How To Use Dog Nail Clippers Pain-Free For Beginners

Dogs need their nails trimmed too! They might not need manicures and pedicures like you or me, but the length of their nails need to be clipped from time to time. Unfortunately, not all dogs care to have their nails trimmed. Today we’re going to look at some tips to help make the process easier for both of you, and some things you may need.

Know How to Properly Trim Your Dog’s Nails

What You Need

Before you can even start, you need to make sure you have all the proper equipment. 

Of course, you need a pair of nail clippers, perhaps a plastic bag or a paper towel to collect the nail trimmings. Unless you are doing it over the sink, or don’t mind having nail clippings all over the floor, you need to find something to collect the debris.

The next thing you need would be lots and lots of treats! Get ready with lots of rewards on-hand for your pup. The best way to coax your dog into doing something that isn’t pleasurable is with the food he or she likes. When your dog starts to struggle, calm him down with a gentle tone and a fist full of treats.

You might also need a nail grinder or nail file if that’s what you prefer and/or to round out your dog’s nails.

Last but not least, get some styptic powder ready. This powder is used to stop bleeding quickly just in case you slip and cut your dog’s quick (the nerve in the nail, usually pink in color). If you cut into the quick, your dog will be yelping in pain and might even bleed. To have this powder on-hand will stop the bleeding instantaneously. Learn more about how to stop dog nail bleeding here.

Type of Nail Clippers

Next up are the nail clippers. If any of you have gone to the pet store and walked down the dog-grooming aisle, you will know there is more than one type of nail clippers. So which one do you use? Let’s take a look at the different kinds.

Guillotine – Guillotine nail clippers are the preferred type among professional dog groomers and dog owners alike. They are also the preferred type for smaller dogs with thinner nails. The guillotine clippers have a single blade that descends and cuts off your dog’s long nails (similar to a guillotine). It’s also the easiest to use, although it has significantly less cutting power.

Scissor (Miller’s Forge clippers) – If you have a larger dog with thicker and harder nails, the scissor-type would be the one you should choose. As the name suggests, this type resembles scissors with two blades that come together to trim your dog’s nail. The handles are also usually rubber coated to give you a comfortable and strong grip. The scissor trimmers are also more ergonomic to trim the dewclaw (the little claw that sits high above the rest, sort of on the ankle of your dog).

Before the Trim

Before actually beginning the trimming process, you need to get your dog accustomed to the clippers. This will make the whole procedure much easier. Introduce the clippers slowly, let your dog sniff it. Touch your dog’s foot with it, pressing on each toe will make it easier on him. Every time he allows you to touch him with the trimmers, offer him a treat and words of praise. 

As an extra tip, exercise your puppy often, take him or her out on the asphalt and sidewalk for walks on the daily to minimize the need to trim their nails. Not to mention, tiring them out before a cutting session will leave them more relaxed and welcoming to the trimmers.

How to Step by Step

  • If your dog still isn’t very receptive to the nail clippers, you might need a helper to restrain him. If you are trimming on an elevated surface (such as a table), you can use the weight of your body to restrain him and the power of your arms. This isn’t to hurt your dog, it’s just to keep him steady during a process that could potentially hurt him.
  • If your dog has clear nails (this is usually seen more on white/light-colored pups), it makes your job quite a lot easier. You will be able to see where the nail ends and the quick starts. This will significantly reduce the risk of overcutting and bleeding. However, if your dog has dark nails (black nails), it’s impossible to see through it. Therefore, you need to do your best to estimate and trim little by little. When in doubt, leave more of the nail. Just trimming it a bit little by little each time, the quick will start to retreat, giving you more nail to clip.
  • This process should be done while you load on the praise and loving rubs. Handing your pup a few treats after each nail will encourage him to sit through the process.
  • Once you are done, it’s time to utilize the nail file/nail grinder. We have reviewed 7 of the top dog nail grinders in the market, if you’re wondering which to buy. Now some people forgo the nail clippers and just use a nail grinder. That has its own difficulties and benefits, which we won’t get into today. If you feel your dog may be more receptive to the grinder, then, by all means, try that. The reason why you should file down the freshly cut nails is to prevent it from getting caught on clothes and snagging on upholstery.


Remember that a dog is like a human family member, but very different as well. Introducing something new, such as a nail clipper is something they have never seen before and may not understand that it’s used for their own good. Be patient and take the time to properly introduce this new grooming tool to your dog. Do not force it on him and try not to cut into the quick as it could deter them from getting their nails trimmed in the future. The most important thing for any sort of training is positive reinforcement. Don’t skimp out on the treats!

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