How to Cut Chihuahua Nails: 3 Easy Methods + 11 Tips For Less Stress

Does your Chihuahua run away the second you pull out the nail clippers? 

If you just got a dog and you have no idea how to cut Chihuahua nails, it can be a little daunting. It might seem easier to pay a groomer to cut them instead.

However, if you want to save money, and save yourself from a potentially traumatizing trip to the groomer, this guide is for you!

With a little patience and practice, you too can become a pro trimming your Chihuahua’s nails from the comfort of your own home!

We wish we had this guide when we first got our Chihuahua, Leo, because he was terrified of getting his nails cut and now it doesn’t bother him.

After reading this post, you will be able to trim your Chihuahua’s nails like a champ!

A groomer wearing a blue shirt is cutting a long-haired Chihuahua's nails

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How to Cut Chihuahua Nails: 3 Different Methods

There are a few different ways that you can trim your Chihuahua’s nails. Finding which method works best for you and your pup may take some trial and error.

#1 Nail Clippers

how to cut chihuahua nails. A chihuahua is having his nails cut with orange clippers
Guillotine nail clippers

The first method is using nail clippers.

This is the most common way to trim your Chihuahua’s nails. 

Since Chihuahuas are small and don’t have super thick nails, there are 2 types of nail clippers you can use:

We found that the cat nail trimmers were less scary for our Chihuahua and were easier to use because they are quieter and more like scissors.

Remember that trimming Chihuahua nails is not an immediate process.

You must first condition your Chi that clippers = treats.

The positive association training might take days, or weeks before your pup is remotely comfortable having the clippers on the nails. 

Start off slow by having the clippers just in view, rewarding your pup along the way, before gradually getting it closer and closer to them.

Soon enough, you will be ready for the actual trimming.

Let’s dive into how to clip a Chihuahua’s nails!


  1. Find a comfortable spot and ask for your Chihuahua’s paw
  2. If you have a long-haired Chihuahua, trim any excess hair around the nails
  3. Examine the nail to find the quick (the pink part of the nail)
  4. Gently hold their paw while inserting 1-2mm of their nail into the clippers at a 45-degree angle
  5. Squeeze the handles together
  6. Inspect how close to the quick you are and determine if you need to clip another 1-2mm
  7. Give your Chihuahua a treat!
  8. If your Chihuahua isn’t showing signs of stress, move on to the next nail. Otherwise, take a break.

Pros: inexpensive, quiet, quick

Cons: risk of cutting too much of the nail off causing it to bleed, your Chi needs to stay very still, will need to replace nail trimmers once the blades are dull

#2 Grinder/Dremel

a dog is laying down having his back nail cut with a dremel

The second method is using a grinder or Dremel. This is a great alternative to nail clippers, especially if your dog absolutely hates having their nails clipped. 

A grinder or Dremel will grind down your Chihuahua’s nails instead of cutting them.

It’s a lot harder to hit the quick with a grinder, so this is a great option if you’re worried about cutting your Chihuahua’s nails too short.

The only downside to using a grinder is that it can be a little loud and scary for some dogs, but we will teach you how to get your Chihuahua used to the noise in a later section.

An identical level of positive association training applies here as well. 

We use this grinder to trim Leo’s nails and it works great!

Let’s go over how to trim a Chihuahua’s nails with a grinder or Dremel.


  1. Find a comfortable spot and put down a towel that will collect the nail dust
  2. Ask for your Chihuahua’s paw
  3. If you have a long-haired Chihuahua, trim any excess hair around the nails so it doesn’t get caught in the grinder
  4. Gently grip one nail with 2 fingers as you apply pressure to it with the grinder (gripping their nail will make sure it stays in place as you grind it down)
  5. Grind at a 45-degree angle for 1-3 seconds at a time (not any longer or else their nail will get too hot)
  6. Give your Chihuahua a treat
  7. If your Chihuahua isn’t showing signs of stress, move on to the next nail. Otherwise, take a break

Pros: super easy to use, very fast, doesn’t cut the nail too short

Cons: the loud noise can be scary, you need to keep it charged, it’s more expensive than clippers

#3 Scratchboard

The third and final method is using a scratchboard for dog nails.

A scratchboard is a piece of wood with sandpaper glued or taped to it.

You can buy a premade one or make your own. 

This is a great way to keep your Chihuahua’s nails short without manually trimming them.

This method takes all the fear out of nail trimming and makes it like a game for them.

The downside to using a scratchboard is the extended time it takes for the nails to be trimmed and the fact that the dewclaws will not be targeted.

Additionally, it will take some training to get your Chihuahua to use it, especially for the back paws.


  1. Place the scratchboard on the ground and call your Chihuahua over
  2. Reward your dog with treats for any interaction with the board – sniffing, walking on, or looking at the board
  3. Then place a treat on the board, cover it with a washcloth and hold it there
  4. Wait until your Chihuahua uses their paws to get at the treat
  5. When they paw at the washcloth, lift it so they can get the treat
  6. Repeat many times
  7. Now, repeat the process with the washcloth with the scratchboard at a 45-degree angle
  8. Once they have that down, get rid of the washcloth and start pointing at the board so they scratch it. Reward for every scratch

Pros: no clipping required, your Chihuahua will naturally file their nails down, stress-free activity

Cons: takes longer to see results, need to replace the scratchboard when it gets worn out, it’s hard to get the back nails

How Often to Trim Chihuahua Nails

a drawing of a dog paw with long nails and a nail showing where the quick is next to nail clippers

When to trim Chihuahua nails depends on the method you use. 

Chihuahuas require nail trimming about once a month if using nail clippers.

If you are using a grinder, you can trim more frequently like every 1-2 weeks since grinding does not shorten the nail as quickly as clipping Chihuahua nails.

If you’re unsure how long should Chihuahua nails be, there are a couple of ways to determine if they need to be trimmed:

1. If you can hear their nails clicking loudly on the ground when they walk, it’s time. 

2. If you can slide a sheet of printer paper underneath their nails, it’s not time yet. If you can’t, your Chihuahua’s nails are too long and they need a trim.

Examining your Chi’s paws weekly will allow you to monitor how quickly they grow and help your Chihuahua get used to having their paws touched regularly.

Chihuahua puppy nails don’t need to be cut until they are at least 12 weeks of age.

In the meantime, you can use an emery board or metal nail file to blunt their razor-sharp nails and get them accustomed to having their paws handled.

How Far to Cut Chihuahua Nails

a drawing of a dog nail with a dotted line where it should be cut and a green check mark

If you’re wondering how far to cut Chihuahua nails, you want to trim about 1-2mm at a time and stay 2mm away from the quick.

The quick is the blood vessel that runs inside the nail. It starts at the base of the nail and extends almost to the end of the nail.

If you cut into the quick, it will bleed and be painful for your Chihuahua.

To get an idea of how far to cut, hold the trimmers at a 45-degree angle to the nail and only trim the very tip of the nail.

If you are not sure how far to cut, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and trim less. You can always trim more if needed.

The Dangers of Long Nails

a chihuahua with long nails on top of a brightly colored rug

Trimming your Chihuahua’s nails is just as important as bathing them and cleaning their ears

If you don’t trim your Chihuahua’s nails, many issues can arise.

They can grow too long and start to curl under.

Since dogs walk on their toes, curled Chihuahua nails and long nails can be painful for them and make it difficult for them to walk and run.

Dangers of long nails:

  • Abnormal gait
  • Pain when walking
  • Split nails
  • Curled nails that pierce the paw pad, leading to infection
  • The quick becomes too long
  • Splayed or deformed feet
  • Nails that snag on things

Oops, I Cut the Quick! What Do I Do?

Accidents happen, especially if your Chihuahua is a squirmy worm.

If you do accidentally cut the quick, don’t panic!

It usually looks a lot worse than it actually is.

Always keep some styptic powder on hand.

Styptic powder contracts the blood vessels and will stop the bleeding quickly.

If it also has Benzocaine in it, like this Kwik-Stop powder, it will help reduce the pain as well.

If you don’t have any styptic powder, corn starch or flour can also be used.

Place a pinch of powder on a piece of gauze or paper towel and hold it to the nail for a few seconds.

If the bleeding has not stopped after 5 minutes, it’s time to go to the vet.

Help, My Dog Is Scared of the Grinder! How to Desensitize Them to the Noise

You will need to familiarize your dog with the sound of the grinder before even trying to grind a nail.

This noise can be very scary to dogs, so it’s crucial to take it slow. 

We did this process with our Chihuahua, Leo, and it took several weeks until he was fully comfortable with getting his nails trimmed with the grinder. 

It was so worth it though because now he is not scared, he stays still, and he even offers his paws to get trimmed when we ask!

This is a huge deal because he used to be absolutely terrified of nail trims and would scream like a banshee when we first used nail clippers.

To get started, you’ll need a bag of treats. Check out our post about the healthiest Chihuahua treats if you need help choosing one.


The best way to do this is to grab some treats and sit down on the floor with your dog. Set the grinder on the floor and let your dog sniff it and check it out. Reward with treats and praise. 

Next, with the grinder still on the floor, turn it on for a few seconds at a time with the cap still on. Reward with treats and praise while it’s on.

Once your dog is more comfortable with the sound, you can leave it on for more extended periods of time. 

Do this for about a week or until your dog is no longer scared of the sound. Only then should you move on.

Now, we will start putting the grinder near your dog’s paws.

With the grinder off, hold it close to their paw for a few seconds at a time. Also, ask for their paw and have them put it on the grinder.

Reward with treats and praise while it’s near their paw.

Do this for a few days so your dog gets used to this new object being near their paws.

Take it to the next level by turning the grinder on and putting it near their paw.

Ask for them to put their paw on the grinder while it’s on. This step will also take a few days.

Now, your dog should be used to the grinder noise and you are ready to actually grind the nail!

11 Tips to Make Nail Trims Less Stressful

a chihuahua is sitting on a person's lap and getting their nails trimmed

Nail trims don’t have to be a stressful and traumatic event for either you or your Chihuahua! Here are some tips to make nail trims less stressful.

  1. Start touching and trimming your dog’s nails when they’re a puppy to get them used to having their paws handled
  2. Use a grinder or scratchboard– these are less scary than clippers and it’s less likely the quick will get cut
  3. Cut their nails after a walk when they are calmer
  4. Put some peanut butter or yogurt on a lickmat to keep your dog distracted
  5. Reward with treats more frequently. We give our Chihuahua a tiny treat after we trim every nail. You can even give them one of these healthy chews to help them decompress after.
  6. Invest in high-value treats to really drive home the wow factor for them
  7. Don’t do all their nails in one go. Take several breaks or do one paw each day so your dog doesn’t get overwhelmed and too stressed out
  8. Don’t punish or yell at your dog during nail trimmings, this will just make things more tense
  9. Touch the nail clippers or grinder to your dog’s nails every day without doing any trimming to desensitize them 
  10. Give CBD oil, calming chews, or Rescue Remedy before nail trims to calm your dog
  11. Try wrapping your Chihuahua like a burrito with a towel. This will help calm them like a swaddle and keep them from wriggling too much


Cutting Chihuahua nails can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be!

With a little patience and training, you can do it at home with no problem.

Choose one of the 3 methods above and get started. If your Chihuahua is too scared or uncooperative, then you can try another method. 

The key is to be patient with your Chihuahua because nail trimming is not fun for them.

But by using our tips, you can make it a much less stressful experience for both you and your dog.


Can I Use Human Nail Clippers on My Chihuahua?

No, you should not use human nail clippers on your Chihuahua. 

The nails of humans and dogs are very different. Human nails are flat and thin whereas dog nails are round and thick. 

Human nail clippers will compress their nails too much, causing pain and possible splintering.

Where Is the Quick on Black Dog Nails?

It’s difficult to see where the quick is on black dog nails. You can take a penlight and shine it at the nail to help you see where the quick is.

The best way to avoid hitting the quick is to take your time and go slowly. Only trim 1-2mm of nail off at a time. A great solution is to use a nail grinder which is less likely to hit the quick.

Does Walking Your Dog Trim Their Nails?

Walking and running on hard surfaces like concrete can help file nails a little bit, but it’s not sufficient and it will also not help with trimming their dewclaws. 

Since Chihuahuas love to run around, this might help increase the time between trimmings, but you will still need to trim their nails on a regular basis.

You can use nail clippers, a grinder, or a scratch board to keep your Chihuahua’s nails properly trimmed.

Is It Better to Trim or Grind Dog Nails?

This is a matter of personal preference. Trimming with nail clippers or grinding both have their pros and cons.

Nail clipping is generally quicker, but it’s easy to accidentally cut the quick, and your dog needs to hold very still. 

Grinding takes longer, but it’s much harder to accidentally hit the quick. It’s a great option if your dog is scared of nail clippers, but you need to be careful not to overheat the nails. 

If you’re not sure which method to use, give both a try. The best nail clippers for Chihuahuas are the ones that your dog actually lets you use!

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