Nail Trimming Tips

lindsay giguiere, nail clipping of dog nails

If you’re a pet owner who’s totally freaked out by cutting your dog’s nails, you’re not alone. Hence, one of the many reasons dog groomers exist.

Many owners shy away from cutting their pet’s nails for various reasons.

  • Unsure of what to do
  • Fear of hurting their dog
  • Worried their dog won’t sit still
  • Don’t have the time
  • Would rather leave it to a professional

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who grooms her own dog. There’s something very respectful about that. It takes time, knowledge, patience, and a boat-load of other talents. 

Cutting my dogs’ nails scares the heck out of me but I’d like to be able to have that skill. Perhaps if I knew more about the anatomy of dogs’ nails, how to safely cut them, and keep my own dogs from being in pain while not being pains, I would reconsider.

Here are nail trimming tips that will take the fear away and keep your dog’s paws pruned. 

The Anatomy of Your Dog’s Nails:

This is important information because you can’t just cut a dog’s nails without understanding the various parts. PetMD tells us the “quick” is the center portion of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you cut the “quick”, it can cause a lot of pain for your pet and a lot of bleeding. This will ensure you “quickly” retire your nail cutting tools. 

If this occurs, try not to freak out. I know, it’s a tall order, however, you’re the master and your dog’s looking for its next move. It’s like a little kid that falls and based on your reaction, either cries and claims a broken arm, or tears up, then gets up, tells the sidewalk it’s punished, and moves on. 

What do you do when your dog’s nail is bleeding heavily? One of the many tools in your nail cutting toolbox should be styptic powder. You can also use cornstarch or flour. These will halt the bleeding. This may take you back a few steps but you can build up your dog’s confidence, and yours again. 

How to Start the Process:

Now what? You’ve purchased all the equipment you need and are ready to get started, right? Sort of. It’s a process and one that takes a bit of time. Imagine sitting in a nail salon, ready for your first pedicure. Your feet are soaking, you’re looking forward to that massage, and all of the sudden, the nail tech whips out a whole bunch of metal tools to make your feet look pretty? It can be a bit frightening and therefore, you would appreciate an explanation of what’s to come.

The same goes for your dog. There are a few ways to get Fido comfortable before you cut anything and if you can start at the puppy stage, even better. 

  • Sit on the floor and hold your dog’s paw, rubbing it and exploring in a loving way while telling your dog what you’re doing. (Don’t act like you don’t have full conversations with your dog.)
  • Your calm voice and kind touch will let your dog know you aren’t there to cause pain.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with your touch, get them comfortable with the nail trimmer you’ll be using, whether it’s a clipper or a grinder. 
  • What does your instrument sound like?
  • What do the vibrations of a grinder feel like?
  • Let your dog sniff and explore these instruments and continue to pet them, whisper sweet nothings, and make it a pleasant experience.
  • Demonstrate what a clipper or grinder will do without actually doing it. says if your dog keeps pulling away it’s paw, to hold each paw daily, while touching the nails for a few seconds. When you let go, give your pet lots of praise along with a treat.

You’re Both Ready:

You’ve prepared, researched, made your dog feel safe, and took a really deep breath, so now it’s time to trim. It would be unrealistic to think this will be a simple and quick activity. Take your time and you’ll find your groove. shares these helpful steps to cutting your dog’s nails with success. 

  • Gently but firmly hold one of your dog’s paws between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Push down slightly on the paw pad to extend the nail forward. 
  • Make sure there is no hair blocking your view of the entire nail.
  • When your dog is holding still, clip straight across the tip of the nail. 
  • Do not clip behind the natural curve of the nail.

Your dog’s nails will be very sharp after cutting them. If your dog is calm and not stressing out, you can file them to make them smooth. If your dog often goes for walks on concrete or pavement, its nails will file down naturally.

What Do Uncut Nails Mean for Your Dog?

We don’t just cut our pet’s nails because it looks good. We of course don’t want to get scratched with long dog talons but there are health reasons we want to keep those nails at bay. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) says, “Long nails can turn a sound paw into a splayed foot and reduce traction, and they can cause deformed feet and injure the tendons over an extended period.” Ouch! Think of the nails on your feet. Imagine walking and putting on shoes with nails that are long and unkempt? Again, ouch, and we only have two feet while dogs walk on all four paws. 

If you’re delaying cutting your dog’s nails because you’re scared or don’t want to put in the work, your lack of enthusiasm will affect its posture and joints. Get it done!

Fun Facts and Finds:

1) If you’re wondering how to keep your dog from losing interest and remaining still while cutting its nails, here’s a great tip. Have you ever seen the social media videos of pet owners whose heads are wrapped in saran wrap doused in peanut butter? While it looks ridiculous, it’s pretty brilliant and it works. 

Just like a nail salon may offer water, a massage chair, and televisions, why not give your pet the same five-star treatment and some tasty entertainment. 

2) Did you know your vet can cut your dog’s nails if you ask. (Some may charge you for the service.) Your vet’s office is a great option to learn how to cut your dog’s nails like a professional. This will make you more comfortable when you try it on your own. 

Talk to your vet about your interest in cutting your dog’s nails, do some research, and take pride in how you care for your pooch. With a little knowledge and confidence, before you know it, you’ve ‘nailed” it. Yep, I went there.

Hope You Enjoyed the Read!

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Authored By: Lindsay Giguiere

Lindsay is an entrepreneur, influencer, and advocate with a passion to help women and their loved one’s thrive beautifully.


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