How To Cut Your Dog’s Nails: A Step-by-Step Guide

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5 min read

Updated - Oct 13th, 2022

Regular trimming of your dog’s nails is an essential part of care, but for many owners, the process is anything but easy.  It’s no wonder why so many owners take their dogs to a professional groomer rather than trimming from home.

Although trimming your dog’s nails can be frustrating, if ignored, overgrown nails can lead to long-term problems like injured tendons or splayed feet. (If you notice your dog licking their paws a lot, this could be why!) If you have a squeamish, highly reactive dog and you break a sweat trying to trim their nails to no avail – this article is for you.

Here, we break down how to cut your dog’s nails step by step. Let’s dig in!

1. Know when to trim 

One of the best ways to prevent injury when learning how to cut dog nails is knowing the right time to trim. If you cut dog nails when they’re too short, you put your dog at a higher risk for injury. But if they get too long, nails can grow into paw pads, causing discomfort and infection.

Much like with our nails, dogs’ nails will keep growing until they curl. Overgrown nails can cause pain for your dog when they walk, and can also increase the likelihood that they slip or fall. If your dog’s nails are touching the ground, or if they’re starting to sound like your pup is wearing tap shoes when they walk, it’s probably time to cut them. 

2. Choose proper nail trimmers

Ensuring you have the best type of nail clippers when cutting your dog’s nails will make the job easier and pain-free. For medium and large size dogs, you’ll want to use large dog nail clippers. For small dogs or puppies, you’ll want to use scissor-style clippers. It’s also great to have a nail file on hand to add finishing touches to your doggy pedicure (if your dog will let you!)


3. Know where to trim

The question of where to trim dog nails causes a lot of anxiety for pet parents; no one wants to hurt their furry companion. Inside of a dog’s nail is a vein called the quick, and if you accidentally cut into that part of the nail, you’re cutting into blood vessels. That can cause your dog a lot of pain and bleeding. 

The good news is that if your dog has white or clear nails, you can easily see where your dog’s quick starts, as that area will be darker than the rest of the nail. However, if your dog has darker or black nails and you can’t see the quick, it’s a good rule of thumb to trim slowly and carefully, little by little. 

Pet Pro Tip: Any responsible pet owner should seriously consider pet insurance. Properly understanding how pet insurance works and what pet insurance covers can help you make an informed decision about your pet’s health needs and plan your finances accordingly!

4. Use a good trimming technique 

One of the most important parts of learning how to cut your dog’s nails is making sure your pup is calm and comfortable. If they’re jumping around nervously while you’re trying to find the right place to cut their nails, it can lead to injury. Keep puppy treats on hand to reward your pup after trimming each paw. It also helps to have a second person with you to keep your dog still – especially if they’re larger. If it’s your puppy’s first time with clippers, consider gradually exposing them to the nail clippers with treats and praise over the course of a week before beginning the actual dog nail trimming.  

Step-by-step: How to cut dog nails

1. First, you’ll also want to make sure you push your pup’s hair back so that there’s no dog fur in the way of their nails. Using an old pair of panty hose or a plastic bag with a hole in it are two good ways to do this.

2. When your dog is ready for you to start trimming, gently pick up one of your dog’s paws and place your thumb on their toe pad, keeping another finger on the toe skin above the toenail. Push your thumb up on the pad, while pushing your finger forward, to extend the nail. This works for their dewclaws, too.

3. Once you’re ready, clip only at the tip of the nail, straight across. Try not to clip past the curve of the nail, where you may see a pink area, or for dogs with dark nails, a chalky white ring. That’s where the quick starts. 


And don’t forget the finishing touches! While your dog may naturally wear down the rough edges of their trimmed nails over time, you might consider using a nail file to smooth out the bottom of your dog’s nails from the tip of the nail. 

That’s it! You now know how to cut dog nails. As for how often you need to cut your dog’s nails, it will depend on your dog’s breed, their activity level (walks on the pavement naturally file down nails), and how regularly they go to the groomer’s.

With all this said, mistakes happen. Learning how to cut dog nails isn’t easy, and if your pup does get injured in the process, give them plenty of puppy kisses and learn for next time. You’ll just want to make sure that you keep styptic powder on hand to combat any bleeding. Dipping the bleeding nail into styptic powder stops the flow of blood, and quickly prevents bacterias from entering. 

Although it’s paw-sible that clipping your dog’s nail too short is the worst injury they’ll encounter in life, it’s not likely. To help protect your pup from illnesses and accidents ahead, Pumpkin’s dog insurance plans can help pay back 90% of covered vet bills.

*Pumpkin Pet Insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/insurancepolicy. Products, discounts, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. (Pumpkin) (NPN#19084749) is a licensed insurance agency, not an insurer. Insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company (NAIC #21113. Morristown, NJ), a Crum & Forster Company and produced by Pumpkin. Pumpkin receives compensation based on the premiums for the insurance policies it sells. For more details visit pumpkin.care/underwriting-information and pumpkin.care/insurance-licenses

Rachel Carp

Rachel is a copywriter and the favorite aunt of an adorable Cockapoo named Bentley.
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