How To Cut A Dog’s Nails – 7 Easy Steps

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Dogs need to have their nails clipped regularly or else the nails will get overgrown and the dog may end up in a state of constant discomfort.

Frequent trips to the pet groomer to get their nails clipped can become very expensive. But doing it on your own at home can be very stressful as well. Most people don’t even know how to cut a dog’s nails.

So, how do you do it? This quick guide will give you everything you need to carry out the process successfully.

What do you need?

When you cut your dog’s nails, you need a few things to get it done correctly:

  • a pair of dog nail clippers or scissors
  • your dog’s preferred treats
  • styptic powder
  • something to file down the nails

Nail clippers or nail scissors will both get the job done; it all just depends on what tool you feel most comfortable using.

The treats are to keep your dog happy and comfortable during the uncomfortable process of clipping their nails.

The styptic powder is to stop any bleeding in case of an accident, such as when the nail is cut too close.

A heavy-duty nail file or some electric nail grinder, like a Dremel product, can be used to get rid of any sharp edges after cutting the nails.

How To Cut A Dog’s Nails

1. Get your dog used to the clippers.

The first thing you want to do before you start clipping your dog’s nails is to get them used to the sight of the clippers.

If you pull the clippers out for the first time and immediately move to cut their nails, it will scare them and lead to them being uncooperative during the whole process.

What you want to do is take the clippers out and let your dog sniff them, look at them, and get used to the sound they make, all without trying to cut the nails yet.

2. Take your dog to the right place.

When it comes time to clip your dog’s nails, you want to make sure they feel as comfortable and calm as possible. This is why you should take your dog to a quiet place in the home where they feel comfortable.

If your dog is small, you might want to place them on your lap. If your dog is large, consider having someone help to hold them down.

3. Hold your dog’s paws correctly.

Gently hold on to your dog’s paws with your thumb and forefinger.

You will want to be gentle with your dog, but also firm so that they don’t move their paw around too much.

4. Extend the nail.

Slightly push down on your dog’s paw pad to extend their nail forward. Doing this will get you the best access to the nail to cut it.

5. Cut straight across.

While you are holding your dog’s paw, clip the nail by going straight across the tip. Do not clip behind the natural curve of the nail.

Do not cut any into the pinkish region, which is known as the quick. The quick is a soft cuticle that is full of nerves and blood vessels; this is not meant to be cut and will cause bleeding and pain.

6. Give your dog some treats.

Especially if you’re cutting your dog’s nails for the first time, give your dog treats before you start, while clipping, and after you are done so that your dog will start to associate clipping nails with treats and won’t struggle as much next time.

7. Use styptic powder if necessary.

Remedy & Recovery Professional Groomer's Styptic Powder

Styptic powder is an antiseptic clotting agent that stops bleeding by contracting blood vessels. It is commonly used in pet grooming.

If you accidentally cut your dog’s nail too short and it starts to bleed, apply some styptic powder to it promptly to stop the bleeding.

How To File Your Dog’s Nails

After you clip your dog’s nails, it’s a good idea to file them to get rid of any sharp edges, points, or rough areas.

First, hold the dog’s paw gently and slightly push down on the paw pad to extend the nail forward. You will want to get access to your dog’s nails the same way you did while clipping them.

Then, gently round off any sharp edges with a heavy-duty nail file or a Dremel electric nail grinder. This will get rid of the sharp edges on your dog’s clipped nails.

If your dog is resistant during this process, you can use the same techniques you used when clipping the nails to keep it calm.

How To Cut A Dog’s Nails That Are Black

Brown dog paw with black nails

Dogs can have nails that are naturally pigmented black. The problem with this is that it can make it challenging to cut the nails because it’s difficult to see where the quick is.

When you are cutting black nails, you will want to follow the same process as above but going more slowly and carefully. Clip off small chunks at a time.

If the dog’s nail has a whiteish appearance when looking at it head-on, this means it is still safe to keep clipping that nail. Stop clipping as soon as the nail shows a black center — this indicates you’re reaching the quick.

Just make sure you have some styptic powder handy because accidents happen, even for experts.

How often does a dog’s nails need to be trimmed?

There is no specific frequency that vets recommend. It all comes down to how fast your specific dog’s nails grow and how often they get naturally worn down.

Experts say that, as a rule of thumb, you should trim your dog’s nails when you start to see the nails touching the floor while the dog is standing. This tends to be every 3-4 weeks.


If your dog has never had its nails cut before, it will take some time for it to get used to. Some dogs may take a little longer to adjust than others.

But once your dog settles in to the process, it becomes very easy and straightforward. It will become easier for you as well because you’ll start to learn intuitively where the quick is and be able to avoid it with confidence.

If you’re worried about hurting your dog but still want to learn to cut its nails yourself, consider watching a professional dog groomer do it a couple times and model after them. You’ll surely get it down in no time.

Thanks for reading. Does your dog need its nails cut? Do you have any reservations? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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