How To Clip Your Dog’s Nails At Home

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A lot of dog owners forget or are afraid to clip their dog’s toenails, but this is an essential part of your pet’s grooming needs. Read on to find out why clipping your dog’s toenails are important, and how to accomplish this task safely.

Paw with long nails

Long nails; Pixabay

Why You Should Trim Your Dog’s Toenails

Once your dog’s toenails grow to a certain length, they’ll start curling and then pushing back on the nail bed and may cause pain over time. This pressure on the nail bed may also affect your dog’s toe joints and cause arthritis in his older years.

Another possible consequence of long nails is on a dog’s interaction with his environment. Dogs receive information about their surroundings from the joints and nerves in their paws  – things such as (external) pressure, temperature and painful stimuli; they will learn through their paws whether the ground is on an incline or hot or sharp. If the source of pain or pressure is coming from within their paws, they may not be able to understand environmental signs as accurately.

Dogs’ toenails have a natural way of staying short if they get enough exercise on rough surfaces such as concrete, where the friction will file the nails bit by bit over time, an effect typically seen on outdoor or wild dogs. On the other hand, indoor dogs, typically walking about 2-3 miles a day, won’t have this natural trimming effect on their nails, and so will need regular nail grooming with your help.

Supplies You’ll Need To Clip Your Dog’s Nails

  • Nail Clippers – there are several types of nail clippers for dogs, such as the scissors-type, guillotine-type and pliers-type; the DOGPWND recommends the scissor-type or plier-type nail clippers for all dogs, these are easier to maneuver, and will therefore be less likely to cause painful accidents; a small-sized pair will help with maneuvering and will suffice for most dogs (only giant breed dogs will need larger pairs).

  • Treats – as with all grooming practices, especially ones that are new for your dog, it’s best to have treats handy to help with your dog’s cooperation and comfort. (Check out some great doggy treats here).
  • Styptic Powder – this is a clotting powder that will stop bleeding quickly, in case you make a mistake with the clipping. Learn more about this in the next section. (Check out some affordable styptic powder here).

Safe Technique For Clipping Dog Nails

Using a pair of clippers for the first time can be intimidating for any dog owner, and having his nails cut for the first time can be a scary experience for your dog, too. This is why it’s a good idea to introduce the nail clippers to your dog in a non-threatening way – just show it to him and let him hear the clicking sound it makes when used. Do this a few times over one day, and repeat the process the next day, allowing the clippers near his nails on the second day. Make sure to give him a a treat, a “good boy!” and a head rub each time on both days. This will ensure that your dog is comfortable with the clippers and that he associates them with treats and head rubs.

Look at the nails closely, holding it up to light will help, and you will see the outer end is white, thin, and may be somewhat translucent – this is the part you want to cut. The inner part of the nail (called the quick) is somewhat pink and fleshy – this is the part of the nail you want to avoid cutting, as it has blood vessels and nerve endings which may cause bleeding and pain. (If your dog’s nail are black, read below to learn more).

To start the clipping, hold your dog’s paw gently with one hand, and the clippers firmly in your other (dominant) hand. At a 45-degree angle, approaching from the bottom, start clipping small pieces from the end. Stop clipping when you see a small dot of black in the center, this is where the quick starts. If it begins to feel spongy or it your dog reacts sharply, stop clipping. (Instructional video attached below).

Cutting dog nails at a 45-degree angle


If your dog’s nails are black, the quick of his nail might not be clearly distinguishable from the outer part. One trick is to check the underside of his nail, the outer part will form a triangular shape with two “walls” – this area will be safe to clip. The inner part will be less triangular in shape, with less discernible “walls” – this is where the quick will be. Another trick is to apply gentle pressure with the clipper, if your dog reacts sharply, you’ve probably come too close to the quick.

In the event that you’ve clipped the quick, as may happen if you clip your dog’s nails regularly, there may be some bleeding and pain. You’ll want to have the styptic powder nearby, it will stop the bleeding quickly and has some pain-relief properties, too. You can apply the powder to the bleeding area, or simply put some powder in your palm and dip your dog’s paw in it.

If you’re not comfortable attempting this on your own the first time, your vet will be more than happy to help you learn how.

Instructional Video – Trimming Your Dog’s Nails (Dark & Clear Nails)

Other Tips For Clipping Dog Nails

  • How often should you clip your dog’s nails? Once every 3-4 weeks, or any time you hear his nails click-clacking on the floor. After some time, you’ll notice the quick receding and you’ll be able to clip the nails to a shorter length.
  • Start the clipping while your dog is young and he’ll easily adapt to the clipping routine
  • If your dog has long, curled nails, which can be extremely tough and have long quicks, do the clipping after a bath, which will soften the nails; be extra careful and clip small pieces off at a time
  • Instead of clipping all your dog’s nails in one sitting, you can clip one nail every day, to reduce the stress for you dog (and for yourself, too!)
  • Sharpen your clippers regularly for efficient clipping
  • Cut any hair obstructing your view of the nails with a dull pair of scissors
  • Don’t forget to cut the dewclaws (thumb nails)!

Sources / Other Reading Material


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