How To Trim Dog’s Nails: Guide for beginners

Trimming dogs’ nails seems to be an inconvenient and tricky process. Many dog owners refrain from doing that, considering it an anxious process. Most of them are unaware of the importance of cutting nails as a part of a pet’s grooming routine.

Like humans, dogs’ nails also grow regularly and need to be clipped every two to three weeks. This ensures the health and well-being of the dog. If left unchecked, your pet can encounter many problems, such as:

  • The overgrown nails can break or chip, leading to additional cuts in and around the paws.
  • Untrimmed claws can cause difficulty standing and performing other activities. It will affect mobility and cause pain.
  • Dogs feel uncomfortable, which leads to disturbed posture. A shift to their posture can become unbalanced, furthermore causing joint pains and even arthritis.

In this article, dog lovers will learn how to trim a canine’s nail following the correct method, what tips, tricks and tools to use when cutting them.

Before moving on how to trim a dog’s nails, it’s essential to discuss the anatomy of a puppy’s nail. When you know the structure of the nail, you will know the right time and proper way to trim a dog’s nail. Moreover, you will not hesitate or feel anxious about the process.

Table of Contents

Anatomy of a Dog’s Nail

On each dog’s paw, four nails are located at the end of the toe. They face forward above the pad, wider at the toe and get narrower when they grow. There are essentially two parts of the nails:

  • Nail Quick
  • Outer Nail

Nail Quick

Nail quick is the soft inner part of the nail, also called the cuticle. It plays the most vital role in nourishing, blood supply and the growth of the outer nail. It consists of the network of blood vessels, nerve endings, protein (keratin) joined by additional muscles and tendons.

Dogs with white nails have pink nail quick, which can be located from the outside, while dogs with black toenails have equally black spots. For locating black quicks, you have to be very careful. There is a dark circular part in the nail called pulp that is easily identifiable. This part is present near the quick. When you find the pulp it’s the indication to stop clipping the nail.

It is easier to trim white toenails than black toenails. The pinkish nail quick is visible through white toenails, and you can avoid cutting it.

When cutting black toenails, you have to be very conscious. Trim the black toenails in small parts to reduce the chance of clipping the nail quick. Do not clip more than 2 mm of the nail if using clippers. The safest way to avoid quick clipping is to gently use nail grinders to trim the nails.

Outer Nail

The outer nail is the harder part having a horn-like appearance protruding from the paws. The dog does not feel the pain while trimming it. Moreover, the overgrown outer nail causes great disturbance to the dog regarding functionality and health.

The nail quick grows with the nail spikes. When a dog’s nails are left unmowed for a lengthened period, quick extends to a certain length. When you cut your dog’s claws, it’s significant that you have to snick it to retain a moderate nail length.

Tools For Safer Dog Nail Trim

For cutting dogs’ nails successfully, you should choose the right tools. Not all of them are meant for all types of dogs. Each pet has its own nail anatomy, different behavior, depending on its breed. For that purpose, you should look for the right tool and correct technique.

Below are discussed different kinds of tools that can be used for trimming dog’s nails:

Scissor style clippers

Scissor clippers are best for tiny dogs or little puppies. They look like household scissors but have shorter blades. Clipper helps to snip the dog’s nails evenly and steadily.

Guillotine clippers

They are specially designed for small dogs. The nail gets stuck into the loop and when the clipper is squeezed, it gets off by the action of sharp blades. It is not recommended to use clippers for the new owners. Professionals use guillotine clippers as it helps them to clip the nails within no time.

Nail Grinders

Nail grinders are the safest trimming tool.

They gently file the nail without causing any injury or extra cutting of the dog’s claws. A nail grinder, also called a dog nail file can be used to soften the sharp edges after the nail grinding.

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Nail Clipping Technique

Cutting dogs’ nails is a two-person job. One can hold and comfort it while the other focuses on nail trimming.

Here are the trimming tips to follow for the safer trimming.

  • Before starting, make sure no fur comes between the trimmer and nail. Take the dog’s paw and hold it firmly but be gentle. Hold the toe pad with your thumb and place the forefinger above the nail.
  • Extend the nail by pushing your forefinger forward on the paw.
  • Locate the dewclaws and the nail quick. Now cut the tip of the nail along with the dewclaws avoiding over trimming the nail..
  • Hold the trimmer any way that is suitable and cut the nail in any direction that feels comfortable to your dog.

In case of any bleeding or injury, have styptic powder beforehand. It will help to stop the bleeding within minutes. Otherwise, it will take 2 to 4 minutes for the bleeding to stop.

Tips for Trimming Dogs’ Nails

Clipping dog nails without a preliminary plan will cause you and your dog a harder trimming process. Making your dog comfortable is the foremost thing you ought to do. Here are all the key points that will help you clipping your dog’s nails.

Preparing Dog For The Nail Cut

The very first thing is to make your dog comfortable with the process. It’s wise to trim your puppy’s nails to get accustomed to the process from an early age.

If it’s the first time, make your dog acquainted with the tool you will use to trim the nails. To introduce the dog to the tool, touch it with its toes, praise it and give it a treat. Do this activity multiple times.

Make the dog accustomed to the grinder’s vibration and noise before trimming. Treat the dog with its favorite food and make it sit in its favorite snug place.

Soften the Nails before Trimming

Before starting with the nail trimming, do any activity to keep the nails soaked in water. You can either make the dog swim, take a bath or simply wash the nails with water.

Swimming will be a good option as it will cheer up the dog and the nails will have more contact with water. The reason to do this activity is that nails will soften and the trimming process will get easier and safer.

Start Slowly

First, prepare your equipment and ensure tools are well sterilized. Have a first aid box ready for any cut or injury. Have a flashlight for clipping dark nails. Make your dog’s favorite treats and prepare your dog for nail grinding. Keep the process slow to prevent any injuries.

One nail per day

If you and your dog both are new to nail trimming, it’s advised to do one nail a day. This will make you and the dog acquainted with the process. Later on, when the process becomes accustomed to both, you can easily cut the nails in a day within a short time.


Caring owners understand that their pet’s health comes first. Trimming a dog’s nails is the main part of dog grooming. This can be crucial for both you and your pup. Remaining patience and tolerance by following tips, learning techniques and choosing the right tools, nail cutting will become easier and safer for the dog and owner.

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