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How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails Without Hurting Them? (Explained by Vet)


Does Cutting Dogs’ Nails Hurt Them

Cutting your dog’s nails is part of the grooming process. Besides regular brushing and bathing, you should regularly cut your dog’s nails. 

This process does not necessarily hurt dogs. But even small mistakes can cause trauma because nails are supplied with blood vessels. Also, tool damage can hurt the dogs as well. 

Stay with us and learn everything about cutting dogs’ nails!

Do Nail Clippers Hurt Them?

Nail clippers do not necessarily hurt dogs. Handling and using the nail clippers improperly can potentially harm your dog. But this occurs very rarely. 

If you lose attention for a second, you can accidentally cut your dog’s skin or cut a part of the nail with vessels. Lack of experience can also lead to trauma or hurt in your dog. 

Stressed and anxious dogs can also distract you during the nail cutting. If you get distracted by their behavior and lose attention, you might unintentionally hurt your dog. Also, using human tools might lead to cutting or hurting. That is why it is so important for owners to buy proper tools that are vet-approved and available for anyone. 

puppy getting his nails clipped

Tips to Avoid Hurting While Using Nail Clippers

Firstly, you need to be very patient while cutting your dog’s nails. Then, you need to calm your dog and provide a calm environment. 

As soon as you purchase the nail clipping tools, you should adapt your dog and normalize the tools. Try to do this as early as possible because at a young age they adapt to changes better.

Then, ask for advice from your vet and get vet-approved products for your pet. Even if you invest a bit more than expected in the product, believe us, it will pay off. 

How to Recognize When Your Dog Is In Pain? 

When dogs are in pain, they usually give some signs, and the most common are: 

7 Signals Your Dog is in Pain

If you hurt your dog, it will immediately start vocalizing in the form of groaning or grunting. You can also notice whining or whimpering. Then another common sign of dogs in pain is self–mutilation. This includes licking the painful areas of the body. 

Dogs in pain also have changes in their facial expressions in the form of a grimace. Some dogs even have a wide-eyed look and some might even show you their teeth, which might scare you indeed. 

If you improperly cut your dog’s nails expect abnormal postures. Hurt dogs have difficulties while standing up or walking. 

Close up of professional male groomer making haircut of poodle teacup dog at grooming salon with professional equipment

How to Deal With Aggressive Dogs? 

Dogs in pain might become overaggressive and that is expected from some dogs. If you are afraid that your dog might become aggressive during the nail-cutting process, ask for a service from a professional groomer. An even better option is visiting an animal behaviorist. Animal behaviorists help in dog training and building healthy habits for dogs. 

Slowly introduce the nail-cutting tools to your dog. You can let them sniff the tools and it is a great idea to offer them some treats. Let them play with the tools because playing and walking around the tools might normalize the whole process of nail cutting. 

Even if you try everything that we suggest, your dog might still become aggressive as soon as you start. In these cases, we advise you to stop the process and give your dog calming cuddles. 

Does a Dremel Hurt Less Than a Nail Clipper? 

If properly used, dremel can hurt less than nail clippers. Cutting nails with a dremel can be less stressful for the dogs because it is less invasive. You need to pay extra attention when you come with the dremel next to the grayish part of the nail. Otherwise, dremels are very safe and might hurt less than nail clippers. Also, your dog will have smoother nails and you will remove all the unnecessary nail fragments. 

But this is not always the case. Some dogs don’t enjoy dremel cutting because it is a very slow process and they might become bored and anxious. Be aware that dogs might be scared of the noise and vibration from the dremel. So, we advise you to leave them some time to adapt them to the tool.  

Grooming of dogs and small animals in the grooming salon. High quality photo

Pros of Dremels

Using dremels will definitely lead to a smoother finish meaning that the nails will have nicely rounded edges. This will prevent furniture damage, but more importantly, it will reduce the chances of painful nail cracking. Dremels have options for adjusting their intensity and speed, and this is extremely important because you will avoid pain and bleeding with it. 

Pros of filing dog nails

Cons of Dremels 

The most important drawback of dremels is the noise. Noise and vibrations scare our dogs, so you need to gradually implement this tool into your dog’s life. While using the dremel, it might heat and produce some smell that is not very appealing for our furry buddies. So, you need to take breaks and set the tool at a low setting. 

Cons of filing dog nails

How Do You Cut Dog Nails Without Hurting Them?

There are a few ways to cut your dogs’ nails without hurting them, but none of the options offer 100% protection. Safety during nail cutting depends on your skills and experience, as well as on your dog’s tolerance. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common options!


Ease of Use

Dremels are grinders with abrasive heads that help in nail grinding. These tools have many speed options and other adjustments. This is what separates dremels from other tools such as nail clippers. 


Nail File

Ease of Use

Nail files offer similar properties, but you will have to perform all of it manually. You need to adapt your speed and intensity during the filing process. 

Nail File Toys

Ease of Use

Nail file toys will help your dog to naturally file its nails while playing with the toy. Nail file toys help with their texture that varies from toy to toy. But usually, they are all abrasive and help in the natural grinding process. 

8 Steps to Safely Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Follow these steps to avoid hurting your dog while cutting its nails! 

Step 1: Purchase the supplies

Find the product that fits you and your dog the best and purchase it. In the beginning, you can experiment and purchase more tools so you can see which tool fits your dog the best. 


Step 2: Introduce the tools

As soon as you purchase the tools, introduce them to your dog. Sniffing or licking might help them adapt better. You can even let them play with the tools. 

Step 3: Include treats

Using Positive Reinforcement

Treats will help your dog get distracted. When you introduce the tools you can offer them treats, but you can also include treats during the whole process of cutting the nails. 


Step 4: Plan the process

Carefully plan every step because dogs can get annoyed if the cutting lasts very long. Before you start cutting, you need to inspect the dog’s paw and see what’s safe for cutting and what isn’t. 


Step 5: Provide a calm environment

To avoid stress, provide your dog with a calm and relaxed environment. Massaging your dog might help them individually a lot. Start massaging your dog from the head to the tail and do it with gentle and slow moves. Almost all dogs love massages and this will be a benefit for both of you. 


Step 6: Go into positions

Try to take a position where you both feel comfortable. This will help you avoid unnecessary injuries. When you get into position, inspect your dog’s paw one more time which will also help you to avoid injuries. 


Step 7: Take breaks

When to Seek Professional Help

Dogs cannot stand boring and long procedures, that is why we recommend you to take breaks. This will be a rest for both of you, and the rest sometimes means safe cutting. 


Step 8: Stay consistent

No matter the habit you are trying to learn with your dog, you must stay consistent. Consistency is the key! 

Final Words: Does Nail Cutting Lead to Pain in Dogs? 

In general, nail cutting is a very safe procedure, but it depends on your skills, experience, and the dog’s individual characteristics. There are some tools that will help you avoid hurting and pain in dogs, including nail filers, grinders or dremels, and nail file toys. However, you also must have some basic skills to use these tools. 

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Written by

Dr. Sandra
In addition to her current work as a veterinary student and researcher, Dr. Sandra Tashkovska brings six years of experience in writing to the table, making her a valuable addition to any team focused on animal welfare and related fields.
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