How to keep your dog’s nails trimmed

How to keep your dog’s nails trimmed

I know how stressful and frustrating it is to keep your dog’s nails trimmed if the dog is nervous or stressed. Here, I share my personal experience of trying to trim the nails of my rescue dog Darcy. I then go on to give a step by step guide to trimming your dog’s nails which should give you the confidence to do it at home. In addition, I also explain why it is so important to keep the nails short. Also, what can happen if they grow too long.

Darcy’s Story

Darcy came to me as a rescue and he will retaliate if he even thinks someone is going to hurt him. Therefore,  it was never going to be easy to cut his nails. They were getting long and I was trying everything I could to cut them at home. I have always trimmed my dog’s nails myself and never had a problem..until now!

Firstly, I left the nail clippers hanging around where he could see them. I wanted him to be familiar with them when it came to using them.

Next, I sat with him on my knee and pretended to file my nails with the dog file! It didn’t work!

We tried offering treats and using a muzzle but we got absolutely nowhere. This is the only dog I’ve ever struggled with and he only likes to walk on grass. It was, however, a problem that was not going away!

. I was nervous about taking him to the vet because they need their fingers to make a living and I didn’t want to jeopardise someone’s livelihood!

Last time I took him to a grooming parlour and that traumatised him. The sight of three grown adults trying to hold a 5kg dog was not for the faint-hearted!

On Friday, he went off to see a vet who had been fully briefed on Darcy’s problem nails. He was muzzled and the vet took off a little from each nail whilst talking to Darcy in a very soothing voice. He screamed and wriggled as if we were amputating his head not cutting his nails. The waiting room had emptied when we left!

So, we made progress and I feel so relieved. In two weeks we have to go again to cut the claws a little more. The vet has prescribed Adaptil to keep him calm and we have to go armed with chicken.

Nail Trimming an anxius dog

Why is it important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed.

If you tend to walk your dog on grass or he/she is elderly or more sedentary you will probably need to give a nail trim every few weeks.

Long nails can be extremely painful for dogs and lead to joint pain and arthritis. In addition to this, long nails can snag on blankets, etc and damage the nail bed. Long claws can badly affect a dog’s mobility.

Sometimes after a nail is damaged it may grow at a different angle to the others so special care could be needed.

A step by step guide to cutting a dog’s nails.

The main thing to remember is to avoid the quick. This is the pink part of the nail which provides the blood supply to the nail. If it is accidentally cut it will bleed and be painful for the dog. With black nails, it can be particularly hard to spot the quick so it may be best for a groomer to trim them. Also, they can be filed or trimmed just 1mm at a time.

If you cut the quick don’t panic! the nail should stop bleeding within five minutes.

(You can use cornstarch or a bar of soap to help stop the bleeding, just hold against the paw for one minute)

This picture demonstrates how and why you need to cut the nail at a 45-degree angle to avoid the quick.


You need to cut from underneath the nail.

Start with the back legs, these are usually shorter and need trimming less often.

Don’t forget the dew claws, (on the inner leg)  these can grow in a circle and become very painful if they’re not trimmed.

Use good quality nail trimmers. I use these because they are the same as the ones the vet uses. Make sure that you purchase the correct size depending on the breed of dog.

Have lots of treats to hand, give them after each foot is complete and the dog should stay distracted.


Nail grinder kit from Amazon

This nail grinder has a super quiet motor which has been designed specifically so that dogs are not stressed by the noise. I recommend that you switch on the grinder a few times before actually filing the nails so that the dog gets used to the low sound. It has attachments so you can start with a gentle file and work up to a coarser grind. These are great if a dog snags a nail and is left with  sharp edges. Have some treats to hand to make this new experience fun for your dog.

If the nails are very hard and brittle soak them in the bath to soften them.

If the nails are long, the quick will be long too, so take off a tiny bit every few days.

Consider using a nail grinder if you are nervous about cutting the quick.



Amazon Purchase Link

These natural, non-drowsy calming aids are designed for all anxious dogs. They can help with nail cutting, but also fireworks, thunder and separation anxiety.


Amazon Purchase Link

A pet grooming hammock may be just what you need if your dog struggles when his nails are clipped. This strong hammock comes in different sizes and leaves your hands free to get get the job done quickly and efficiently. Other uses for the hammock include checking teeth, ears and skin, grooming and eye care.

I hope you have found this information helpful.

post contains affiliate links.

20 thoughts on “How to keep your dog’s nails trimmed

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  1. I have never personally had major issues with cutting my rescue’s nails. However- I had an idea… what about an anxiety jacket? I was considering getting one for mine due to anxiety surrounding large crowds and loud noises. Maybe this could help? Worth a shot, considering Darcy’s nails are just going to keep on growin! Just search thunder shirt or anxiety jacket for dogs on amazon. Or I found this link. Hope you find a solution!

    1. Do you know what? He has one and I totally forgot!!
      I can’t believe I did that, thank you so much. I put it away with his winter coats I think it works a little but I’ve heard they can work miracles for some dogs. Thanks again Regina I will make sure he’s wearing it for his next trip!

  2. My jack Russell, Bonnie once had everyone in the waiting room wondering if the vet was murdering a dog in his surgery, due to the huge fuss she kicked up regarding her “pedicure”.

      1. She’s a particularly tiny old girl. When it comes to the other dogs, she thinks she’s a Rottweiler, and has often got herself into trouble, but is an absolute baby when it comes to nails and teeth.

  3. No tip other than we take others to vet in between time at groomers. These two never did like us to trim their nails.

  4. I have had similar issues with 2 Pugs that I rescued from a backyard breeder. I have worked with a behaviorist and have done desensitization work to help get the Pugs used to the clippers and associate them with something good like treats. It has worked for one of the dogs successfully, the other not so much.

    I think part of the problem is like you said the way groomers can be that scares the dog. I groom all my dogs, but still am unable to cut this one pups nails. was able to find a mobile groomer in my area who allowed me to enter the mobile grooming truck with my pup and together with soft tones high praise and reassurance from me we were successful. I would say she’s the right person to cut my boys nails from now on 🙂 I honestly think you need to find that right groomer who will work with you and help your dog feel more

    When all else fails, there are natural herbs and essential oils that can help calm your dog in these type of situation. I believe you need to try and see which one works for your pup successfully.

    Lavender essential oil and Rescue Remedy are 2 things I use to help relax a rescue dog that was labeled “aggressive” and it has been very successful! You can read about their use in my posts.

    1. Thank you so much for this really helpful comment and I certainly will pop over to your blog to take a look. I think I have found a vet who understands and who is willing to take the time and build up a relationship so I will continue with her. To be honest it wasn’t much more expensive than the groomers and such a better experience. Darcy’s nails are black and thick so you can’t see the quick which is a worry, Thank you again for your help.

  5. I totally understand! The Pugs have the same thick black nails. Good luck, I know in time you will be successful in changing Darcy’s view of the experience 🙂

  6. Here’s a thanks for following me 😀 I have followed your blog so that I can stay in touch with your latest posts 😀 Good luck!

  7. I just read this on cutting Darcy’s nails. I had 3 dacshunds and 2 out of the 3 were horrendous to clip. One would scream like she was being murdered, the other one would bite us so had to be muzzled.And we couldn’t even think about clipping them unless we were heavily armed with treats. All of my dogs have since passed but I plan on rescuing more but have decided that I will leave the clipping of the nails to the professionals…I was tramatic for me as well! Hahaha

    1. You would think they were having major surgery! Darcy is the smallest dog I have ever had but he fights like a lion haha Good Luck with rescuing more and thank you for stopping by.

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