How to cut a dog's toenails when he hates it

Written by tammy domeier
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How to cut a dog's toenails when he hates it
Successful toenail trimming involves making it a positive experience for the dog. (Two Dogs image by ziggyhendry from

If you are like many dog owners, you are hesitant to trim your dog's toenails. You dread the inevitable fight with your dog and if you cut too deeply, you risk causing pain to the dog, which may result in an even more uncooperative dog the next time you attempt the task. You can train the dog to accept toenail trimming using repetition, patience and plenty of praise. You will have the most success with trimming your dog's toenails if you can condition your dog to view toenail trimming as a positive experience.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dog treats
  • Dog toenail clipper
  • Styptic powder

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  1. 1

    Lift the dog's paws and examine the toes daily, starting slowly and gradually working up to holding the dog's toes for 15 to 30 seconds and reward the dog with treats. If the dog attempts to nip or bite you, say "No" in a firm tone. You may also have an assistant practice restraining the dog by placing their arms around the dog's shoulder and neck. It may take up to a week or more for some dogs to tolerate having their toes held.

  2. 2

    Clip just one toenail and give the dog a treat if he behaves well. You can try trimming another toenail, but stop for the day when the dog becomes uncomfortable. You should gradually be able to trim a couple toenails at once, eventually working up to trimming all the toenails in one session.

  3. 3

    Examine the condition of the clipped nails for any areas that you may have cut too deeply. Cutting too far into the quick, or the blood vessel running through the middle of the toenail, is a major reason dogs dislike toenail trimming. If the toenail bleeds, sprinkle styptic powder on the toenail to stop the bleeding. To ensure that you do not cut too deeply, cut the toenail at a 45-degree angle below the quick, holding the cutting end of the nail clipper toward the end of the toenail.

Tips and warnings

  • It is better to trim a small amount off your dog's toenails once a week than to wait and try to trim a lot once a month. The quick runs down the middle of the toenail and the longer the toenail, the closer the quick will be to the edge of the toenail and will be more difficult to trim.
  • If the dog has dark toenails, it is more difficult to see the quick. You should cut dark toenails by trimming small slices off the toenail, stopping when you see the quick, which will appear as a black dot in the middle of the toenail when viewing it head on.
  • If the dog still does not allow toenail trimming after weeks of positive conditioning, you may need to take the dog to a veterinarian for trimming. He or she can sedate the dog while trimming.

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