11 Dog Nail Trimming Tips: The Importance of Puppy Pedicures

8 Minute Read
 | Amy Dyck
Updated March 25, 2023

Part of your dog’s regular grooming routine should include dog nail trimming. But for any brave pet owner who has tried, trimming your dog and cat nails is not an easy task. But there are some ways you can make dog nail clipping easier and safer for you and your pet. Here are 11 Dog Nail Trimming Tips:

Why You Need to Cut Your Dog's Nails

Before you get cutting, it's important to know why dog nail grooming care is so important. Your dog's nails, like yours, will continue to grow if you don't find ways to either clip them or file them safely. 

Left unchecked, your dog's nails could grow to the point where they will start to cause your pooch serious issues. Dog nails grow in a curved direction, so as they get longer, they can curl back towards their paws, impeding your dog's ability to walk properly, and could even grow into the paw pad, causing serious pain and potential infection. 

Additionally, poor nail quality can lead to cracks and splintered nails that can chip or break off. This is not only unsightly, but it can be painful too. 

Routine nail care will not only keep your dog from scratching you and your floors but will prevent serious injury from overgrowth. 


Dog Nail Care Tips for Beginners


We've all heard the click-clack of our dog's nails tapping across the floors, but if you've never attempted to trim them yourself before, it can seem a little nerve-wracking. But with the right tips, you can learn to keep your dog's nails healthy and short. 

Check out these handy tips before you get started:

1. Keep Your Pet Calm

Is it time for a trim? Do their nails touch the ground? Keeping your pet calm during nail clipping is easier if your dog is in the right mood. Don’t attempt to cut your dog's nails at a stressful time. Make sure your pet’s immediate needs are taken care of first.

Is your dog hungry? Have you just got home? Maybe your pet needs a snack or a cuddle before he’s comfortable. A positive and open mood starts with comfort so you do not accidentally cut into the quick.

2. Bathe Your Dog First

Try to coordinate your dog’s nail clipping with her bath time. Bathing your dog before trimming her nails softens the nails so that they are easier to clip and less likely to splinter. The massaging motion of cleaning your pet’s fur can relax your dog so that she’s more docile for a nail clipping.

There are some dogs who get overexcited with baths. If this is your dog, it is not a good idea to clip your dog’s nails after a bath. You know your dog best. Find a time when your dog is naturally calm and clip his nails then.

3. Use a File

Dog nail files should be a part of your dog nail care kit and a regular part of caring for your dog. Nail files are useful for smoothing out rough edges after clipping your dog’s nails. Use them to stop your dog from snagging your clothes, furniture, carpet, or scratching your arms. To save money, just pick up a human nail file or fine-grit sandpaper. 

Rough nails also pose a risk to your pet. Snags can cause painful nail splits and a caught nail can cause a serious injury. File your dog’s nails for your pet’s safety and yours. 

If you still find your pet has rough nails after clipping, you can try a nail cap such as Soft Claws Nail Caps for Dogs. 

4. Look to the Quick

How short do you clip your dog’s nails? Look to the quick. On clear and light-coloured dog nails, you should be able to see a pink blood vessel under the tip of the nail, called the quick. The quick should be the marker for how short to clip your pet’s nails.

Always leave at least a quarter of an inch of the nail above the quick so as not to clip too short - especially if you have hardwood floors. Wood floors can be scratched by sharp nails and cause your dog pain if you cut their nail too short.

Clipping your dog’s nails too short or cut into the blood supply, can cause a lot of bleeding and be a painful and even traumatic experience for your pet. If this happens, 

Do you need to trim dog nails that are black? Go very slowly, trimming only a sliver at a time. As you clip, a grayish-white part of the nail should be exposed. As you get close to the quick, you’ll see a black spot begin to appear in the center of the nail. Stop there!

5. Have Styptic Powder on Hand

Even the most careful nail clipper can make a mistake. Always have some pet styptic powder on hand for a quick stop to nail trimming accidents. If your dog’s nails are bleeding, immediately cover the bleeding end with a generous amount of styptic powder. It quickly stops bleeding.

6. Give Praise

Nail clipping is not usually a pleasant experience for any dog. Make your pet’s experience the best it can be by offering her plenty of praise and comfort during the process. From the first front paw nail to the last rear paw - encouragement goes a long way. Additionally, a special treat when everything is finished can help, too.

7. Take Your Time

While both you and your dog may want to finish the nail trimming as soon as possible, it’s important to take your time. Dog nail clipping can be tricky even for the experts. To prevent accidents, go slowly and cautiously. If your pet is too stressed, stop and begin again when he settles.

8. Secure Properly

Hold your dog firmly, but gently, so as not to scare him. Wrap your free arm around his body and leg and hold his footpad securely while you clip with your other hand. This should give you plenty of control.

9. Find the Dog Nail Clipper You Like

There are a few styles and types of dog nail cutters on the market. You may need to try a few before you find what works best for you.

Guillotine nail clippers (such as Le Salon Essentials Dog Guillotine Nail Cutter) make claw placement easy, especially for small dogs, but aren't always the best for medium and large breeds. The shape of these clippers can crush the nail as it cuts, leading to splintering at the edges. 

If you choose this style of clipper, make sure you are prepared to either trim or file the sides of the nails to prevent the sharp edges from being a hazard for both you and your pet. 

Scissor-style dog nail trimmers, like Furminator Nail Clippers, work well for all types of dogs. Go slowly with this type of nail trimmer. Many of these come with nail guides, but these can be deceiving. Always judge by your pet’s quick – not a predetermined “guide”.

Nail grinders are a newer type of pet nail trimmer. This style of dog nail clipper can be the easiest for novice pet owners and excitable dogs. Since grinders only remove a little at a time, there is less chance that accidents will occur. This makes grinders a safe choice for even new dog owners.

10. Condition Claws

Did you know that the condition of your dog's nails is directly related to the food that he eats? A whole, balanced diet manifests itself in healthy skin and coat - which includes your dog's nails. Plenty of sources of unsaturated fats such as salmon oil contribute to a healthy body all around.

If your pet has dry skin and brittle nails that are prone to splitting, try putting a fish oil supplement such as salmon oil directly on your dog's food.

Not all dog foods are created equal. Check your dog food's quality with our Dog Food Comparison Chart to determine if his food is giving him all the nutrients needed to ensure his nails are healthy and strong. 

11. Know When to Leave Nail Clipping to the Pros

If your pet is very fidgety, terrified of nail trimming, or if you are too nervous about dog nail clipping, you may want to take your pet to a pet store, groomer, veterinarian, or another pet professional.

No matter how confident you are in your DIY Dog Grooming Skills, dog nail trimming is one of the toughest grooming routines for most people to master, especially if your dog is less than cooperative.

If you are anxious, you can pass on your fright to your pet. And a bad experience can be enough to make future nail clippings even harder.

While clipping your dog's nails is something many pet owners do themselves to save time and money, if you are in doubt, you are best to leave the job to someone more experienced.   

Practice Makes Perfect

Dog nail trimming doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these dog nail clipping tips to make the job safer, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant for you and your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How often should I trim my dog's nails?

The frequency of nail trimming depends on your dog's activity level and the type of surface they walk on. In general, most dogs require nail trimming every 4-6 weeks. 

What happens if I don't trim my dog's nails?

If you neglect nail trimming, your dog's nails may become too long and lead to various issues, including discomfort, difficulty walking, joint problems, and the risk of nails breaking or splitting.

How can I tell if my dog's nails are too long?

You can tell if your dog's nails are too long by looking at them. If the nails touch the ground when your dog stands, they likely need trimming. 

What tools should I use for trimming my dog's nails?

You can use nail clippers designed for dogs, such as guillotine-style or scissor-style clippers. There are also nail grinders available. 

How do I trim my dog's nails safely?

To trim your dog's nails safely, hold the paw firmly but gently, avoid cutting the quick (the pink area inside the nail), and trim a small amount at a time. 

What should I do if I accidentally cut the quick of my dog's nail? 

Accidentally cutting the quick can cause bleeding and pain. If this happens, use gentle pressure or styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. 

Written by

Amy Dyck


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