How to Safely Restrain a Dog to Clip Its Nails

Dog getting nails trimmed

Clipping your dog’s nails is a necessary task, but it can be extremely frustrating. A lot of people choose to take their dog to a professional groomer or veterinarian rather than try to tackle this task on their own. However, unless your pet gets aggressive when it’s time to groom them, you can safely and effectively trim their nails yourself without having to pay a professional.

For those pet parents who are looking for the best way to trim a dog’s nails safely while you’re at home, you’re in the right spot. We’ll go over how to restrain a dog to clip its nails, and we’ll give you a few possibilities so you can try them out and see which one works best for you.

Three Ways to Safely Restrain Your Dog’s to Cut Their Nails

Since trimming your dog’s nails can be a challenge, and each dog is different, you may have to try a few different ways to restrain your dog until you find the one that works best. The following three are the most popular methods, and they can work for any sized dog.

Restraint Option One – Side

This is a lateral restraint that is useful for dogs who won’t or can’t sit still while you groom them, and trimming a puppy’s nails is a very good example. Before your dog gets used to going through the process, your dog can display fearful behavior when you go to clip their nails like shifting around, growling, snapping, or raising the hair on the back of their neck.

To negate this, you can get a soft blanket or towel and wrap it around your dog’s body to help calm them down. This does work better with small or medium-sized breeds because you do have to manhandle them a little to get them in to correct position, and this can be challenging for a single person with a bigger dog.

Start by putting your dog on its side to make it more difficult for the dog to get up and run away from you while you trim, and it also gives you easier access to their nails. Stand behind your dog and lay the arm that is closest to your dog’s head over their neck, and grab the bottom portion of their front leg.

Put your other arm over your dog’s back in front of their hips and gently grab the bottom paw. You should be able to get both paws in one hand, and you want to separate your dog’s paws by putting one finger between them.

Placing one finger between your dog’s paws helps to reduce the chances of you getting scratched when you clip the nails if your dog decides to squirm around. You can do this method with a larger dog too, but you may need help getting them on their side if they don’t want to lay down.

  • Tip – Using a blanket or towel is a good way to move an aggressive, small dog because it gives you more control. This works especially well if you put the towel or blanket over the dog’s head.

Restraint Option Two – Single or Dual Person

You want to be next to your dog with your chest pressing right against your dog’s upper body for this restraint. Wrap one arm around your dog’s neck to help keep their head under control if they decide to snap or bite. Even a very docile dog that never shows signs of aggression has limits, and they can become aggressive if they’re afraid or something hurts.

If you have two people and one person is going to trim the dog’s nails while you hold them, you’ll put your other hand underneath the dog to grip around their stomach right in front of your dog’s hips. You can also hold your dog under their armpits because this gives you control of your dog’s movements to hold them still without injuring them.

If you’re going to trim the nails on your own, the hand that you loop around your dog’s neck will be the same that you use to hold up your dog’s paw to trim. The tool you use will be in your free hand, and it could be a guillotine clipper, scissors clipper, file, Dremel, or a grinder.

The goal is to go slow and take off a little at a time when you trim your dog’s nails. If you cut the nails too short, it’s easy to injure the dog by clipping the small blood vessel in the claws and making them bleed. This is also where you can get bit.

Restraint Option Three – Grooming Hammock

A grooming hammock, harness, or sling is a safe and effective way to trim your dog’s nails when you’re by yourself. These harnesses allow you to stay safely out of your dog’s bite zone while you’re trimming, and this is generally safer for both you and your pet. You might want to consider a muzzle if your dog is acting too aggressively.

You’ll keep both hands free with this method, and this allows you to work much quicker to help minimize the stress on the dog and your frustration levels. If you have a bad back, a grooming harness or sling can make the entire process much easier because it works to hold your dog still.

Set up the grooming harness on a stable surface and place your dog inside according to the instructions. The fleece material of the grooming harness is comfortable enough for your dog to stand in, but it’s also a gentle way to limit your dog’s mobility while not straining your dog’s hips and armpits.

Each of your dog’s legs should go into separate holes, and you simply lift the harness points up and connect them to the movable arm. Get out your trimmer and go to work cutting your dog’s nails one paw at a time, and go slow enough that you cut small portions off without getting too deep into the nail.

How to Make Trimming Your Dog’s Nails Easier

There are a few things you can do to make this entire process easier on your dog. However, you should keep in mind that some dogs simply won’t like this process no matter what you do, but you can try these tips to see if they work.

Tip One – Positive Reinforcement

Dogs generally respond to positive reinforcement when you’re trying to teach them something or get them used to something new, so trimming their nails shouldn’t be any different. Bring chews, treats, or canned foods, and reward your dog for standing still and allowing you to trim their nails.

Tip Two – Start Early

You want to introduce the nail clippers or nail grinder you need to trim your dog’s nails very early because this can help reduce their fears when it comes to getting their nails trimmed. Start trimming your dog’s nails when they’re puppies and make it a positive and rewarding experience, so you don’t have to fight them later as they get bigger.

Tip Three – Trim Routinely

Generally speaking, you’ll want to trim your dog’s nails every month or two, depending on the breed. It’s time to trim your dog’s nails when you can hear them clicking across the floor when they walk. Know that some dog breeds will need more frequent clipping because their nails grow faster.

Tip Four – Go Slow

The goal of cutting your dog’s nails is to go slowly and remove the nail in small pieces, especially if you’re going to use a guillotine or scissor-style clipper. This reduces the chances of accidentally cutting into the quick in your dog’s nails, and this can cause discomfort and bleeding. Light-colored nails allow you to see the quick, but you can’t see it in dark nails.

Bottom Line

Now you know how to restrain a dog to clip its nails with a few different techniques, and you can easily try these on your dog to see which one works best. You do want to go slow, take your time, and ease your dog into it to make the entire process easier and reduce the chances of an injury to the dog or a bite to you. However, it should get easier the more you do it.