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How to Safely Clip Your Dog’s Nails

Cane Bay Summerville - Clip your dog's nailsTrimming your pup’s nails truly can be a stress-free experience. Introducing clippers to Scruffy as a puppy will help him grow accustomed to the process and ease his nerves, if he has any, about nail clipping.

As some dogs (and humans) get nervous for this process, below we’ll discuss how to safely clip your dog’s nails.

How Often Should You Clip Your Dog’s Nails?

It varies. Dogs that get a lot of exercise and go for frequent walks might not ever need their nails trimmed. Frequent contact with the cement naturally wears down the nails and reduces the need for clipping.

For dogs that don’t receive as much exercise, trimming nails weekly may be necessary. A good rule to tell if your dog needs his nails clipped is by looking to see if they’ve grown long enough to touch the ground when he walks. If so, it’s time for a trim.

First Watch Your Veterinarian or Vet Technician

To get more comfortable, it’s a good idea to watch your vet or a vet tech trim your puppy’s nails before trying it on your own. This is a good way to get a sense of the technique, observe how the vet handles your dog’s paws and learn the basics.


Many dogs become fearful when strange objects, such as nail clippers, are coming towards them to make contact with their skin. Try introducing nail clippers to your pooch as a puppy to help him grow accustomed to what they look like.

Before clipping his nails, PetMD recommends touching the nail clippers to your pet’s toe nail 10 to 15 times (without actually clipping anything) to get your dog used to them. The next day, do the same thing, but this time, apply pressure to the clippers so they make the clipping noise, but still refrain from actually trimming the nails.

The third day, actually begin the clipping process. Be sure to have lots of treats on hand for both training days and for when you actually clip his nails. You want to reinforce that trimming your dog’s nails is a positive experience, not a traumatizing one.

Necessary Tools:

  • Nail clippers

There are a variety of different types of nail clippers you can use. According to PetMD, the guillotine-style clippers are best to use for small dogs. Larger dogs do better with pliers-style clippers, and if you choose, a scissor-type of nail clipper is also available. If you’re unsure which to use, talk to your veterinarian first about his or her recommendation.

  • Clotting Powder

In case bleeding occurs, be sure to have clotting powder or styptic powder readily available. If the nail starts to bleed, simply take some powder, press it and hold it against your dog’s nail. If the bleeding does not stop within 5 to 7 minutes, call your veterinarian.

  • Treats

As mentioned above, keeping treats on hand for positive reinforcement is key.

Safely Clip Your Dog’s Nails: 

Be Conservative with How Much You Clip – Don’t Clip the Quick

VetStreet recommends trimming about 1/16 of your pet’s nail each time you clip. Make sure to only clip the white part of the nail. The pink part of the nail is what is known as the quick. It contains blood vessels and nerves, and if you clip too closely to the quick, it will start to bleed.

If your dog has darker nails and you are unable to locate the pink part of the quick, try to find the part closest to the tip that has a lighter, more white hue. This is the dead part of the nail that is safe to trim. If you start to apply pressure where you think you’re safe to cut and your dog starts yelping, you are too close to the quick.

Cut From Underneath and Separate the Toes

Unlike human nails when we cut from the top, when clipping your pup’s nails, cut from underneath. Use a trimmer that you are confortable with, and one that you are able to make quick, easy clips with.

Additionally, make sure to separate the toes as you cut one by one.

We hope you were able to glean some helpful tips about how to safely clip your dog’s nails.

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