Wellness

12 min

How To Trim Dog Nails Safely

Trimming your dog’s nails is essential to keeping them safe and healthy. Learn how to clip your dog's nails successfully with our guide.

Bridget Reed

Updated June 29, 2022 • Published June 29, 2022

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How To Trim Dog Nails Safely

If you've ever attempted to trim your dog’s nails before, you're probably aware that most of the time, dogs do not enjoy this experience.

Taking them to a groomer or veterinarian for a nail trim is recommended, but if you must do it at home, you should take the time to ensure that you don't accidentally injure your dog’s sensitive paw or pad in the process. You also have to ensure that you're diligent about nail trimming so they don't get overgrown.

While there's always some risk that you could injure your pup during a nail trim, doing your research beforehand and preparing adequately can help lower the chances of that happening.

Why do I need to trim my dog’s nails?

Did you know that trimming your dog’s nails is a necessary part of a health and wellness routine? You need to trim your dog’s nails because if your dog’s nails are untrimmed, this can lead to discomfort and pain. 

One reason that lengthy nails are painful for pets is that they can get caught on items such as towels, blankets, or fabrics. The result could be even more painful, as the pet’s nail can get ripped off entirely.

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Not only will this cause your pup a significant amount of pain, but it could also lead to a lot of bleeding. Therefore, routine trimming can help ensure that your dog does not experience this. 

What tools do I need to trim my dog’s nails?

You'll need to have the correct tools on hand to successfully trim your dog’s nails. If you have any questions about the nail trimming tools that you need, you can always reach out to a vet. 

Dog nail clippers

The first thing that you'll need is a pair of dog nail clippers. There are two different types, referred to as scissor-style clippers or guillotine type of nail clippers. You can select one that works better for your pet; some animals are more comfortable with one type than others.

Typically, however, the guillotine-style clippers type are more convenient to use on dogs. The scissors form of nail clippers can be used on dogs that have toenails that are so lengthy they are beginning to curl. You can have one or both of these on hand. 

Treats

Next, you should have your dog’s favorite treats. Getting nails clipped isn’t enjoyable for dogs, so providing them with a treat during the process—and one after, too—is an excellent incentive for weary dogs who don’t want their nails clipped.

Flour or cornstarch

In the situation that you trim your dog’s nails too short and they begin to bleed, you should have flour, cornstarch, or a remedy called Kwik Stop on hand to help reduce the bleeding. You can apply this with a tissue or put the flour in a sock and put that on your dog.

How do I trim my dog’s nails?

Now that you’ve collected the right supplies for how to trim dog nails safely, it's time to get started with the process.

If you fear that your dog is too anxious to do this at home, you can always bring them to a groomer or vet. However, if you follow these steps, your pet should be okay to get their nails trimmed at home. 

Let your pup acclimate to the clippers

Some dogs are more comfortable than others with clippers, and if your dog needs some time, that’s okay. What you can do is begin by clipping one or two nails per day. Then, give your dog a positive reward, like their favorite treat or toy. 

Once they’re successfully able to calm their nerves, you can trim the rest of their nails. You should also practice pressing down on the nail clippers before you cut your dog's nails to ensure nothing goes wrong. 

Choose a calm location

If your dog is anxious about the nail trimming process, you will have to select a location where they feel relaxed. This is critical because your dog is already nervous; you don’t want the location to be a further source of stress. Don’t select somewhere that there is a lot of commotion or other stimuli. 

Hold your dog steadily

Your best option is to have someone hold your dog steadily while you complete the trimming. It can be difficult to do both by yourself, and having assistance can significantly expedite the process. 

You can place your dog on a table and stand on the opposite side of the table from the nails you are trimming. Then, drape your arms and upper body over your pet. When you are trimming your dog’s front claws, you should have your left forearm over their neck to disallow them from lifting their head.

If your dog attempts to stand up, simply lean your upper body over their shoulders. This should stop them from rising. If they are still being too wiggly, you can attempt to lay them on their side. 

Get a good view of the nail

Be sure that you have a good view of your dog’s nail. You should hold their paw in one hand and the nail clipper in the other. Be sure that you are avoiding your dog’s quick, as this can lead to bleeding if you cut this part of the nail too close.

Clip at a 45-degree angle

Once you have a good view of your dog’s nails, you can begin to trim them. The tip of your dog’s nail should be placed inside of the stationary ring of the trimmer. The clipper should be perpendicular to your dog’s nail.

In addition, the clippers’ handles should be squeezed to advance the cutting blade through the nail. Cut your dog’s nails from underneath at a 45-degree angle. 

You should also grind the nails after. You can use a nail grinder like a dremel after you cut the nails to smooth down the sharp edges.

How long should my dog’s nails be?

When you're trimming your dog’s nails, you should keep in mind that the claws on their rear feet are typically shorter. This means that they usually require trimming less frequently than the nails on your dog’s front feet. You should also remember the importance of trimming the dew claws. 

These will be located on the inner surface of the paw. Sometimes, your dog will have had these removed when they were a puppy, but sometimes they’ll still have them. Your dog’s claw color could make it easier or more difficult to trim. 

Light-colored nails are easier to trim than darker, as you can see the quick easier. With black nails or dark nails, this can be tricker to find. If you can, look for the pink oval (that contains the blood vessels) and make sure to stay away from that line. Generally, you should cut your dog’s nails within approximately two millimeters of their quick. 

How often should I trim my dog’s nails?

As a general rule of thumb, you should give your dog’s nails a trim when you bathe them. But every dog is different, so there’s not really a right amount of time that you should go between nail trims. 

However, it’s wise to trim them at least monthly. Not only will this ensure that your dog’s nails do not get too long, it will also help your pet get more comfortable with nail trimming, as most dogs do not really enjoy it. 

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Trim and train

The most important thing to keep in mind is that nail trimming simply isn’t possible at home for all dogs. If you’ve given it your best try and are still finding it to be impossible, it’s okay to reach out to a groomer.

Your dog’s safety is most important, and for some dogs, grooming is the better bet. After all, you never want to hurt your dog or accidentally injure them in a way that could lead to infection. 

If you have any questions about trimming your dog’s nails, you can always reach out to a vet. Pawp vets are available 24/7 to answer questions you might have about nail trimming or other questions about your dog’s health. You’ll never have to wait or make an appointment.

Other Sources: 

Clipping a Dog's Claws (Toenails) | WSU  

The Importance of a PETicure: Tips For Clipping Your Pet's Nails | Texas A&M 

It is Manicure Time! | OSU

Preventing Everyday Pet Accidents | Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University  

Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs | Scientific Reports

Positive reinforcement training | Humane Society

The Inheritance in Dew Claws in Dogs | American Genetic Association

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