How to Hold a Nervous Dog to Clip Their Nails

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Use the least amount of force necessary to restrain a nervous dog.
Use the least amount of force necessary to restrain a nervous dog. (Image: wolf eyes image by Paula Gent from Fotolia.com)

Some dogs fear getting their nails clipped. This can be a frustrating and fearful situation for owners, who may fear for their own safety or the safety and well-being of their pet. Controlling a nervous dog for the purpose of clipping his nails is relatively simple in theory, but tough in practice. It is a good idea to practice restraint techniques during a time when his nails don't need to be clipped to familiarize him with the procedure, leading to a decrease in anxiety.

Method One

Place your dog on a table or raised surface. This ensures you have leverage over the dog and do not have to stoop or bend to hold her.

Position yourself on the side of the table opposite from the nails you are trimming.

Command your dog to lay down. Wrap your arms and upper body over the dog.

Apply a minimal amount of pressure with your forearm to the top of the dog's neck. This keeps the dog's head down as you trim his nails.

Hold the paw in your non-dominant hand and the clipper in your dominant hand as you work. If the dog attempts to stand up, use the leverage afforded by your upper body to keep her stationary.

Method Two

Position your dog on a table so that you do not have to stoop or bend to restrain him.

Lay the dog on the table. Position the dog on its side, so that the nail you are clipping is toward the top.

Drape your upper body over the dog, using it for leverage to keep the dog laying on its side.

Apply a minimal amount of pressure to the dog's neck with your forearm. This keeps the dog's head from twisting around to yelp, bite or panic.

Hold the trimmer in the hand of the arm you are using to hold the dog's head in place. Hold the paw with your other hand.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not be afraid to enlist the help of a friend to restrain your dog as you clip her nails, or vice versa, particularly if you are unable to keep the dog from panicking.
  • Use the least amount of force necessary to restrain the dog. If you feel you cannot adequately restrain the dog without causing harm, seek the help of a dog groomer or veterinary professional.
  • Don't get discouraged if you can only clip one or two nails at a time. The process of easing the fear of a nervous dog takes time.

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