Reducing the length of your dog’s nails is important in keeping your dog’s nails short and smooth. Most times, dogs are anxious, fearful or even aggressive when their nails are trimmed. The nails, excluding the dewclaw, can be shortened naturally when your dog walks on hard and rough pavements but may result in the nails having a jagged tip. This may cause accidental injuries when jumping or scratching.

It is hence highly recommended to file your dog’s nails, which can be done frequently, wearing the nails to the desired length over time. An advantage over nail trimming would be that it is pain-free for both dark-coloured or light-coloured nails.

Understanding the behaviour

There are some reasons why your dog refuses to get his nails trimmed or filed.

  1. Your dog is sensitive to his paws being touched. Often, your dog may show touch sensitivity to other areas of his body and is especially so due to the sounds or vibrations that may provide discomfort.

  2. Your dog may be traumatized from similar situations in the past. Nail trimming by a vet or pet groomer is often forced, which makes your dog hate or protective of shortening his nails. Your dog relates nail filing with a negative outcome and being trapped by physical restraint will further aggravate the situation.

  3. There has been a mistake of trimming the nail quick, containing both blood vessels and nerve which can cause bleeding and pain respectively if the nail is trimmed too short.

Dog nail clippers VS Dog nail filers

Dog nail clippers


  • Economical- easily available at physical and online stores, one can purchase dog nail clippers for very low prices these days.

  • Quick as only a snipping action is required.

  • Does not require electricity or batteries.

  • Quiet- an advantage for dogs fearful or reactive to the noise of nail filers.


  • You may need to restraint your dog to prevent sudden flinching when trimming the nails.

  • There is the possibility of accidentally trimming the quick because of dark-coloured nails or inexperience.

  • Dogs that have very long nails will probably have a longer quick. This means that trimming the nail quickly will result in cutting the quick, potentially causing a lack of trust of your dog in you.

  • Nail trimming pinches your dog’s quick, causing great discomfort even before trimming the nails. Some dogs do not take to this too well.

Dog nail filers


  • Suitable for dogs fearful of their nails being trimmed or have dark-coloured nails. Filing is less evasive as it allows you to shorten the nails gradually.

  • Sustainable as you can file your dog’s nails daily, shortening the nail length progressively.

  • Ensures smooth and rounded nails, rather than the sharp edges left by using nail clippers.

  • Suitable for thick nails that are difficult to clip.


  • Some dogs are afraid of the sounds emitted by the nail filers

  • Dust will be produced in the nail filing process.

Steps to train your dog to accept a muzzle

Preparing your dog for nail filing

  1. Get your dog use to being touched, including grasping the digits to stabilize the nail. 

  2. Touch each nail with the nail file when switched off. 

  3. If your dog is fearful of the nail filer, get your dog comfortable with having his paw near the nail filer. This can be done by asking for a handshake with the nail filer in your hand or placing it close to the feeding bowl when your dog is eating. 

  4. Begin introducing the sounds of the nail filer by switching it on in the afternoon whereby your dog is more likely to take a nap, prioritising napping over being potentially anxious.

Filing your dog’s nails

  1. Start with the back paws which are commonly less sensitive. 

  2. Grasp the nail to be filed with moderate pressure. 

  3. Briefly tap the grinding surface on the nail and reward.

  4. Slowly increase the pressure applied and duration of the grinder in contact with the nail, as long as your dog is comfortable with the increased duration. Only reward calm behaviour through the use of verbal praise, massage or treats.

Always keep in mind that this training requires patience. Only carry out this exercise when you have a period of time without any commitments and schedule. Making sure that the process is not rushed allows your dog to be comfortable with nail filing.