How to Trim a Dog’s Nails

Maintaining your dog’s health extends beyond their vaccinations and annual checkups. Trimming your dog’s nails before they get too long is an integral part of their overall well-being. Some dogs tend to wear down their nails naturally, but others cannot (especially if they stay indoors).We’ve put together a guide on how to safely and effectively trim your trusted companion’s nails.

Why Is It Important to Trim Your Dog’s Nails?

Although it might not seem like such a big deal, you mustn’t overlook your dog’s mani-pedi. Nails that go untreated and unclipped will grow beyond the nail bed and become uncomfortable for your dog. The pain can make them less active and lead to severe infections if left untreated.

Dogs spend half their life on their paws when you think about it. They need to walk on rocks, concrete and rougher surfaces that wear away at the nails. When their nails are too long, they also put pressure on joints, which could lead to arthritis or other diseases affecting your dog’s movement.

What Materials Do You Need for Dog Nail Trimming?

Trimming your dog’s nails doesn’t take much. All you need is a good pair of clippers and some styptic powder (if you cut the quick- also known as blood vessels and nerves, which will bleed). Styptic powder is readily available at almost all pet stores or online.

When it comes to clippers, there are many different types available, including:

Traditional trimmers

These all-purpose trimmers are suitable for most dogs. They typically have two blades made out of stainless steel. Some come with a safety guard to prevent you from cutting too far down, which can lead to bleeding and pain for your dog.


Grinders work by rotating small filing disks that wear away at the nails until they’re the correct size. These are best for nails that need to be filed down and softened before you clip, as they tend to leave a smooth edge on the nail that’s easier to trim.


This style is similar to traditional trimmers, but instead of sharp blades, these trimmers use a blade enclosed inside a protective device and are activated by squeezing the handles together. Guillotine clippers can cut nails quickly and with very little pressure, which might be preferable for some dogs.

Safety scissor trimmers

These are small, curved scissor-like clippers that allow you to trim your dog’s nails without ever having to come in contact with the nails themselves. Scissors-style trimmers are usually recommended for more nervous dogs or those with particularly brittle nails.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Even if you’re using the best dog nail trimming technique, it can be somewhat challenging to trim your pup’s nails for the first time. Luckily there are a few tips that will make your first experience more manageable and less stressful for everyone involved:

Have your dog relax

Coaxing your pet into a pleasant, calm state of mind is the key to their cooperation during this procedure. Condition them to love having their paws handled by playing games like “give paw” or offering treats when you touch specific paws. You can also place positive reinforcement on the calm behavior you see, such as petting or treats.

Your pup will also be oblivious to what nail trimmers even are if you have never used them before. Introducing the sound and feel of a nail grinder or clipper can be scary to some dogs, but this stage is easy to get over if your pup is adequately conditioned beforehand.

Pick the paw up firmly,

But not too firmly. Your dog’s paw should feel like a friendly handshake. You don’t want to hold it too tightly, or they’ll notice and become nervous. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position so you can easily maneuver around their paws without having to bend down too far.

Push your thumb into the top pad at a 45-degree angle away from you to see where the quick ends. If your dog’s nails are white, this will be easy to spot as it will look pinkish.

Trim the nail in one quick motion.

Now’s the “fun” part. If you go too slowly, your dog’s nail can break, which is why it’s essential to be quick but also accurate. Some dogs may struggle with this part of the process, so ensure they’re properly restrained and in a safe position before clipping even one nail.

Pull back your dog’s paw and use one hand to hold the clippers in place, then carefully clip just a little off the tip. Be careful not to cut into this quickly and avoid going too far down, or you risk cutting into live tissue that will bleed and hurt your pet.

Grind nails as needed

If you know your dog is nervous about the nail trimming process, or if you cut into the quick accidentally, consider using a grinder to smooth down and file away sharp edges. This will also help your pup get used to the feeling of having their nails trimmed without stressing them out over nail clippers.

What To Do If You Cut The Quick

The quick is the pink, fleshy part of your dog’s nail that extends into the nail itself. If you do accidentally cut your dog’s quick, don’t panic. Your dog may yelp or struggle to get away, but just hold steady and apply pressure to stop the bleeding with a clean cloth.

As mentioned above, you can keep some styptic powder on hand to help stop bleeding.

Bottom Line

Sharp, clean nails are excellent for your dog’s overall health, making it easier to walk and run around. Trimming their nails is also one of the best ways to prevent them from breaking or splitting (which can be very painful).

If this sounds like a lot of work, or you don’t want to risk accidentally hurting your dog, consider finding a grooming expert on Royal-Pet. Getting a professional to come to your home and take care of this can be well worth it if you don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself.