Pet Care Basics, Shelter and Rescue Resources

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails: Dog Nail Clipping Tips

How do I trim my dog’s nails? Trimming your dog’s nails for the first time can be scary, but if you set yourself up for success and have the necessary equipment to handle the job, you will be much better prepared for a successful nail trim.

Is It Easy To Clip Your Own Dog’s Nails

Before you start trimming your dog’s nails, you should get him or her accustomed to having someone touch his/her paws. This works best when he is a puppy, so he is used to having his feet handled from the beginning. Gently stroke and massage his paws and lightly apply pressure to his claws. Getting your dog to relax during nail trimming is crucial for success. Make your dog comfortable by laying him down on his side or holding him on your lap. You can also start slowly by clipping just the very tips of his nails at first.

What Do I Need to Clip My Dog’s Nails

Before you try to trim your dog’s nails, make sure you have all the necessary dog nail trimming equipment on hand. You will need dog nail clippers, a nail file, and styptic powder. Instead of using a pet trimmer, some people choose to use a nail grinder.

How Do I Trim My Dog’s Nails At Home

When you have all the necessary equipment, you can start trimming your dog’s nails. Gently take your dog’s paw in one hand and hold it steady. With the other hand, slip the opening of the clipper over the tip of the nail. Hold the trimmer at a 45-degree angle and squeeze it firmly to make small cuts. Stop when you can see a black dot in the middle of the nail while looking at it head on. You have reached the quick, which is where blood vessels and nerves are located.

Dog Nail Bleeding: What to Do If  You Hit a Dog’s Quick

If you cut the dog’s quick, it will cause bleeding and pain. If the nail starts bleeding, use a styptic powder to stop the blood flow. If you don’t have stypic powder available, use flour or a dry bar of soap to slow the bleeding. If your dog’s nail is jagged or sharp after clipping, you may try to carefully file down the sharp edges.

Helpful Tips for Cutting Dog Nails

  • Keeping your pet occupied with peanut butter or another favorite treat can distract him or her adequately while you are trimming.
  • Consider trimming one or two nails at a time, and stopping before your pet becomes agitated.
  • Clip the nail slowly and only a little at a time. This will help prevent cutting too far and causing bleeding.
  • It’s also important to clip a little at a time if your pet’s nails are dark and you can’t see the quick. Cut until you see a black or pink dot in the center of the nail and then stop, as you’ve found the quick.
  • For long-haired breeds, it may be necessary to trim the long hair around the paws for better access to the nails.
  • Don’t forget to trim the dog’s dewclaws on the inner side of the leg.
  • Cut your dog’s nails frequently. The quick grows with the nail, and a longer quick makes it harder to trim the nails without cutting it.
  • The goal of clipping is to remove the part of the claw that juts over your dog’s pad. When your dog is standing, his nails should just be touching the ground.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails or you are unsure about how to do it the first time, please ask a professional groomer or your veterinarian to show you how.
How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

If you have more questions on how to clip dog nails, call a Revival Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.