If you’ve always wondered how to trim a dog’s nails, today is your lucky day.
Learning the proper method of trimming dog nails is essential if you want to trim your own dog’s nails. Trimming dog nails can be very intimidating for a dog owner, but having short nails is important for your dog’s physical health. If a dog’s nails are too long, he won’t be able to walk properly, and even worse, the nails can wrap around his paw and become embedded in the sole of your dog’s foot. Ouch.

The first step to trimming your dog’s nails is to teach him to feel comfortable handling and holding them. You don’t want to have to hold your dog down, muzzle him and sit on him while you grab his paw and start clipping. Instead, gradually teach him that this process, which will probably occur every few weeks, is comfortable or at least tolerable.

Start by teaching your dog that he will receive a treat when he grabs your paw. Once he gets used to this step, increase the amount of time he holds your paw before you give him the treat. For example, you can lift his paw first, say “YES” and then give the treat. When you time him, lift his foot, hold it for 3 seconds, then say “YES” and give the treat. Try to hold it firmly but gently for 10 seconds before giving the treat.

Finally, it’s time to introduce your dog to nail clipping. To practice, gently but firmly grasp your dog’s paw and place the nail clippers at a vertical angle so you can cut the tip of your dog’s nail a little more. The quick part of the dog (the blood supply) is deeper inside the nail. If you cut at an upward angle, you can remove more of the dog’s nails.

Make small cuts to remove excess nails rather than one large cut. By making smaller cuts, you can monitor your progress to make sure you don’t cut off your dog’s blood supply. As you begin to make the cuts, you will start to see the center portion of the nail. Stop as soon as you start to see the appearance of the skin. That’s it. One less nail, and it’s time to give your dog a treat. If you and your dog are doing well, move on to the next toe. If either of you start to stress, take a break and come back later to the next step. Repeat until you have trimmed all of your dog’s toenails.

Final comment. If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails, take him to a professional groomer. Your dog’s nails need to be trimmed for optimal walking and health. Not doing them is not an option. Nevertheless, help your dog by practicing the paw handling techniques listed above to make the nail trimming appointment less stressful.

Dog nail trimming checklist

  • Dog nail scissors (scissor-shaped, kept sharp).
  • Dremel or nail file (optional, to smooth nails at the end).
  • Astringent powder or cornstarch (to stop bleeding when the nail is cut)
  • Well-lit room or headlamp
  • Healthy treats for dogs
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