How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

How to Trim Your Dog's Nails
Photo by Victor Grabarczyk

Don’t feel bad if you are a pet owner and have no idea how to trim your dog’s nails. Nail trimming is an essential aspect of the basic needs of your furry companion.

A sense of trepidation usually follows the idea of cutting the nails of their dogs for many dog owners.

The process of trimming your dog’s nails can be likened to forcing a horse to drink water. This is because many dogs would put up a fight than have their nails trimmed.  

Like human nails, a dog also has its nails growing constantly.  Certain dogs naturally wear down their nails from walking or running on concrete, pavement, or asphalt.

Today, many dogs live in homes and don’t spend enough time keeping their nails short when walking hard surfaces. This is most particular with small-sized dogs.

If left uncared for, the nails of some dogs will curl underneath and may ultimately begin to grow into their footpads.

This can lead to sores and, in most cases, painful infections. Long nails can make it difficult for dogs to walk, particularly on slippery surfaces, even if they do not curl underneath.

Long nails may get stuck on something easily and become slightly broken off or separated. This can be very painful for your pet.

Before you trim

Find a convenient spot for you and your dog, and get prepared before you start nail trimming. There are some nail trimmer designs available, and the correct choice reflects on the nail size of your dog and your desire.

The following are some materials that can be used to trim your dog’s nails:

  • Plier-style trimmers: These trimmers are spring-loaded, and the device is identical to garden pruners. For small and medium-sized nails, the small and medium trimmers are excellent. Large size trimmers typically work for all but small-sized dogs. These are quick to use and for a long time, appear to remain sharp; however, the blades can’t be replaced.
  • Guillotine trimmers: There includes an inner blade as well as a hole for the nails to stack up. When the handle is pressed, the blade springs out to cut the nail in an upside-down guillotine fashion. Many new dog owners find it very convenient to use this kind of trimmer.

It is necessary to know how to keep the trimmer the right way to work as intended.

Owners should place the handle below the dog’s paw while the nail hole is placed at the top. The screws on the cutter should be positioned facing your dog.

Your pet’s nails should then be arranged in the hole at the right position where the trim is needed.

Dog owners can replace the internal blade on the trimmers when it becomes rusty. Guillotine trimmers work better with small-medium size nails but are not suitable for very large or very tiny nails.

  • Scissor trimmers: This is easy to use if you already know how to handle a scissor. Instead of a flat cutting surface, this trimmer has a curved blade that is used to trim around nails. You can line up the blade with your dog’s nail at the right spot before trimming the nails. The downside with the scissor trimmers is that they can only be used to cut small nails, especially since they aren’t designed for larger nails.

The things you need to trim


  • Nail trimmer
  • Power rotary tool or metal file


  • Styptic powder in case there is bleeding
  • Cotton balls, paper towels, or tissues are useful for cleaning nails


Consider your dog’s nails: Dog’s nails include a hard outer shell and a cuticle with nerve and blood vessels. The soft cuticle is generally termed as the “quick” of the nails.

Your dog may bleed if the quick is snipped mistakenly, which can cause pain in your dog. Owners can easily navigate their way around quickly if their dog has light-colored nails.

Many owners find it difficult to see the quickness of their pets because many dogs have darker-colored nails.

Notwithstanding,  the anatomy of the nails is the same in all dogs. Owners may have to maintain the cut at 2 or 3 millimeters away from the quick to avoid hurting their dog.

Position your dogs for trimming: While it may be easy to conclude that you know how to trim your dog’s nails, it isn’t unusual for many owners to make mistakes still.

Once a steady position has been maintained, trimming can begin. Firmly hold your dog’s paw, but try not to squeeze.

Position your thumb at the base of the footpad and hold the top of the foot close to the nail bed with your fingers.

Take your trimmer and place the edge of the blade on the nail while making sure to avoid the quick.

Gently squeeze the trimmer in one clean sweep but pause immediately if your pet is restless.

What if your dog starts bleeding?

Accidents are not uncommon when trimming dog nails. Your dog would bleed if you mistakenly cut the quick while trimming the nails.

This means you must have severed the blood vessel and the nerve in the nail. Panicking wouldn’t help the situation, so it’s best you calmed down and do what is necessary. Mind you; this is not an emergency case!

Get your styptic powder or flour if you don’t have access to styptic powder. It would help if you cleaned as much blood as possible with your paper towel or tissue. Grab a pinch of the flour or the styptic powder and apply it to the nail tip.

You can calm the dog with a few treats and give it a break if you aren’t done trimming the other nails. Owners should also know that cutting into a quick doesn’t mean rushing to the vet.

Your dog can only experience the sharp pain and would continue its usual activities without any glitch.

Avoiding complications during trim-time

Most dogs would give their owners a hassle during trimming, even if extra hands make the process easy. Some steps can be taken to desensitize your pet to be comfortable with nail trimming gradually.

Your dog may hurt you or itself if it is trying to bite you out of fear. You may want to consider the help of professionals who’d get the job done efficiently.

With a fee, dog owners can have their pet’s nails trimmed at groomers and vet offices. In more extreme cases, sedation may be required to help with the trimming process.

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