How To Restrain A Dog To Clip Its Nails

Clipping Your Dog’s Nails Is Necessary

Domesticated dogs’ nails aren’t worn down enough to keep up with their growth, so they grow too long unless clipped.

If left to get too long, your dog’s nails could break, splinter, or chip and this can be very painful. Ask your vet office to clip your dog’s nails until you can safely do it at home.

Is Restraint Always Necessary To Clip A Dog’s Nails?

No. It may be perfectly fine clipping your dog’s nails without restraint and using a treat-based reward system if your dog is comfortable with the procedure, has a calm disposition, and can easily be distracted.

Also, if you have a friend to help you then restraint may not be necessary, even if your dog is not that fond of the procedure.

Restraining a dog to clip its nails may cause your dog to become more anxious about nail clipping, so it’s only an option if it’s necessary. If you do have to restrain your dog, work your way towards clipping your dog’s nails without restraint.

Restraint may be necessary if your dog displays fear aggression when you want to clip his or her nails.

If this is the case, it’s vital to ensure you restrain correctly, and in a manner that does not, in any way whatsoever, hurt your dog.

Some dogs need to be sedated to cut their nails.

Securing your dog may be advisable if the dog is hurt or at the vet.

Preparing To Restrain Your Dog For Nail Clipping

If you don’t know how to clip your dogs’ nails, learn how to before you try to do it.
Have another set of hands available if this is possible.

This assistant should be someone your dog knows and trusts.
If your dog is fearful, work on desensitizing your dog to having their nails cut.

If your dog is aggressive and muzzle trained, muzzle your dog before starting. If your dog is not muzzle trained, you could start getting him or her muzzle trained for nail clipping.

Bring treats, chews, or canned food to reward good behavior.
If your dog starts getting stressed during the process, stop the process.
Always keep a blood stop product nearby.

Even the most experienced groomers can make mistakes (See: How to Stop a Dog’s Nail from Bleeding).
Try to trim your dog’s nails when they are tired.

Methods Of Restraining Your Dog For Nail Clipping

Your dog’s size and strength will determine which method works best for you and your dog.
Some dogs will require desensitization to being restrained.

There are three methods that are recommended (see Whatever method you use, praise your dog during the process in a calm, confident manner.

Have treats ready for successful completion of the task.

The Burrito Method

The Burrito method works well for small or small to medium-sized dogs and if you are clipping your dog’s nails alone.

You need:

  • Nail clipping tools
  • A large towel or lightweight blanket that’s big enough to wrap around your dog tightly. Don’t use a blanket or towel that is too thick as you won’t get a good fit.


  1. Depending on the size of your dog and preference, place the towel or blanket on the ground, or on your lap.
  2. Get your dog to lie on his or her back or side on the towel or blanket.
  3. Wrap the towel or blanket around your dog so that only his or her front paws and head are sticking out of the top. To keep the wrap in place, tuck the end of the blanket or towel under your dog.
  4. Clip your dog’s nails, starting with the front paws.
  5. Unravel the bottom of the wrapping to trim your dog’s hind paws.
    Side Restraint Method
    This method works well for larger dogs that cannot use the Burrito Method.
    This restraint can be a bit more uncomfortable for your dog but is not painful. If your dog is aggressive be sure to securely muzzle your dog first.
    The side restraint method works best with two people but can be managed with just one person. Working alone, you’ll only be holding one to two paws at a time.
    You need:
    Nail clipping tools
  6. Ask your dog to lie down on his or her side, with legs pointing away from you. If you’re working alone, put your nail clipping tools between your dog’s front and back legs.
  7. Gently but firmly rest your forearm, just before the elbow, along your dog’s neck at the base of the head. Use just enough pressure so your dog cannot lift his or her head, but not so much pressure that you’re hurting or choking your dog
  8. With the arm that is resting on your dog’s neck, take both of the front paws. Clip your dog’s nails.
  9. With your other arm, rest your forearm just before the elbow over their hips to prevent your dog rolling over.
  10. Using the arm that is holding the hips, take your dog’s hind legs. Clip your dog’s nails. and clip the nails.

Grooming Hammock Method

A grooming hammock will work for dogs that are small to medium in size.
There are larger grooming hammocks available for bigger breeds, but you definitely need two people to get them hooked in.

You need:

  • Nail Clipping Tools
  • Hammock Kit
  • Grooming Table with Secure Arm


  1. Set up the grooming table with the arm in place.
  2. Lay the hammock out on the table in such a way you’ll be able to place your dog’s feet into the holes.
  3. Get your dog standing on the hammock.
  4. Put each of your dog’s feet in the holes.
  5. Lift the fabric so it’s like a vest surrounding your dog.
  6. Gather all four tabs of the hammock in one hand.
  7. Lift your dog to connect the hammock to the grooming arm. When lifting your dog in the hammock, you want to ensure that your dog’s feet can’t touch the table. A couple of inches of lift is best.
  8. Clip your dog’s nails.


Restraining your dog when clipping your dog’s nails should not be the first choice. It’s only an option if your dog really doesn’t like nail clipping, could become aggressive during the process and you don’t feel you can cope otherwise. Aim to work towards not having to use a restraint.

If you need to restrain your dog, be sure you take proper precautions to ensure your dog’s safety and your own.
Restraining your dog can be made into a positive training experience with the proper tone and treats.
If you are unsure how to confidently and safely restrain your dog, ask a groomer or vet to demonstrate.

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