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How to Trim Dog Nails that are Overgrown

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How Short to Cut Dog Nails

One tricky aspect of grooming is figuring out how to trim dog nails. This is especially relevant if you have decided on grooming your own dog at home. If you attend a professional groomer on a regular basis, then problem solved.

Therefore, this article is intended to provide some guidance for DIY dog owners.

Your dog will need to have his nails clipped regularly, or they will grow into claws making walking painful for him and his longer nails can damage furniture. 

In the wild,  wear and tear from exercise would have served to keep nails relatively short.  So it follows that frequent running and playing on hard surfaces might mean that nails grow more slowly. But what are the chances of that these days.? So let’s address the need to manage nail trimming ourselves.

Video Showing How to Trim Dog Nails

This question of “how to trim dog nails” crops up frequently because most dog owners are fearful that they might clip too closely to the quick and thus cause nail bleeding

Furthermore, most dogs do not like being restrained physically. So it naturally follows that they do not readily welcome being held for nail clipping. 

Therefore, it is important to make each nail cutting session a positive experience for your pet.  Reassure him and praise him continuously.  Give him a treat after you have finished. 

It is a good idea to get your puppy used to nail trimming at a very young age.

Equipment Needed for Clipping Dogs Nails

Whilst there is a wide range of tools that come under the heading of dog grooming equipment, the items that you need specifically for trimming dog nails include:

  • A sharp nail trimmer of choice – the two main types are the guillotine or the scissor models.
  • Some doggy treats
  • A nail file to trim any rough edges after cutting.

Having the right equipment from the outset can make trimming dogs nails an easier task for you and a less daunting experience for your dog.

For tips on how to choose the right dog toenail clippers, refer to this article that describes their differences and what to look for.

Steps in Learning How to Trim a Dogs Nails

Study the Nail

When learning how to trim dog nails, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the different parts of the nail.

Your dog has a live center to each nail. 

The nail beyond the quick becomes slightly narrower and is often slightly hooked. 

If your dog has light colored claws, you can usually see a slightly pink tint that indicates where the quick lies.  Unfortunately, dark claws make the quick invisible, so you will have to take extra care not to cut the nail too short.

If you cut into the quick, it will bleed and your dog will yelp with pain.  Your dog will remember a negative experience and will resist having his nails clipped in the future.

If the nails are clipped correctly, you can avoid nail bleeding. Then, the whole experience can be painless and more routine for your dog.

Restrain Your Dog Correctly

When first learning how to clip dog nails, it is important to restrain your dog in a way that is comfortable for him and manageable for you so that your hand is steady when clipping.  A small dog can be held on your lap with your arms around him.  This will allow you to more easily work on each paw.

You can read some additional tips in this article on how to restrain a dog while grooming at home so that both dog and groomer feel comfortable.

For larger dogs, it is best to lie your dog on a table.  Use a non-slip mat to prevent your dog falling if he wriggles.

To trim the front nails, place your arm over your dog’s neck to keep his head down.  Lean over him as you work.  You might need someone to help you.

Follow a Procedure

The following tips can make the exercise more straight forward when first learning how to trim dog nails:

  • It is important that you do not cut closer than 2 mm from where the quick ends.
  • If you use the scissor trimmer, face the trimmer from below the claw upwards at a right angle to the quick, and clip.
  • If you use the guillotine trimmer, the blade side of the trimmer should face away from your dog.  Place the claw through the ring, check that it is below the quick, and squeeze the handle.
  • Dark clawed dogs nails should be trimmed in small steps to avoid cutting into the quick.
  • After you cut, look at the end of the claw.  When you can see the shiny gray or pinkish patch in the cut end of the nail, it is short enough.
  • Always trim the dew-claw on the inner surface of your dog’s paw as well.  It does not touch the ground, so tends to grow long and curl.


Your dog’s claws should be trimmed on a regular basis.

Learning how to trim a dog’s nails can be as simple as learning how to brush a dog correctly. It is not difficult, and it will become easier each time you do it.

So, as you can see, how to trim dog nails is a skill that can be easily mastered with the right approach and the right tools.  Furthermore, it is certainly a skill that needs to be included in any DIY dog grooming regime.

Please feel free to leave any of your tips or your questions on the topic of dog nail clipping via a comment below.

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