How to Clip Dog Nails

Before starting to clip your dog’s nails make sure your dog has had sufficient time to familiarize himself with the clippers. Choose a moment when your dog is calm and relaxed. An ideal time is after a walk when your dog is a little tired. After a meal can also be a good time.

You, too, should be relaxed. Any tension you feel will soon transmit to the dog, so don’t put pressure on yourself. Even if you only manage one nail a day that’s great. Dog nails need to be cut every 2-4  weeks and by the time you’ve trimmed them all, you just start again from the beginning.

  • If you have a dog with a lot of fur it may be hard to see the nails. Trim away excess hair in advance so that you can easily see and access each claw. Alternatively, move the hair out of the way by pushing the nails through gauze or an old panty hose.
  • A tip for dogs with very hard nails is to clip the nails after a bath or to wrap the paws in damp cloths for 15 minutes before clipping as it will soften them.
  • Make sure you have a supply of styptic powder handy to still any bleeding should you happen to cut into a quick. If you have nothing else, use corn starch or flower.
  • When you are ready to begin clipping, take a firm grip on the paw, making sure you’re not twisting the leg into an uncomfortable position. Keep the paw steady, but don’t pinch it.
  • Lightly push down on the pads of the paw. This will extend the nails a little, making them easier to get to.
  • If using pliers style clippers or dog nail scissors ensure that the blades cut the nail from the underside and the topside of the nail. Never cut with the blades against the sides of the nail. This adds extra pressure on the quick and your dog is then more likely to experience discomfort or even pain.
  • With guillotine clippers the blade should be cutting from the underside of the nail.
  • Start by clipping only the very tip of the claw, ca 1/16″. The angle of the cut should be approximately 45˚ to the floor.
  • If you are still far from the quick, clip again. To locate the quick, follow the advice on the page How to Find the Quick.
  • The safety guard you find on many pliers style clippers will help to prevent cutting off too much nail, but it’s not infallible. After each cut make sure you know how close you are to the quick.
  •  After each paw, or each nail if your dog is unwilling, give your dog a healthy treat and plenty of praise to let him know how good he is.
  • Don’t forget the dew claws. If your dog has dew claws you’ll find them on the inside of the foot, 1-4 inches away from the toenails.
  • Finish off by smoothing down any rough edges with a dog nail file.
  • If your dog gets stressed, keep hold of him and caress and talk to him until he relaxes. Then decide if your will try with another nail or continue the following day. Don’t let your dog leave you before he is calm and happy again. You want to end the trimming session on a positive note.
  • So make sure to amply reward you dog with praise in a cheerful and positive voice and some healthy dog treats when you finish your nail trimming session.

Finally, you might want to experiment to find out which position works best for clipping your dog’s nails. Try trimming the nails with the dog sitting on you lap, or lying down next to you. You can also try standing over your dog, one leg on each side of him, and bend down to pick up the paw. Or maybe you will find it works better if you put your dog on a grooming table, especially if you already do this when performing other grooming tasks.


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Mari C

Product researcher with a business degree and a MA in English Literature. Firm believer in learning by doing. Over the years, we've had many different dogs in our family, mainly working dogs like scent hounds, gun dogs, and cattle dogs. Presently, we have a determined little Shih Tzu/Tibetan Spaniel girl whose only job is to delight us with her merry company.

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