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How to Trim Dog Nails
Dog CareDog Grooming

How to Trim Dog Nails

One of the most dreadful things about being a dog owner is dog nail trimming. The majority of pet parents are often afraid of cutting the quick, which would result in bleeding. In this guide, we show you how you can safely trim your dog’s nails at home.

If you plan on cutting your dog’s nails, you must know the anatomy of your dog’s paws. Each paw has four toes with nails. The nail is made up of an outward hard shell, an internal shell, and the middle pink quick within the internal shell that contains the nerve supply and blood. Some dogs have dew claws on their ankles or wrists. It’s the outward shell that’s trimmed, so be careful not to cut the quick. 

Before you trim your dog’s nails, you must consider their weight, breed, the kind of ground they exercise on regularly, and the duration and amount of exercise. These considerations will help you determine how regularly you need to trim their nails.

How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails at Home

Since trimming dog nails can be dreadful, taking them to a professional trimmer may seem like a better option. The only downside to this is that it’s expensive. We show you how to cut your dog’s nails at no extra cost.

To make this process stress-free for your dog, you need to calm your dog and reassure them. You do this by spending a few days before the process by gently touching their feet and nails. You can also introduce the nail clippers by leaving them on the floor. Your dog will try to sniff and play around with it. This helps them to get accustomed to your touch so that by the time you cut their nails, they will be relaxed.

During the process, ensure that you do it slowly. While at it, praise your dog and give them treats. You must also be patient with your dog.

Do Dogs Need Their Nails Cut?

Cutting your dog’s nails is important for the following reasons:

  • To avoid breakage. Long nails can break and split which can be strenuous for the legs

  • Long nails can twine back inside the paw pad leading to infections or severe pain

  • Cutting dog nails reduces mobility and arthritis concerns in the future

  • Regular trimming eliminates irreversible damage to the toes and paws. Long nails can lead to deformed or splayed feet impacting the leg structure

You should check your dog’s nails every couple of weeks to ensure they aren’t overgrown. 

What Instruments You May Need

To cut dog nails, you need nail clippers or a nail grinder, and styptic powder or cornstarch. The powder will come in handy in case you cut the quick. The nail grinder is used to file the nails to smoothness. This helps with ensuring you don’t cut the quick.

Nail clippers come in three varieties:

  • Scissors-type clippers. As the name suggests, these clippers look like scissors but they have divots at the end of each blade. They are suitable for puppies and small dogs

  • Pliers-type clippers. They look almost similar to scissors but they have a spring instead. They are stronger and suitable for thick, large nails.

  • Guillotine-type clippers. They have a hole where you push the nail through. Once the nail is positioned correctly, squeeze the handle, and a blade from the bottom will rise to cut the nail.

Whether you choose to use clippers or grinders is a matter of personal preference.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

In this section, we answer the question of how to clip dog nails. The goal here is to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible for both your dog and you. 

The following steps will help you make this process smooth:

Your Dog’s Comfort

The more comfortable and relaxed your dog is, the smoother the process. Days before trimming, regularly touch the dog’s paws and nails for them to get familiar with the touch. If your dog is fine with it, praise them and give them a treat. 

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

Gently but firmly, pick up a paw and put your thumb on the pad of a toe. Ensure that your dog’s hair isn’t in the way. Push your thumb up and backward several times to extend the nail. Clip only the end of the nail. Don’t clip beyond the curve of the nail where the quick is located.

Grinding Your Dog’s Nails

Use dog-friendly nail grinders to grind the nails. Gently but firmly support the toe and grind only a small part of the nail at a time. Grind from the bottom to the top. Also, ensure there’s no hair while you are grinding to avoid it from getting caught with the grinder and causing pain.

Trimming the Dew Claws

Not all dogs have dew claws. If your dog has them, the process is the same as cutting the nails. However, ensure that you know where the quick is for the dew claw before cutting it. It can be impossible to tell the location of the quick if your dog’s dew claw is black. In this case,  you should trim from the top to avoid cutting the quick.

Also, note that the quick grows in length with the dew claw. It’s recommended that every time you trim dog nails, trim the dew claws too.

Trimming Black Nails

Cutting black nails is tricky because you can’t see the quick, so here is a guide. For black nails, start by trimming small parts of the nail at a time. After each trim, look at the dog's nail directly. If it looks whitish, keep trimming slowly. If you're about to get closer to the quick, the middle part of the nail will look black and a little pinkish before the quick. If you get to the middle black, stop.

Top Tips for Cutting Your Dog’s Nails

Cutting your dog’s nails isn’t a walk in the park, especially for first-time dog owners. But the process doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. Use the following top tips to help you smoothen the process:

  • Start the procedures when they’re young puppies. As they grow up, they will get accustomed to the procedures and relax.

  • Ensure your dog is comfortable.

  • Use dog-friendly tools. If you notice your dog is uncomfortable around a particular tool, switch to another one.

  • Cut carefully and slowly, one small cut at a time.

  • Your dog’s restlessness around trimming isn’t a sign of defiance. Nail trimming can be stressful for dogs.


Dog nail trimming isn’t one of the easiest grooming routines for the majority of pet parents. While you can take your dog to a professional groomer, you can safely do it at home. With the right tools, the process doesn’t have to be stressful. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cut black dog nails?

The trick with black nails is to cut small parts off at a time and keep on looking for the black color at the center. Once you spot the black, stop, as it’s close to the quick.

How short to cut dog nails?

When you cut your dog’s nails, don’t cut them too short. Dogs still need nails for traction. As you cut them, leave some room before you reach the quick.