How to Trim Dog Nails without Clippers

Filing a dogs nails

As I sit on my porch this morning sipping my coffee I remembered that I needed to trim my dog’s nails. I always hate this because he gets so uncomfortable and he always seems to know when I’m about to tackle those little toenails of his.

I have found filing doesn’t seem to stress him out as much but takes a while to accomplish. As soon as he sees the nail clippers (you know the type with the round hole in the middle where you put the nail in) he runs for the hills, well in this case anyways the other room. So I’m going to be searching for a more comfortable way for performing this task that all my animals seem to really hate. 

How to Trim Dog Nails without Clippers

Large tan dog getting its nails filed by women in yoga clothes sitting on floor

What is the best way? What is the safest and easiest? The normal clippers squeeze their nails as they cut which is where the uncomfortable part comes in for my puppers (and my kitties). 

Noisy options seem to scare the heck out of him I tried the rotary tool route and in fact got a few scars myself from that when it slipped out of my hand…I have discovered they do make a battery operated nail file for animals but if you don’t use that from the get-go and they’re not familiar with that they’re going to be very nervous and pull away. I will show you several alternatives to the standard clippers so that you can trim your dog’s nails without clippers.

Option 1: Filing Dog nails instead of Clipping

As I stated before, this method is by far the least stressful I have found for my animals.  I usually do it by hand with an emery board, but it can take a good amount of time to use this method though it does work very well.  I usually start at nail bottom nearer the tip and do it in a curved motion coming around and upward in a 45 degree arch.

You can also try a scratch board invented by these genius people, it just takes a little training and patience on your part!

Option 2: Cut Dog Nails with Scissors

 I have been asked if this is something that should be done…my answer is simple…no. Unless your dog has thin nails or you can see the quick very clearly cutting your dog’s nails with scissors would not be a good way to go especially for a bigger dog.

It can squeeze the nail bed even more than the clippers designed for this and shred their nails, making it a more traumatic and painful experience…talking from experience when attempting other options for my little one. 

Options 3: Cut Dog Nails with Human Clippers

The only time it would be recommended to do this is when the dog is a puppy with their tiny sharp tips (but only until a certain age) or if you have a tea-cup or miniature dog breed. 

You can make your puppers experience a positive one as you work with them daily, touching their paws without clipping to get them used to being handled. 

Start by taking off a little at a time until your pet is more comfortable with the process as are you. Always give your pet words of encouragement and rewards. 

Thanks to Dr. Becker from MercolaHealthyPet for great advice and ideas for nervous pets.

Something I have always practiced is rewards. Positive rewards are always a good idea, treats after a nail trim have always helped my pup.  And most pets are food motivated! 

If you accidentally cut the quick, don’t stress. I always have styptic powder on hand.  You can purchase this at many pet food shops or if you find you have run out you can also use cornstarch..  

You can find more related information here: 

Every pup is different and will react differently to the various nail trimming techniques so it is wise to see what works for your individual pup. 

All the information here is for educational purposes, I am not a veterinarian so if you have questions please ask your vet. 

The Bottom Line On Trimming Dogs Nails Without Clippers

Hand filing with a traditional emery board or using a scratch board are by far the best options for trimming your dog’s nails without clippers. Grinders can also work, but you need to acclimate your dog early on to these. Never use scissors and only use human clippers on small puppies who have tiny nails.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.