Meta Description: It is important to learn how to trim dogs’ nails to keep dogs moving and standing without pain or awkwardness. Regular nail trims keep paws healthy and nails from being overgrown, which could injure tendons and cause deformed feet over time. Read our advice on how to handle nail trims and other aspects of dog grooming.

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How To Trim Dogs’ Nails

What Is a Dog Nail Trim?

Dogs have nails. They need to be trimmed, which indicates good hygiene. It may be an intimidating task, but whether you do it yourself, have a veterinarian or a professional groomer handle this task, the deed needs to be done for the health and comfort of your dog.

Why Is Trimming Dogs’ Nails Important?

If you don’t trim your dogs’ nails, they can grow and become unhealthy, which then causes pain. In extreme cases, damage can happen to your dog’s feet. If nails are allowed to grow too long, the paw can become splayed which reduces traction when the dog walks or runs. The feet can also become deformed and the tendons injured because when long nails hit the ground, pressure puts force on the feet and legs.

When To Trim Dogs’ Nails

If your dog’s nails are touching the ground, it is time for nail trimming. If your dog lives in an urban neighborhood and is constantly walking on sidewalks, there is less of a need for regular nail trims. However, most dogs probably need them weekly.

How To Trim Dogs’ Nails

Should you choose to accept the mission, begin trimming your dog’s claws at an early age. This will help your dog become more comfortable and accustomed to the task, which has been known to trigger major anxiety in dogs. The dog will likely need some form of restraint, or you can have the dog sit on your lap or on a table.

Before you begin the nail trim, exercise your dog vigorously to tire him or her out. Get someone to help assist you with this procedure. You will need to spend at least a week with a puppy when you are new to nail trimming. Touch your puppy’s paws frequently and happily from the beginning to let the pup know that what is happening is going to be all right. On the first day, just let the puppy sniff the nail clipper, and then give him or her a treat with praise. On the second day, touch the nail clipper on each paw. Do nothing more than touch and give your pup a treat and praise. On the third day, touch the nail clipper to each paw again, but this time, squeeze it so that the puppy hears the sound, but do not actually cut any nails. Again, give a treat and praise. On day four, touch the clipper to the nail. Again, do not cut. Once again, give your puppy a treat and praise. Day five marks the first time you will cut anything. Only do one nail, and only cut a little tip from one of the front paw nails. Give the puppy happy praise and a treat. On the next day, trim the tips off two nails and give a treat and praise afterwards. Keep repeating this process daily until all the nails are trimmed, and the puppy does not seem to mind. Practicing and pretending helps your dog become more comfortable.

Besides clippers, there are other types of nail trimmers, such as scissors, guillotines, and grinder tools. Beginners may find scissors easiest to use. It’s also good to have styptic powder, in case you do trim too much. In general, start by picking a paw and placing your thumb on a toe pad and your forefinger on the skin above the nail. To extend the nail, push the thumb slightly upward and backward on the pad while pushing the forefinger forward. You want to clip or cut the tip straight across. Do not clip past the curve of the nail or else you will hit the quick, which will bleed and cause pain.

The nail grinder may be an option if your dog is not tolerating clippers well. The grinder is an electric tool that sands nails down. While the grinder gives you good control, they take longer to do the job than clippers. Some people and dogs may not like the sounds and the vibrations of the grinder.

Trimming White Nails

White- and tan-colored nails are easiest to trim because you can see where the quick is from the side of the nail. You can trim a little at a time, and also get a hint that you are getting close because the cut surface turns pink before you reach the quick. This is a sign that you should stop. On a white nail, the quick appears pink.

Trimming Black Nails

Trimming dark colored nails is more challenging because you will not be able to see the quick as easily. If the dog’s nails have hooked, the hook portion of the nail can be trimmed off so that the nail surface is flat. You won’t risk hitting the quick, and you (and your dog) should be safe. When the nails are not hooked, look at the cut surface of the nail. On the initial trim, you will see a white or gray center, but when you get closer to the quick, the center turns black. When you get a pink center, it means you are very close to the quick. Ideally, you stop trimming when you see a black center.

If You’ve Cut Too Much

When you have cut too far and have hit the quick, your dog will flinch, and the nail will bleed. When this happens, apply styptic powder to the cut surface so that the blood will clot faster. If you don’t have styptic powder available, use corn starch or flour, which will work, but not as well. You can also apply ice to slow down the bleeding, then reapply the powder. If you have no powder available, you can use a small piece of tissue paper and hold it against the end of the nail for a few minutes. If your dog is still bleeding after five to seven minutes, contact your veterinarian, who can check for clotting disorders.

Watch Out for These Signs

Some dogs show aggressive behavior or fear when confronted with nail trimming. If your dog is distressed, he or she will do one or more of these actions: panting, drooling, whining, trembling, freezing, growling, cowering, snarling, snapping, or tail-tucking. Some dogs never get over their terror, no matter how gentle, gradual, or patient you are in introducing your dog to nail trimming. If this is the case, it’s better to have your veterinarian or professional groomer handle the task. If the problem is even more serious, you can consult with an animal behaviorist, a veterinary behaviorist, or a professional dog trainer to work on the underlying issues causing your dog’s reactions.

Other Grooming Tips

Besides nail trims or pedicures, there are other tasks to do to keep your dog clean. The paws need to be checked, especially the pads at the bottom of the feet. The pads provide cushioning to protect joints and bones from shock, help walking on rough terrain, protect tissue within the paw, and insulate against extreme weather conditions. Check to see that the pads do not have wounds, infections, or lodged foreign objects.

Dogs should be bathed at least once every three months, but more often if your dog has skin problems or spends a lot of time playing in the outdoors. They should also be groomed with a brush or a comb to keep the hair in top condition. Brushing or combing removes dirt, prevents tangles, keeps skin clean, and spreads natural oils through the coat. You can also check for fleas, flea dirt, and ticks when grooming.

Dogs shed old or damaged hair, and the frequency and amount of hair shed depend on the season, the dog’s health, and the breed type. Dogs usually have thick coats in the winter, which they shed in the spring. Indoor dogs tend to shed throughout the year and have less dramatic changes in their coats.

If your dog has skin problems, he or she will show this by chewing, licking, or scratching. A skin condition is an indicator of overall health. There are many reasons your dog may be having skin problems, with the most likely being infections, external parasites, allergies, stress, and metabolic problems.

For dental care, dogs should get their teeth brushed regularly and eat a healthy diet. Chew toys also help keep their mouths healthy. Bacteria causing plaque can build up on your dog’s teeth, and this can set and harden into tartar, resulting in receding gums, gingivitis and tooth loss.

Dogs should also have their eyes and ears checked. Eyes should be clear and bright, with pupils equal in size. There should be no tearing, crusts, or discharge. Dogs with excessive ear wax or a lot of inner-ear hair need extra attention with ears.


Nail care is just one part of caring for your dog. Nails always grow, and they are not always naturally worn down by traveling, hunting, or other activities. Today’s domesticated dogs need our help to keep their nails trimmed so they can be healthy. If nails grow too long, they can chip and break, causing pain and making movements awkward.