Long nails can affect the posture and joints of a dog.  If trimming a dog’s nails makes you nervous, that nervousness can impact your dog.  It’s important for you to feel confident before attempting this, and the first step is in understanding how to go about it and what to avoid.

There are two layers to a dog’s nails.  The outside layer (what you see) is the strong outer shell.  Inside is a soft layer known as the ‘quick’ and contains blood vessels and nerves.  The ‘quick’ begins at the base of the nail and ends near where the nail curves.  It is this inner layer that is painful if it is cut.

The ‘quick’ is relatively easy to see if you have a dog with light-colored nails.  It has a pinkish color.  The ‘quick’ is usually concealed in a dog with dark or black nails.  You should never trim closer than two to three millimeters from the ‘quick.’


Grinders are superior for control and smoothness, but the buzzing noise spooks some dogs.

Clippers are what most people will use, and you have two options – a scissor type and a guillotine type.  Guillotine clippers have a hole for the dog’s nail to poke through.  When you have the nail positioned in the guillotine, you squeeze the handle, and a blade pops up to cut the nail.


You will need to get both yourself and your dog ready before attempting to clip his nails.

Some dogs don’t like to have their paw touched.  If this is the reaction of your dog, you will have to take some time to get him accustomed to having his paws held.  Each day or several times a day, hold each paw while touching the nail for a few seconds.  Praise your dog and give him a little treat the moment you release his paw.

If your choice is a grinder, then switch it on while holding a paw and of course, praise and treats must follow.  This, too, must be done daily or several times a day while holding each paw until he has no reaction to the noise or having his paw held or a little pressure put on his nail.

If your choice is clippers, you may want to practice with both types of clippers on a skinny chopstick or a thick toothpick to see which you feel most comfortable with.

Whatever tool you have chosen to use, it may be helpful to place it on the floor with a treat or treats on top.  Let your pup sniff the tool while taking the treat(s) while you praise him.


Choose a comfy spot with good lighting.

You should have a jar of styptic powder and some cotton balls ready just in case you cut into the quick.  It’s unlikely you will need the styptic powder, but you should always be prepared.  If you should cut the quick, patting some styptic powder around the nail base will stop any bleeding.

You will, of course, want some of your dog’s favorite treats ready.

Your dog should be standing or reclining on the floor in a relaxed position.

You must be patient.  Go Slow.  Offer lots of praise and/or treats.  NEVER trim when you are rushed.

If you begin to see stress signals from your dog, like yawning, take a break.

Remember, you don’t have to do all four paws in one session.

Using Clippers

The clippers should be in your dominant hand and your pup’s paw firmly in the other hand.  Your thumb should be on the foot pad and fingers near the nail bed on top of the foot.

Trim only 1 to 2 mm at a time (especially if your dog has dark nails), gradually moving closer to the quick.

Each time you cut, examine the cross-section of your dog’s nail.  You know you’re nearing the quick and should stop cutting when you begin seeing a tan-colored oval.

You should smooth any rough edges with a nail file.

Using a grinder

Hold the grinder and your dog’s paw the same as you would if using clippers.

Gently hold the grinder to the tip of the nail while silently counting to two and remove it for a few seconds.

Praise your pup and repeat, continuing until you begin to see that tan-colored oval and stop.





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