DOGS NAILS – How to Cut them safely

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Most people cut their dogs nails at home, but it can be a nerve-racking task for many. Clipping your dogs nails is not as hard as some may believe; you just need to know the right tools and techniques to get the job done safely.

dog having their nails cut

The following article will guide you through how to cut your dogs nails using two popular methods: guillotine-style trimmers and scissors.

Tools for Cutting Your Dogs Nails

When choosing nail clippers, make sure you choose one that has a sharp blade and lets you see exactly where the blade will be cutting. Do not ever use human nail clippers on your dog, as they are not sharp enough to cut through the thick toenails that dogs have. You can choose between scissor clippers or guillotine clippers; these names refer to the way the blade functions.

Scissor clippers work best for larger dogs with thicker nails and maybe your best choice if you are nervous about clipping.

scissor clippers on a white background

Guillotine clippers have a small hole that you insert your dogs nail into before squeezing the clippers and the blade shut.

Guillotine clippers on a white background

If you choose to use a grinding tool rather than clippers, keep in mind that grinding will take a little bit longer and your pet may be frightened of the vibrations. Read on for advice on how to introduce a new nail care tool.

How to Trim Your Dogs Nails

Dog nails - Dog paw being clipped wtih scissor clippers

Introduce The Nail Clippers

Introduce the nail clippers in a positive way. Let your dog smell them and see them without actually cutting any nails. Give lots of praise and treats. Once they are comfortable, hold your dog’s paw in one hand and the nail clippers in the other hand. Let them hear the sound the clippers will make.

Place the clippers on your dogs nail without clipping. Move between these steps gradually, giving your dog lots of time to get used to the nail clippers. Be patient, and understand that it may take a week or more to get through clipping all of your dogs nails, especially if they start out scared. When you are introducing nail trimming, try cutting one nail a day until your dog is used to the experience.

Touch Paws

Touch your dog’s paws often, even when you aren’t clipping. Get your dog comfortable with the feeling of their paws being touched. Show them that they can trust you to touch their toes gently.

Positive Experience

Make sure nail clipping is a positive experience. Don’t hold your dog down or force them to have their nails cut. Instead, be calm and offer lots of praise and comfort through the clipping process.

Small Amounts

Clip off small amounts at a time. If your dog has clear nails, you will be able to see the quick, which is a vein in the nail. It will look like a pink line inside the nail. Do not clip near the quick. If your dog has black nails, you will need to clip small amounts so that you can judge how close you are to the quick. Clip off the tip and then look at the nail; if you can see a small dot inside the nail, stop cutting. This indicates you are getting close to the vein and should stop.

Hold your dog’s paw in one hand, and the nail clippers in the other hand. Put your thumb on the pad of a toe, and your index finger on the top of the toe. Press gently to extend the nail. Cut off the tip of the nail, remember to clip small amounts, and offer praise and treats often.

Other Handy Tips For Cutting Dogs Nails

Follow these tips to make cutting your dogs nails easier:

  • Cut your dogs nails after a swim or a bath; they will be softer and easier to cut
  • Keep styptic powder nearby in case you cut too close to the quick. If you don’t have any styptic powder, make sure you have cornstarch or flour
  • If you are still uneasy about cutting your dogs nails, ask the vet to show you how. They can give you a quick demonstration of how to safely cut your dogs nails if you need the extra reassurance

First Aid Advice if Your Dogs nail is Bleeding

Press styptic powder against the bleeding nail. Cornstarch or flour can be used in place of styptic powder if you don’t have any. Hold it there for a minute or two to stop the bleeding. Your dog may limp for a day or two.

dog getting nails clipped

If the bleeding continues for more than ten minutes, get your dog to the vet immediately.

If they are limping for longer than a day or two, schedule an appointment with their vet. You do not want the toenail to get an infection.

How Often to Cut Your Dogs Nails

How often you should cut your dogs nails will depend on how active your dog is. Older or less active dogs may need to have their nails cut once a month. If you regularly walk or run your dog on rough terrain, their nails will need to be trimmed less often.

nervious dog having their nails trimmed

A good indication is having your dog walk across a floor; if you can hear your dogs nails click against the floor as they walk or run, their nails are too long!

How To Cut A Dogs Nails That Is Scared Of The Clipper

If your dog is scared of the clipper, try this:

  • You need two people for this. One person holds a spoon covered in yummy peanut butter to distract the dog while the other person clips the nails
  • Another trick is to cut the nails while your dog eats a bone or chews on a toy. The sound of their chewing will hide any noise from clippers, and they’ll be too distracted to care what you’re doing!
  • It is important to cut your dogs nails regularly so they stay short. Try cutting one nail a day until your dog adjusts; this way, he/she won’t notice the whole process
  • Remember: cut small amounts at a time; make sure you aren’t getting too close
  • Be gentle with your dog when cutting their nails
  • Use rewards for being calm with treats or praise
  • When clipping their nails becomes part of their daily life, cut your dogs nails every two weeks to keep them at the ideal length
  • If your dog pulls away and is in a heightened state of fear, stop what you are doing, and try again when your dog is feeling calmer. Trying to force a dog to do something when they are terrified will only make their anxiety worse

As with everything, practice makes perfect! Continue to cut your dog’s nails until it becomes an easy process that doesn’t require treats and praise anymore.

happy springer spaniel

Your dog will soon be used to the idea of getting their nails cut and will sit there patiently as you cut away!


Cutting your dog’s toenails can be a daunting task to accomplish, but if you follow our guidelines it’ll be a bit easier on both you and your dog. We’ve provided some great tips and tricks on how to cut your dog’s nails. Just remember that clipping dog nails should always be done carefully, and with lots of care!

Make sure that you have the right tools to cut your dog’s nails.

Don’t cut them too short!

If possible, only cut off small pieces at a time until it is an appropriate length.

dog groomer trimming dog nails

If you’re still not comfortable cutting your dog’s nails, you can always ask for help from someone who can do it or take him to a groomer.

With time, patience, and understanding, you’ll be cutting your furry friend’s nails like a pro!

Don’t forget to look around the site or bookmark us for later, we’ve got a wide range of material on all sorts of dog-related subjects that we’re constantly updating.

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All information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian's advice.
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