Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

How to Clip Dog Nails

Nail trimming in dogs, called a pedicure, can be done simply if you know how. 


Tools You'll Need to Trim Your Dog's Nails


  • Nail Clippers – there are several styles of dog nail clippers on the market including a guillotine-style nail clipper (easiest to use, especially for small breeds), pliers-style nail clipper (better for larger breeds), and a scissors-type nail clipper.
  • Treats – having some treats on hand to reward your dog after each nail is a good idea to make the experience more positive, for your dog and for you.
  • Styptic Powder or Other Clotting Powder – just in case you cut too short and there's bleeding. Baking soda, baking flour and cornstarch also work if you're in a bind.


How to Use Dog Nail Clippers


If you've never used dog nail clippers before, they can seem a bit intimidating, so just imagine how your dog feels! Always test the clippers first to ensure the blades are in proper working order. Regardless of the clipper style, use a firm grip on the clippers and use your fingers to separate the dog's toes and make the whole process easier.


One great tip to make clipping your dog's nails easier is to get him used to the nail clippers before actually clipping anything. Do this by holding the clippers near his feet and nails. Praise and treat the dog. Keep doing this about 10-15 times before you stop. On another day, do the same process except this time squeeze the clippers so they make a sound. Continue praising and treating for about 15 times before ending the session. Now, when it's time to clip the dog's nails, they will be used to the clipper and the sound it makes.


How to Clip Dog Nails Safely


First, it is a good idea to have a vet tech, veterinarian or dog groomer show you how to trim nails first. Then, once you have an idea of what not to do you will be more successful in getting the job done. Keep in mind if you have a nervous pup that you don't have to trim all their nails at once, you can do them a few at a time if needed.


Not all dogs need their nails trimmed, either. Many will naturally wear the nails down, or the dried ends of the nails will simply flake away without you even knowing. But some breeds, notoriously Bassets and Dachshunds, may need our help in keeping the toe nails reasonably short. Depending on the breed and size of your dog, you'll need to clip its nails anywhere from once per week to once per month.


On occasion, you may cut a nail too short. If this does occur, have some clotting powder or solution to stop the bleeding. It's a lifesaver!


Need more tips? Look below for a visual guide ...


It's important that you get yourself a good trimmer. A sturdy trimmer that is easy to learn with and become adjusted to. Once you're comfortable with the trimmer, place the main part of the tool in the palm of your hand while controlling the moveable part with your fingers. You should be able to see the small cutting blade that slides when you squeeze the handle.
The nail should be cut from underneath, not from the top downward in the way human nails are trimmed. Slide the opening over the end of the nail while staying in the whitish part of the nail. The pink area of the nail is the live part and has blood vessels throughout – called the quick.
  To cut the nail, be decisive and make a smooth, quick squeeze on the handle while holding the trimmer steady. Make sure you do not clip the live pink part of the nail. And don't try to "pop" the end of the nail off; it will fall away on its own.
  This nail has been cut about as far back as is possible without causing some bleeding. You can file the edges or just let the dog wear the nail smooth. Some people will cut the nail back until there is a slight amount of bleeding in an attempt to shorten the nail back further. Not a bad idea to keep some clotting powder on hand in case you do accidentally cut too short.

How to Trim Dog Nails When You Can't See the Quick Dogs with black hair and nails present a special challenge. On the dark nails where you can't see any pink to know where the live part of the nail starts, you can check the end of the nail. The dead area usually is whitish and as you cut deeper into the end of the nail you will begin to see a dark area. This dark area is where the live part starts. Another way to find the quick is to look at the underside of your dog's nail towards the tip. The nail should form a triangular shape with two outer "walls." There is no quick at this point, making it safe to cut the tip.

One trick to find where the quick of the nail is is to gently apply pressure with the nail trimmers where you think you should cut. If your dog yelps, jumps, or otherwise reacts to the light pressure, you are too close to the quick and need to move the clippers closer to the nail tip.

  What To Do If You Cut Too Short!!
Place a tiny piece of tissue paper tightly against the end of the nail and hold it for a few minutes.  Better yet, have some clotting powder available and put a small amount up against the bleeding end of the nail. Or simply cup your hand, pour the solution or powder into the hollow, and dip your dog's bleeding nail into the powder. This should work right away. Or ... do nothing. The bleeding will stop in about 5 to 7 minutes. Any more than that, give your veterinarian a call.


Image: rq? / via Flickr



Around the Web