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How to Restrain a Dog to Clip its Nails

Clipping your dog’s nails is often a frustrating yet necessary task. Many people choose to use a professional groomer or veterinarian rather than do the job at home. Unless your pet gets aggressive when it’s time for grooming, you can safely trim your dog’s nails yourself, without paying someone to do it.

For those of you looking for the best way to trim dog’s nails safely at home, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll start with how to restrain a dog to clip its nails.

How to restrain a dog to clip its nails without Causing Discomfort or Pain


A lot of folks feel bad when they have to restrain their pet but you shouldn’t. As long as you are doing it properly, your dog won’t experience any pain. 

Trimming nails is easier with two people,  however, using one of these restraint techniques will allow you to easily immobilize your dog and cut his nails by yourself. 

Here are two of the best holding techniques that you could try:

Holding technique number one

In the first hold,  you’ll want to be next to your dog, with your chest pressing against their upper body. You’ll wrap one arm around the dog’s neck. This allows you to keep his head under control, in case he decides to bite. You may have a docile pup that never shows signs of aggression, but all dogs have their limits. When a dog is afraid or hurt, he may become aggressive.  

Now, the placement of your second hand will depend on whether you have assistance or going solo. If you have someone who will be doing the trimming while you keep the dog still, your other hand will come underneath and grip the dog around the stomach, right in front of his hips. Or alternately, you can hold her under her armpits, which allows you to have control of their movements without hurting them.

If you’re doing the job solo, the hand that’s around your pet’s neck will be the same hand you use to hold the dog’s paw up. You’ll use your free hand to hold the tool you selected. This may be a pair of scissors clipper, a guillotine clipper, a Dremel, grinder, or file. Any option is fine as long as you go slow and take off a little at a time so you can avoid injury from cutting too short.


Holding technique number two

The second way, considered a lateral restraint, is useful for dogs who refuse to sit still while grooming. Trimming a puppy’s nails is a good example. Before they get used to the process, your pup may show signs of fear when getting their nails clipped. This means growling, shifting around, raised hair on the neck, maybe even snapping. If necessary, you can use a soft blanket or towel to wrap around your pup’s body to help calm him down. 

Tip: Using a towel or blanket restraint is also a good way to move a small, aggressive dog, as it allows you to have more control, especially if you place it completely over the animal’s head.  

For this second technique, you’re going to place the dog on its side. This makes it harder for the animal to run away and gives you or your assistant easier access to the dog’s toenails. Standing behind your pet, you’re going to lay the arm that’s closest to the dog’s head over his neck and grab his bottom front leg. Place your other arm over the dog’s back, right in front of the hips and grasp the bottom paw. Now, you should be able to have both paws in one hand, separating them with one finger between. The separation reduces the chances of you getting scratched by toenails if the dog squirms. This might be the best method to use with a large dog that won’t stand still to get his nails clipped.

Hands-free restraints

If you’re looking for the best way to trim your dog’s nails at home safely without having to hold the dog, consider something like a harness or sling. These devices make it much easier for grooming a dog that bites, as you can stay out of the bite zone while you’re working. Although you may want to use a muzzle if the dog is acting too aggressive. And because you’ll have both hands free, you can work faster than if you were having to constantly shift into a more comfortable position. If you have a bad back or have trouble standing in the same place for extended periods of time, consider a dog sling for grooming like this one from Amazon.

This doggie harness for cutting dog nails is the perfect solution. You simply place your dog inside, brace it somewhere and get to work. The fleece material is sturdy enough to limit your dog’s mobility while being comfortable enough not to put a strain on the armpits and hips. The weight limit is 25 pounds, which means there are numerous small breeds this product would be great for. If you’re looking for a solution on how to cut an aggressive dogs nails, this might be a good option for you.

No tools necessary

If you need to know how to clip dog nails when a dog is scared of scissors or Dremels, consider this nifty product from Australia. I present the DiggerDog Nail File, a fun, interactive, food reward-based nail filer. It’s made of polycarbonate, stainless steel, and aluminum. The file part that will trim your pooch’s front paws in a quick and fun way is covered with an industrial-grade coating. This means your product is going to last a while. And the files are interchangeable, all you have to do is order a new file when the old one wears out. 

Should I sedate my dog?

Sedation should be considered the last alternative technique to deal with nail trimming. If your dog refuses to let you cut his nails, try taking him to a pet groomer or veterinarian. Often times, our dogs will behave better for a stranger. If you’ve tried everything you can and you’re still not able to get your pet’s nails trimmed, you can use a mild sedative to help calm your pet during the procedure. 

Some people use Benadryl, although this doesn’t work for all dogs. You can also talk to your vet to see if he or she could prescribe Acepromazine (Ace) or Trazadone, both of which will lull your pet into la-la land. An over the counter solution is an Adaptil collar like this one, which is supposed to reduce stress and anxiety.

Trimming nails isn’t just for beauty; it’s for health

Some people don’t realize that trimming your dog’s nails isn’t something you should avoid because your dog is afraid. Overgrown dog nails can cause many complications to your pooch. Especially if the nails have grown long enough to curl under. This means the nail will be poking into the fleshy paw pad, which can be painful for your pup. Also, walking with long nails on hard surfaces can cause pain, as the nails are being jammed back into the toe joints upon impact. This puts pressure on the joints, which can cause the toe to twist to the side.

It might also lead to arthritis, foot deformities, injury to the tendons, or even problems with posture. Long nails can also get snagged on things like carpet, meaning the nail is forcefully ripped out of the nail bed. If you’ve ever ripped a nail off, you should know this is very unpleasant and not something we want our fur babies to experience. 

Long nails can also lead to infections, as bacteria can gather underneath the nails and grow.

Tips about your dog’s nail grooming

One great idea to help make trimming your dog’s nails easier is to wear them out first. Take them to the park or for a run. The more tired your pet is, the less energy she’ll have to resist. 

When cutting the nails, go slow and remove the nail in small pieces. This reduces the chances of you hitting the quick, which will cause your pooch discomfort and bleeding. 

Reward your dog often for allowing you to work on his nails. This often provides comfort and encourages him to stand still for more rewards. 

If you’re using a Dremel or nail grinder, make sure you let your pet get used to the object before you try to use it. The last thing you want is your dog to be terrified of you because you came after him with a loud spinning tool. 

And finally, get into a consistent routine for nail trimming. If your dog gets used to the routine, she might put up less resistance while you cut her nails.

Pets that don’t spend a lot of time outdoors or doing physical activity will need their nails trimmed more frequently than dogs that are active. This is due to the nails being naturally worn down from an assortment of different hard walking surfaces. 

A general rule of thumb is to cut nails every one to two months, or when you begin to hear your pet’s claws clicking on hard surfaces as they walk. Your dog’s breed might also play a factor in the timing, as some breeds nails grow more quickly.