Cleaning & Grooming

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails – Here’s Everything You Need To Know

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By Kristie

Some lucky dogs (and even some breeds) seldom, if ever, need their nails trimmed.

Different breeds of dogs have different nail growth patterns. Some have higher knuckles and some are more flat to the ground. That can determine how often or when they need their nails trimmed. You will learn with your own dog what their speed and type of nail growth is and how to deal with it.


Most dogs do require regular nail trims — every 2 weeks or so, but it depends on how much exercise your dog gets:

  • If your dog spends most of the time indoors and doesn’t go for lots of long walks, then it’s easy for your dog’s toenails to get too long and frequent nail trims are a must.
  • If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors and goes for long walks frequently, then there will be a longer time in between your dog’s nail trims.

If you hear your dog’s nails click when walking on a hard floor, that’s when you know it’s time for a trim!

Here’s everything you need to know to trim your dog’s nails — whether your dog is large or small, old or young, has black nails or white nails…

Reasons To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Letting your dog’s nails become too long can be uncomfortable at best, and downright harmful at worst.

I’ve seen some poor dogs with nails so long they curl — causing the toes to twist against the floor. That’s not healthy… and quite painful over time.

Not only could long nails cause pain and lead to permanent issues with the dog’s foot, long toenails can make everyday walking (and running) difficult for the dog.

Chances are if you’re reading this, your dog is simply in need of a good ol’ fashioned nail trim.

No worries… long nails of any size, shape, and color can be gotten back into shape with a little patience and some good dog nail clippers.

There are a few things you can do to make your dog’s nail clipping day a pleasant and even enjoyable experience for both of you.

Here are 15 reasons to trim your dog’s nails right now.

Make It Fun

First on the list is getting your dog used to you handling his feet. The sooner you start, the better.

Many dogs have very sensitive feet and toes, so this is an important step. If you’ve just adopted a puppy, now is the perfect time! Plus, it’s so much easier because a puppy’s nails are so small and soft — very easy to trim.


Try to make nail trimming part of your fun playtime together. Stroke your dog’s feet and hold each paw in your hand for a few moments, gently but firmly. Lots of ooohs and aaahs, kisses and treats, a little belly rubbing for good measure, and he should soon get the idea and realize that you aren’t going to hurt him.

Soon (as long as you don’t forget the treats), your dog may even think, “Hey, this really is kinda fun!”

If you dread it, your dog will too, so learn how to be a good actor until you succeed in believing it can be a loving experience for you both. If your dog loses patience quickly, try cutting one nail a day. As long as you keep the order of toes consistent, this will be a good maintenance schedule, giving every toe a trim every 16 days.


Here’s a video showing how you can get your dog used to the process of nail clipping:

Yep, my dog actually snores while I’m clipping his nails now!

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

When trimming your dog’s nails, you want the nails to be just off the ground when your dog is standing up.

Really, the only thing you need to be careful of is not cutting into the quick. The quick is basically a blood supply, and if you clip into it, it’s painful to your dog and will bleed like crazy. But as long as you’re careful to leave a little space between the quick and where you clip, you won’t have any problem. It’s no different than clipping human nails.


The easiest way to do it is to trim each nail in 3 sections — a little piece at a time — rather than guessing how far down the quick is and just going for by clipping off one big chunk of toenail.

Trim around, never across the quick (which is actually your dog’s finger).

Here’s how:

  1. Trim a very small portion from the top left tip of your dog’s nail first.
  2. Then, clip a small portion of from the top right tip of the same nail.
  3. And finally, even things up by clipping a small portion from the top middle tip of the nail.

Check to see how close you got to the quick. If you can tell that there’s still plenty of ways to the quick, then just repeat the same 3 steps again until you get a little closer — but not too close! Here’s a tip from my vet:  If the edge of the nail you just clipped looks dry and flaky, then it’s safe to clip off a little more.

It’s also important to know that the quick will grow longer as the nail grows longer — so if you don’t trim your dog’s nails very often, the quick will reach closer to the tip of your dog’s nail. That’s another reason you never want to clip an overly-long nail to a nice & short length all at once — because you’re more likely to cut into the quick that way. Instead, always clip a really long nail in several short clips.

On the other hand, the quick will start to recede if the nails stay short — so if you trim your dog’s nails regularly (every week or so) it will become near impossible to get near the quick when trimming your dog’s nails. Yep, with regular clipping, your dog’s nails will stay in perfect shape and the process of trimming dog nails will become even easier over time!

Trimming Black Nails vs White Nails

If your dog has white toenails, you can easily see the quick — which shows up as a pink area starting at the base of the toe and out towards the tip of the nail. Clip the nail, a little bit at a time, until there’s a little bit of the dog’s nail in between the quick and where you’re cutting.


If your dog has black toenails, then you’ll have to be a little more careful — but it’s still no big deal. What my vet told me was to clip just the tip off the nail to start, and look at the cut edge. If it looks flaky and dry, you can clip a little more. When it starts looking less dry… stop. That’s the only way that you can gauge how close the quick is.


Don’t overlook the dewclaws. Most dogs have an extra toenail that’s higher up on the leg — a few inches above the paw. Some dogs have dew claws only on the front 2 legs; other dogs have dew claws on all 4 legs. Either way, you should trim your dog’s dewclaws in the exact same manner that you trim your dog’s other nails.

What If You Trim Too Close And The Nail Starts To Bleed?


Whether your dog’s nails are white or black, it’s a good idea to keep some styptic powder on hand just in case. My vet always does, even though she’s clipped hundreds of nails and I never once saw her clip a quick. You can also use regular baking flour (or baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, or baby powder) from your kitchen pantry — it works just about as good at stopping the bleeding.

Nine times out of 10, you will barely “nick the quick,” as they say.

We’ve all done it. Even experienced vet techs do it. Until you know your dogs nails and how to gauge how deep the quick is, you will probably nick the quick a time or two. I know I have. The bleeding should stop about 5 minutes or so after applying the styptic powder (or flour, etc).

TIP: It’s best to keep a small container packed with cornstarch, flour, etc in it on hand at all times. Make sure the jar opening is bigger than your dog’s paw. That way, if you do happen to “nick the quick” then you can just dip your dog’s paw into it. That’s the simplest way to get the powdery substance to stick to the dog’s nail in a hurry. I used to just grab a pinch of it from the bag in the pantry, and then I’d make a small mess while trying to pinch the right amount onto the wound.

What If Your Dog Doesn’t Like It?

Despite your best efforts, some dogs don’t like getting their nails clipped. One of mine couldn’t care less, and her sister is just the opposite.

Your best bet is to only trim as many nails at one time as your dog will patiently allow. If your got gets restless or distracted, it’s time to cancel the dog grooming session and pick up where you left off in a few hours… or a few days.

Also, while some people prefer to keep the dog standing, what works best for me is when the dog is relaxed and lying down.

It works even better if our problem child is snuggled up next to hubby on the bed. He keeps an arm over her, sweet talks, and sings doggy songs. Plus, he can help steady a leg if need be, so I can concentrate on the nail clipping.

Whichever way you choose, be careful not to twist a leg or foot into an unnatural angle. That alone will make your dog 10 times less likely to want to participate in another nail trim in the future.

Another thing that’s a great help if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of nail clipping is to ask your veterinarian trim your dog’s nails in front of you the first few times — and explain to you as they go along the best way to avoid clipping into the quick.

Finally, here are a bunch of great tips showing how to get your dog to relax while having his nails trimmed!

Choosing Dog Nail Clippers

heavy-duty-nail-clipper-for-dogs.jpg Good quality dog nail clippers make a huge difference — and make sure they’re sharp too! If they’re older, then they’re probably too dull and won’t trim your dog’s nails as quickly or carefully as newer, sharper nail trimmers.

Dog nail trimming is not painful if you use a sharp nail trimmer and don’t clip the nails too short. A dull trimmer can put a lot of pressure on your dog’s toenail before it actually cuts through the nail. If this happens, your dog may feel an uncomfortable pinching sensation. This is because the vein in the toenail is being squeezed. To avoid this, always make sure that you’re using a sharp pet nail trimmer.


There are many varieties of dog nail clippers on the market, but they fall into 2 basic categories: the guillotine type and scissors type.

While I’ve used both, I definitely prefer the scissors type. The biggest reason for me is I feel I have more control, and you don’t have to slip the dog’s nail into a round hole in order to clip it. If the dog tries to jerk his paw away, the dog’s nail can pull the guillotine type clippers right out of your hand, which isn’t a fun experience for either of you. But that’s just me — you may find you like the guillotine type nail clippers better.

More About Trimming Dog Nails