Step-by-Step Guide to Trimming Your Dog’s Nails Safely and Effectively


Learn how to properly trim your dog's nails with these steps.

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If you’re like most dog owners, you may dread the task of trimming your dog’s nails. It can be a bit daunting, but it’s not as hard as you may think! In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of trimming your dog’s nails safely and effectively. So read on and learn how to trim your dog’s nails like a pro!

Cutting a dog’s nails can be difficult, especially if a dog is scared of nail clippings and other dog grooming procedures. Like most dog grooming and care, success depends on using the right dog grooming tools and the proper technique.

Pet nail trimming is among the most basic dog grooming techniques; it’s also one of the essential elements of dog grooming. There are two basic nail-trimming tools for pets: the traditional nail clipper and the Dremel-style nail trimmer.

dog paws closeup 

Why Do We Trim Dog’s Nails? 

Nails that are too long can cause several problems for dogs, including:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Infection in nail beds
  • Torn nails and nail beds
  • Limping or difficulty walking
  • Chewing or licking of feet (caused by the pain)

If your pooch is a companion to an older adult or someone on a blood thinner – those longer nails can tear up their arms as they demonstrate love or affection by pawing at their owner.

dachshund paws

To keep your dog healthy and happy, it’s important to keep their nails trimmed regularly.

Now that you know why it’s so important to trim your dog’s nails, let’s take a look at how to do it safely and effectively. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

Pick Your Tool Set 

There are two main types of nail grooming tools for pets – the clipper style and the sander Dremel style. Let’s look at them both:

  1. Nail clippers for dogs
  2. Dremel-style pet nail trimmer

1) Trimming a Dog’s Nails With Traditional Nail Clippers

The first step to cutting a dog’s nails involves selecting the preferred type of tool. Nail clippers for dogs are inexpensive and easy to find at virtually any pet store. Dog owners can pick between two basic nail clippers: scissor-style nail clippers and guillotine-style nail clippers. 

Nail clippers similar to a pair of scissors tend to be easier to use, especially on dogs with larger, thicker nails, but the guillotine-style nail clippers tend to stay sharper for longer.

Unfortunately, pet nail clippers do have a couple of disadvantages. First, dog nail clippers dull pretty quickly, which causes the clippers to crush the dog’s nail instead of cutting cleanly. This can cause foot and nail pain, infection, and bleeding from the live part of the dog’s nail called the “quick.”

In addition, nail clippers can be challenging to use on dogs with smaller or more delicate nails. A dog owner may need to use a nail file to smooth the nail before clipping for these nails.

This video demonstrates how to cut your dog’s nails using traditional nail clippers.

Nail clippers can be challenging to use on a scared and struggling dog during a nail clipping attempt. One slight movement and the pet owner may accidentally cut into the quick of the nail, causing bleeding.

All it takes is one painful experience, and you will constantly have a battle on your hands to trim those toenails.

Nail clippers also tend to leave the dog with sharp nails, which can scratch the dog’s skin when he itches, along with scratching pet owners, furniture and flooring. So for pet owners who do opt to cut a dog’s nails with a traditional nail clipper device, it’s important to purchase a coarse grain nail file, like those used for acrylic nails. Use the nail file to smooth sharp edges after trimming the dog’s nails with the clippers.

dog nail clippers

2) Clipping a Dog’s Nails With a Dremel-Type Nail Trimming Device

The Dremel-style pet nail trimmer is a newer version of the traditional nail clipper. This nail trimming tool uses a small rotary blade to cut through the dog’s nail instead of scissors’ blades.

Many dog owners are now opting to use a Dremel-style nail trimmer for dog pedicures – a new and popular dog grooming tool for dogs and other pets. 

This Dremel-style pet nail trimmer features a rotating file that shaves away the tip of the dog’s nail. This gives pet owners greater control when trimming a dog’s nails and eliminates the risk of cutting the nail to or below the quick, causing that pain and bleeding. Other similar dog nail trimming devices eliminate the need to file a dog’s nails to remove sharp edges that result from the dog’s nail clipping.

While it does have the disadvantage of being a bit more expensive than traditional nail clippers, there is also the fact that some dogs don’t react well to the sensation of vibration from the nail trimmer. But, that can easily be overcome with patience and positive reinforcement training.

These mechanical nail filing tools are great for dogs with black or dark-colored nails. The live part of the dog’s nail – the quick – is not visible if the dog has black nails. Therefore, nail trimming with traditional clippers becomes a guessing game that leads to a dog with a nail injury.

Dremel PawControl Dog Nail trimmer

Pro Tip for Cutting a Dog’s Nails

Pet owners must also keep styptic powder or corn starch on hand if the nail trimmer cuts the dog’s nail too short, resulting in bleeding. If the dog’s nail quick is cut, dog owners must wash and disinfect the dog’s injured nail twice a day for about one week, in addition to bandaging the injured paw for a few days after the mishap.

styptic powder for pet nails

What is styptic powder?

Styptic powder is an astringent substance that contracts tissues and blood vessels. It is used to stop bleeding from minor cuts and scrapes.

To use, first apply pressure to the cut area with a clean cloth. Next, dip a cotton swab in the styptic powder and apply it directly to the cut nail bed. Finally, continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops.

If you don’t have styptic powder on hand, you can use cornstarch as a temporary measure. Simply apply the cornstarch directly to the cut area and continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops.

When trimming your dog’s nails, always err on the side of caution and trim less rather than trim too much and accidentally cut the quick. If you do happen to cut the quick, don’t panic! Just have styptic powder or cornstarch on hand to stop the bleeding.

Dog Nail Trimming Tools


How often should I trim my dog’s nails?

This will depend on your dog and how quickly his nails grow. A general rule of thumb is to trim your dog’s nails every two to three weeks. However, some dogs may need their nails trimmed more frequently, while others may only need it done once a month or so. It just depends on the individual dog.

dog chewing toy long nails

What is the best way to trim my dog’s nails?

There are a few different ways to trim your dog’s nails. You can use traditional nail clippers, a Dremel-style nail trimmer, or even a grinder. It just depends on what you are most comfortable with and what works best for your dog.

What should I do if I cut my dog’s nails too short?

If you accidentally cut your dog’s nails too short, don’t panic! Just have some styptic powder or corn starch on hand to stop the bleeding. You may also need to bandage the paw for a few days. If the quick is cut, you will need to wash and disinfect the nail twice a day for about a week.

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