How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails - A Guide for Beginners

Do you notice your dog making 'click-clack' sounds as they stomp across hard surfaces? If so, it's a sign that your dog needs to have their nails trimmed. Untrimmed nails can be painful for our canine friends and could lead to serious problems if left unchecked. In this short tutorial, I'll teach you how to easily and safely trim your dog's nails.


Before we get into the actual trimming, you should assess your dog's nails and paws. Find a comfortable location and a time where your dog is relaxed; if you see your dog finding a place for a nap, it's a good time to trim. Hard-surface floors(hardwood, linoleum) are good for cleanup post-trimming, but carpet or a rug might be more comfortable for your dog.


When your dog is relaxed and laying down, you can gently hold one of their paws to get them used to the feeling. Inspect the paw for anything abnormal like sores, cuts, swelling, nail damage, or pain - bring ANY unusual findings to the attention of your veterinarian before doing any nail trimming.


Step 1: Tools and Prep!


Now you're almost ready to trim your dog's nails! Make sure you have the following tools at hand before beginning to trim:


Dog nail clippers (use clippers specifically intended for dogs, or you risk injury)

Paper towels or a cloth towel

Cornstarch (in case of bleeding due to cutting a nail wick)

A broom/vacuum to cleanup trimmed nails


Bring those tools (and your dog) to the selected comfortable location, at a time when your dog is feeling relaxed.



Common Question: What kind of dog nail trimmer should I use?


Answer: There are two common styles: scissor and guillotine. Scissor-style clippers are what I recommend, they are the safest for your dog and adjustable. Guillotine clippers can be difficult to use and can sometimes result in a crushing effect on the nail as opposed to cutting, which your dog will not enjoy.


Step 2: Trimming!


You're ready to trim! You have your tools, you're in a comfortable environment with your dog, and your dog is feeling relaxed. Often it can be easier to trim your dog's nails if they're laying on their side; find a position that works for you and your dog. Ease your dog into the trimming with some loving pets, and try holding the paw you'll work with first to get your dog used to it.


The key to trimming your dog's nails is to not cut too much all at once. Inside your dog's nail is a' quick', which is the blood vessel and nerves leading into the nails. If the quick is cut, it will result in pain for your dog and bleeding. Most dog nail trimmers come with a guide that prevents you from cutting too much nail at once, but if yours don't then you must be extra careful. The quick will grow with your dog's nails, so long nails require frequent trims rather than cutting back all at once. Aim to trim to 2-4 millimeters before the quick.


If your dog has white nails, you can often see the pink quick through the nail so you can see how far to go. For dark nails, be careful and do small trims as you cannot see the quick. If your dog's nails are long, you may trim them once every 7 days to avoid damaging the quick.


To trim your dog's nail, gently but firmly hold their paw, and bring the clippers to the nail. Slide a small section of the nail into your clippers, not too deep as to avoid cutting the quick, and cut. Gauge your dog's reaction, and check the nail to see if the trim was safe and did not cut the quick. If the nail was successfully trimmed, move onto the next nail and repeat until all four paws and dewclaws are safely trimmed. You should cut your dog's nails vertically, not horizontally - exactly like you would trim a human's nails.


If you do happen to cut your dog's quick, they may react suddenly as it can be painful for them. With a cut quick, there will be bleeding and it's best to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Don't panic, just reach for the cornstarch you brought with you and scoop some out, and apply it to your dog's nail. Cornstarch is the best choice for stopping a bleeding quick. When I trim my dog's nails, I always bring a small Ziploc bag of cornstarch to put my dog's nail in if a cut quick does happen. For very minor bleeding, sometimes tissue is enough to halt the blood flow until a clot forms. If your dog’s nail does not stop bleeding for several minutes, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Reward your dog often during nail trimming! Dog's love positive reinforcement, and giving them lots of love, pets, and a treat during the trim will make your dog remember nail trimming as a positive experience instead of a painful or stressful one. Spend time with your dog after each trim and they will appreciate you. Buster's Tasty Treats Dehydrated Beef Livers are a perfect treat for your dog; they can bebroken into small pieces for frequent rewards. Always be careful about over feeding through treats!


Step 3: Cleanup and Maintenance


A dog with healthy nails is a happy dog. After the trim is done, use your broom or vacuum and any other cleanup tools to gather up the trimmed nails and any other mess. You don't want to step on a piece of trimmed nail that you missed!


To keep your dog's nails short, and avoid frequent trimmings, make sure to take your dog on walks. Walking your dog can naturally trim their nails and keep them short, reducing(or even eliminating) the need to trim your dog's nails. Do keep a vigilant eye(and ear) out for your dog's nails in case they do grow long enough to trim again. Again, long nails can be painful for your dog and lead to problems if left unchecked.


If you are unable to walk your dog, then it's safe to trim your dog's nails once a week (every 7days) until they are the correct length. If your dog's nails are the correct length, simply monitor them for the next time you will need to trim.




Congratulations! You've successfully trimmed your dog's nails, and hopefully learned more about caring for them. Now you and your dog can enjoy some happy, healthy bonding time.


Caring for your dog's nails is critical. Long, untrimmed nails can result in pain and damage to your dog's body. If you don't feel safe trimming your dog's nails yourself, there are often dog-grooming services and veterinary services that can help you or do it for you.