How To Guide To Trimming Dog Nails

How To Guide To Trimming Dog Nails

Part of a regular grooming routine for your canine should include trimming dog nails. When it comes to clipping nails, many owners balk. Fears about hurting the dog or a difficult dog often get in the way. Some owners take their dogs to the groomer or veterinarian just to get this simple task done. However, you can not only train your dog to easily tolerate regular nail trimmings, but you can also train yourself to trim the nails in a way that will not hurt your dog.

Gather Tools for Trimming Dog Nails

dog nail
Black nails can be hard to trim, because you can’t see the quick.
Source: Morguefile; missyredboots

To make your job as easy as possible, gather the right tools for the job. First, you’ll need an old towel to wrap your dog in. This will help you cradle the dog in your arms without him squirming or kicking you with his back feet. You’ll also need a sharp pair of dog nail clippers. Do not go cheap when it comes to the nail clippers. Invest in a decent pair so that they are sharp enough to do the job quickly and efficiently. Also, look for a pair that have a small safety guide. I prefer guillotine trimmers because the scissor type I find hard to gauge how much of the nail to trim and exactly where I’m cutting. The last thing I want to do is cause my dog pain and cut into the quick. If possible, pull the trimmers out of the package and make sure you can easily use the spring-loaded handles. Finally, get some styptic pencils or powder with silver nitrate to use in case of accident cuts into the quick.

How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

  1. cute dog
    Make sure your dog is comfortable.
    Source: Morguefile; jade

    Bathe your dog, allowing his feet to soak in warm water while you soap and rinse him. This will soften the nails a bit. This is particularly important if your dog has black nails as they tend to be harder to cut.

  2. Swaddle your dog in an old towel or blanket, making sure that the back feet are wrapped at first. Cradle your dog in your arms similar to how you would hold a baby.
  3. Grasp the front paw that is farthest from you. Start on the outside of the paw.
  4. Firmly hold each nail near the base. This will keep the nail or the joint from twisting.
  5. Insert the nail into the guillotine blade. If your dog has clear nails, you will be able to see where the quick is (the pink part). VetMed suggests cutting to within about 2 mm of the quick.
  6. Always cut with the blade facing away from the dog’s nails. If your dog has black nails, you’ll need to make several small cuts to avoid hitting the quick.
  7. Once the trimmers are lined up, squeeze firmly and cut the nail. Remember to hold the nail firmly at the base.
  8. When you get the inside claw, or dew claw, you may need to pull the nail gently out and rotate the trimmers to line up the claw to make it easier to cut. The dew claw is attached more loosely than the other nails, so be very careful to hold the base so you don’t hurt your dog.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Nervous or Tries to Bite

relaxed dog
Train your dog to tolerate nail clipping and other basic grooming methods from a young age.
Source: Morguefile; jade

If your dog tries to bite, then one of two things might be happening. Either the dog is frightened or he is in pain. The best thing to do is to slow down and take this grooming process in baby steps. Try each of these steps over several days.

  • Hold your dog and pet him. When he is relaxed, gently lift one of his paws.
  • If he will allow it, then touch each nail joint separately, but gently and then set that paw back down and repeat the process with the other paws. Give him a treat for good behavior.
  • Show your dog the trimmers and give him a treat. Set the trimmers where he can see them and touch each nail on his feet.
  • Swaddle your dog and hold him. Leave the trimmer where he can see it and touch each nail.
  • While the dog is swaddled, grasp one nail and place the trimmer on the nail but don’t cut. Praise him lavishly and give him treats if he responds well.
  • Cut just one nail and if he responds well tell him what a good dog he is and give him a treat.
  • Repeat until he allows you to cut all nails in one sitting.

Some Final Dog Nail Trim Tips

  • wrinkly dog
    A well-groomed dog is a happy dog. Well… except for the bath part.
    Source: Morguefile; click

    If your dog will tolerate it, you can get rid of jagged edges with a small dog nail file.

  • If your dog’s nails are particularly long, cut just a little bit of nail, allow to rest for three days and then cut a little more The quick will recede a little and allow you cut them shorter and shorter until they are desired length.
  • I would avoid nail grinders. Some people swear by them, but I found them to be more trouble than they were worth and one time my dog’s nail got caught and it hurt her. The last thing you want is for your dog to be scared of a trim.


sweet dog
Personality has a lot to do with how easy your dog’s nails will be to trim. Some dogs are more docile than others.
Source: Morguefile; phaewilk

Still feeling a little uncertain about where to cut your dog’s nails? This site offers some fabulous tips and photographs of where exactly to trim on canine nails without hurting the dog or yourself.

  • Clipping a Dog’s Claws – Clipping a Dog’s Claws(Toenails): Pet Health Topics is a collection of articles written at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University about common problems and diseases in companion animals and demonstrates common procedures.
shepherd pup
Once you’ve tackled trimming your dog’s nails, it is time to get him accustomed to ear cleaning. That’s an entirely different article, though…
Source: Morguefile; xandert

Crabby Housewife

AuthorCrabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.