, that’s great – I’m glad you were able to find someone to take the time and patience with your pups ;).

  16. Thank you so much for this post. Bending the paw backwards was the game changer. I just cut all of his nails very quickly with minimal fuss.

  17. Do you have any recommendations for cutting black nails? I have 3 Chihuahuas and don’t have a problem clipping two of them. The third has black nails. I take her to my groomer and suck up the cost.

  18. I work at a Vet. On one hand $20 is expensive, on the other hand, most of the dogs we do nail teims on need multiple bodies restraining. If you can do it at home, then do. But don’t expect that to be a reason we’d discount it. And let’s face it. Your perfect for nail teims dog probably wouldn’t be perfect once we pulled her past those doors. It’s just the nature of the beast. And I promise we hate the fear and aggression more than you do. It kills us to muzzle or restrain. But we have to protect ourselves and your dog.

    1. This is quite common and I’ve found it usually happens when the owner is timid or scared to clip their dogs nails or never actually has – which means your dog “gets away” with not having you clip his/her nails. I think it’s possible for you to work up to it, but of course it will take time and patience.

  19. How often do you replace your clippers? I have the “plier” style clippers but after about a year of trimming my Great Danes nails they seem to get dull. I don’t even know how to sharpen the curved blades :S Human nail clippers don’t see to have this issue… in fact when I was puppy sitting a couple pugs they had such terribly long nails, the only clippers I had that were small enough were human nail clippers, seemed to do the trick!

  20. After working the front office and merchandising for a groomer, I did end up doing a LOT of nail trims. We specialized in rescue and difficult dogs. Great tips!
    Everything here is how I have worked with my rescue pibble babies. My big girl Elli actually went from knocking me out cold to getting nails polished weekly! For black nails, trim by bending the paw back to the ceiling (as shown) then trim down carefully until you see a black circle/ball in the nail. This is just before the quick and how to know when to stop. Hope that helps.!

  21. I did not know that the nails of a dog are very sensitive. It is good to know that a dog’s nails should be cut on an angle to prevent bleeding. I have heard that having your dog run on cement is a good way for them to wear down their nails and save you from having to clip them so often.

  22. I did not realize that there was a blood supply in dogs nails and that is why they bleed when you clip their nails. Now that I have read this article and seen the diagram I feel much more confident about clipping my dog’s nails. I think that it would be important to associate nail clipping with treats so that he doesn’t get scared when I clip his nails in the future. I will definitely apply your tips the next time I clip Clifford’s nails.

  23. This is a great article!

    I agree with you that you could save some money by trimming nails on your own but on another hand, some people are simply too scared or scared enough that they don’t feel confident to do it on their own.

    That being said, I totally love your guide and the illustration because you are 100% right.

    Your idea to get the dog acquainted with the Clippers by touching their paws with it and giving them treats to associate positive feelings with the clippers is amazing! This is something that I did not think of and will use this from now on 🙂

  24. I like that you mentioned to have good, sharp clippers. My friend loves animals and wants to get a dog soon. Thank you for the tip on how to keep your dog safe while clipping their nails!

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