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Home > Dogs > How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Home (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Home (Step-by-Step Guide)

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Trimming your dog’s nails can be a scary experience for a new owner, and dogs that don’t understand what you are doing can create a lot of drama that makes clipping them difficult, if not impossible. However, you will need to trim them if you can hear them clicking on the floor, or they can become uncomfortable and even painful for your dog. Long nails can also cause your dog to slip on a smooth floor, possibly getting injured. If you are not sure how to safely trim your dog’s nails, keep reading, and we will provide you with a step-by-step guide that you can reference any time you need to.

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How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Home

1. Make Preparations

Preparation is a key component of successful trimming, and you will need the following supplies before you get started.

  • Treats — Choose your pet’s favorite treat.
  • Nail Clippers — There are multiple types of nail clippers you can use, but we recommend the type with a guard that prevents you from cutting the nail too short.
  • Styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch — Styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch can help you stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut the nail too short.

2. Desensitize Your Dog

woman holding dog paw
Image By: IRINA ORLOVA, Shutterstock

The best place to start trimming your dog’s nails is by creating a positive and relaxing atmosphere free from stress. Give your dog treats and plenty of praise, so they are happy and comfortable. You may need to do a few test runs so the dog gets used to the idea of you playing with their paws, but they will usually be fine if you take your time.

It is best not to rush the process; gradually desensitize your dog to having their paws touched before attempting to cut their nails. The dog should be comfortable with extended touches and touches with different objects and in different areas before you attempt to take the next step.

3. Prep Your Dog

To prepare your dog to get their nails cut, you can start by picking up one of the paws and holding your finger to one of the toes for a few seconds before letting go. Give your pet a treat, and do the same thing the next day and the day after that. Your dog will begin to look forward to this strange time you spend together. Next, you will touch the clippers to the nail to get your pet used to that for a few days before finally attempting to trim a nail if your dog stays relaxed and happy.

4. Trim Your Dog’s Nails

a man trimming the dog's nail

If your dog remains calm, you can begin trimming the nails one by one, giving your dog a treat after each nail. We recommend attempting to only do one the first time and then giving your dog a good treat and a break. You can try another one in a different session after a couple of hours.

Do only three or four nails each day, divided into sessions. Finish the sessions while your dog is calm. If your pet begins to struggle or fidget, stop and wait until tomorrow. If your pet is not relaxed, you risk cutting the nail too short, which can cause bleeding. If you accidentally hurt them, your training will become incredibly difficult in the future.

Once you have trimmed all the nails, you can let them grow until you hear them clicking again. That said, we recommend that you do a session of “pretend nail trimming” every few days. This will help your dog retain a positive association with this procedure.

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How Much Do I Cut?

It can take some practice to learn how short to cut your dog’s nails, which is why we recommend a nail trimmer with a guard that prevents you from taking too much off at once.

The idea is to cut only a bit from the tip of the nail, before the quick, which contains nerves and blood vessels. You should make a diagonal cut rather than a straight one.

If you cut the nail too short, your dog will yelp and start to bleed. Quickly apply the styptic powder to stop the bleeding, and wait a few days before you resume trimming the nails. Once you know how short to trim the nail, you can try other kinds of clippers to find one that suits you.

How to Trim Dog Nails
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  • Never get angry at your pet if they don’t want to get their nails cut. Doing so will make them like trimmings even less.
  • A rotary sander like the Dremel will enable you to sand away the nail instead of cutting it.
  • If you are unsuccessful in trimming your dog’s nails, you can hire a pro to do it. Dog groomers often have a skilled technician who can help you.


In Summary

Trimming your dog’s nails is not difficult and only requires a little experience to learn how to keep your dog calm and how much of the nail to remove without causing your dog pain. However, even highly skilled groomers will occasionally trim a nail too short and cause bleeding, so don’t panic if it happens to you. It will scare the dog and slow your reaction time. Put the nail in styptic powder and forget about it.

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Featured Image Credit: Marina.Martinez, Shutterstock

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