How to Use a Dog Nail File with Scared Dog In 7 Steps

Dog nail file: dog sitting

A dog nail file is a tool that files your dog’s nails. It is a very time consuming but has advantages that make it an alternative to dog nail clippers.

First, let’s see the comparison between dog nail clippers and dog nail file before going to how to use a dog nail file.

Dog nail clippers vs. Dog nail file

Nail clippers

Dog nail file: Dog clippers
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They are found in two varieties. They are scissor clippers, guillotine clippers. For grinding dog’s nails, there are the grinder tools. Here’s your guide on Dog Separation Anxiety, Find Out How Serious It Is!

  • Scissor clippers work like scissors and are best for large dogs who have bigger and thicker dog nails that need this type of clipper.
  • Guillotine clippers work like a guillotine. By simply sticking the end of your dog’s nail in the hole and then squeeze. As a result, a blade lowers from the clipper and slices the end of the dog nail. Check those 3 Anxiety Dog Training Podcasts to Follow when needed

The advantages of dog nail clippers are that it is a quick process and doesn’t require electricity or battery to work.

While their disadvantages are that they can cut the quick of your dog’s nail and will result in pain if it squeezes your dog’s quick. It is a quick and quiet process. Need More Help? Check The Best Dog Grooming Shears You Can Get in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Nail file

A dog nail file also comes in two varieties. They are straight and U-shaped dog nail file. The U-shaped is best for your dog’s shape of the nail. However, you can still use the straight one. Get to know more about The Best Dog Grooming Shears You Can Get in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

The advantage of dog nail file are that it doesn’t cause your dog panic and stress like clippers and they don’t injure the quick like clippers do.

The disadvantage is that it is time-consuming requiring more and longer sessions. Check more about How to Groom a Dog from A to Z?

7 steps on how to file dog nails

1.) Get a hard file

Get a hard file such as a hard metal, ceramic, or glass nail file. Metal nail files are much stronger than emery board nail files. Read, How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth in 7 Natural Ways

Also, specialized nail files are available in pet supply stores that are appropriate for filing your dog’s nails. More on, How Often to Brush Dogs Teeth: What to Do

2.) Hold your dog’s paws

dog nail file
Credited”: Your pet space

Get your dog used to having their paws touched. By doing so, you ensure that they aren’t afraid of paw handling.

Hold your dog’s paw firmly with your non-dominant hand and check the paws and paw pads for debris, ticks, and signs of injury. Then, remove the debris and dirt and tend to the wound. Here are 4 Simple Ways to Clean Dog Hair Up

3.) Trim hair

Also, Trim excess hair from between toes so it doesn’t get tangled while nails are filed. 17 Summer Safety Tips for Dogs

4.) Access the paws

Let your dog sit or stand while you pick up each paw for nail filing. You can also have your dog lay on their back so you can access their paws. You may need an assistant to hold your dog too.

5.) Separate your dog’s toes

Gently use your fingers to spread your dog’s toes from each other. This is done so that you can hold each nail effectively.

6.) File your dog’s nails

File each dog nail with a manual file. Rub the tip of the nail with the file. Make about 10 to 15 passes in the same direction so you file the nail bit by bit.

Make sure that the affected area does not become overheated from friction. Also, don’t file into the quick so it doesn’t become injured.

Give your dog treats for doing such a good job. You should aim to file your dog’s nails until the nails are even with your dog’s paw pads when your dog is standing on the ground.

For proper dog nails length, you wouldn’t hear the nail tapping while your dog is walking.

There is a very unlikely possibility that you will injure the quick with a manual file. However, you should stop filing when you see a grayish oval while filing.

Even though the process is time-consuming, it is better for your dog when they are afraid of clippers and Dremel tools.

7.) Make small nail filing sessions

You got to work on 1 to 2 nails per filling session. It will take multiple sessions to finish 1 paw. Give your dog breaks so they don’t become stressed.

Dogs usually like nail files better than clippers and grinders because it is much easier for dogs; they don’t panic.

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Tips for filing your dog’s nails

  • File your dog’s nails regularly so they are short and wouldn’t take a lot of time to file.
  • File carefully so you don’t cut the quick by accident. It rarely happens but you have to be careful.
  • Have styptic powder just in case your dog quick is injured.
  • Make sessions short and fun.
  • Offer a comfortable place for your dog to relax in while filing their nails such as the floor.

Natural ways to file nails

Dog nail file: dog walking

The easiest way is for nails to be filed naturally. This happens when your dog walks through rough surfaces that make their nails short. These surfaces include concrete and any rough surface.

  • Agility practice: This contact is like sandpaper and great for filing dog nails.
  • Jogging on a hard surface: Exercise your dog and make them wear down their nails at the same time.
  • Daily walks: Make sure that your dog walks on rough surfaces.
  • Treadmill: This is another way to wear down those nails and get exercise.
  • If you have a digger, then give them a place to dig that has hard material in it so that your dog will. Reward them for digging there.

Different ways other than using dog nail file

Dog nail file
Credited: rover-time

1.) Nail trim mats

Nail trim mat is a doormat with an emery board surface. It works by filing your dog’s nails every time they walk on the mat.

2.) Scratchboard

You can either build your own dog’s scratchboard using sandpaper or you can buy one. The choice depends on your preference.

How to train your dog to nail file using a scratchboard

  • Place the scratchboard at a 45 degrees angle to the ground. By putting on board at this angle, your dog will file the bottom part of the nail, then the middle, and finally the top of the nail.
  • Bring your dog to the room, close the door, and sit on the floor. Also, don’t forget to bring treats for your dog. Put the scratchboard on the floor. When your dog finds it on the floor, they will be curious and will understand that it means “let’s scratch at the board”.
  • When your dog touches the scratchboard with their paw or walks toward it, click and offer them a treat. 
  • Practice 5 to 10 minutes and then end the training session. Here’s your Puppy Teething Timeline: When Do Dogs Lose Their Baby Teeth?


The use of a dog nail file is best used in situations that it offers its benefits such as a dog who is scared of getting their nails clipped.

Other uses include wanting to soften and smoothen your dog’s nails. There are other nail filing techniques used to file your dog’s nails.

To know more information about clipping dog’s nails when they are scared, check Top Methods on How to Clip Dog Nails when Dog is Scared of Tools.

Share with us your experience. Did you file your dog’s nails? And how did it go?

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Welcome to my bio everyone, my name is Nada. Ever since I was little, I have loved animals because they are so loving and kind. All they need is you attention, love, and care but I didn't understand them very well because I didn't get the chance to raise them. Well, That changed when my family and I got our first dog Rocky, a German Shepherd. Rocky was fun and loving with funny quirks. Being loyal and protective of us, he made me see the nature of a German Shepherd. Now, we have another German Shepherd named Mia. She is a wonderful dog and a rescue who just needed a second chance in life. Mia has long grown from being a terrified dog to the brave and caring German Shepherd that she is today. P.S: Here is a picture of our beautiful German Shepherd, Mia.

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