How to clip a dog’s nails

Clipping dog nails can be intimidating, but it’s an important part of every dog’s health routine. If you prepare him for the experience, learning how to clip your dog’s nails can be a great way to bond with him and build his trust in you.

Prepare your dog

Unless your dog is used to having his feet touched, he’ll probably resist your initial efforts to clip his nails. You should gently massage and hold his feet whenever you pet him to condition him for nail clipping. The more you mess with his feet, the easier nail trimming will be.

If your dog is especially sensitive to having his feet touched, you can try working with treats. Hold his paw in one hand and, while still holding the paw, give him a treat. You want to reward him for letting you hold his foot, not for letting it go. Slowly increase the time you hold his paw before you reward him. If he pulls away, then no treat. Once you’re able to hold your dog’s foot for thirty seconds, you should be able to clip his nails without a fuss.

The nail clipping process

Only use dog nail clippers, never those made for people, and make sure they’re sharp. The clippers should cut cleanly without pinching or pulling the nail. Also, keep in mind you don’t have to clip all the nails at once. If your dog struggles, trim one or two and come back later.

Position your dog so you’re comfortable

You can hold a smaller dog in your lap, or have him lay down next to you. For a larger dog, it may be easier to have him stand and then swing the paw back toward his tail so you can see the pads. Whichever way you choose, make sure you’re comfortable and can easily access the nails.

Hold the paw firmly and press on the pad

Get a firm, yet gentle, grip on a paw and press lightly on the bottom of the pad. This will cause the nail to extend making it easier to clip.

Trim the nail below the quick

On dogs with light colored nails you should see a pink shape at the base of the nail. This is the quick. For dogs with dark colored nails you’ll have to judge how far up to trim, generally where the nail begins to curve downward into a point. It’s better to clip a little and do it more often than to clip a lot and cause your dog’s nail to bleed.

If you cut into the quick and your dog’s nail bleeds, don’t panic. Use styptic powder (available at a pet supply or drug store) or dip the nail in corn starch to stop the bleeding. Let your dog settle down before you finish clipping his nails.

Do a paw check

You should check the condition of his paws and pads while you clip your dog’s nails. Look between the toes for dirt and debris or matted hair. Trim long hair around the pad, particularly in the winter when snow can build up and make walking painful. Make sure your dog’s pads are smooth and clean. Cracking, dryness, or irritation can be treated with paw wax. Consult your veterinarian if you find anything out of the ordinary.

There’s no need to be intimidated by clipping dog nails. If you trim a little bit once a week, nail clipping can be a simple step in your dog’s health care routine.


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