owner trimming nails of a dog

At-Home Guide to Trimming Dog Nails

Dog nail trimming is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks to do at home – but it can be done. There is no sugar-coating it, trimming your dog’s nails does have its risks, but you can do it safely if you pay attention to some things. Don’t worry – we got you. We’ll guide pet parents new and old through how to conduct at-home dog nail trimming effectively and safely for both the dog and you. Let’s jump right into it.

How Often Should I Trim My Dog’s Nails?

owner helping her dog get acquainted with nail trimming tools
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How often you should trim a dog’s nail really depends on your dog. Very active dogs may only need a quick trim of the tip once a week or every other week. Why? Because an active dog’s nails are constantly being brushed against the hard ground like concrete or asphalt, the rough surface acts as a nail file and effectively keeps the nails quite short – especially the rear paws.

Even if your dog is an active one, we would still recommend checking on the length to make sure they are kept at an optimal length. For the less active and lapdogs, the checkups need to happen more frequently. Check each of your dog’s paws every week if possible.

It’s perfectly fine to get your dog’s nails trimmed with each trip to the groomers, but there may be a need to do your own upkeep in between.

Why Is It Important to Trim Dog Nails?

How To See The Quick On Black Dog Nails?
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When dog nails become too long, it could be very painful and lead to chipping, breaking, splitting, and splintering. It can also be very difficult for your fur baby to walk around with the hindrance of long nails. Puppies and adult dogs may suffer from muscular deformities, splayed feet, and other physical issues from compensating for long nails. Overgrown nails negatively affect a dog’s daily life.

The more frequently you cut your dog’s nails, the less likely the quick will grow to be too long. The quick is the pink part you see within your dog’s nail. It’s more difficult to see the quick on dogs with dark nails. The quick is a collection of nerves inside the nail, which can be very painful if you accidentally cut it. The quick will grow to be longer if you don’t do regular nail maintenance.

This means that even if you cut your dog’s nails to the shortest length possible without clipping the quick, it may still be very long. Having a long quick will result in the need for more regular nail trimming.

How to Trim a Dog’s Nails

White and brown dogs beside nail clipper and nail grinder
Image by Goochie Poochie Grooming from Pexels

As we said, nail trimming will be met with a lot of resistance in most dogs. If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to make the experience more pleasant for all.

Make nail trimming a positive experience

Cutting your dog’s nails requires the right tool. You could get a nail grinder or nail clippers. In general, dogs are more accepting of nail grinders as it’s usually the pressure of the dog nail clippers that they dislike. Then again, the motor sound of grinders can also send your pup running in the other direction. It’s best to see what works for your dog. Guillotine-style clippers may put a little less pressure on your dog’s long nails and make it slightly more acceptable.

Whatever equipment you get for your dog’s overgrown nails, you have to introduce your pup to the new tool slowly. Let him inspect it, sniff it, and understand that it’s not a threat. Every time he comes up to the clippers. Once he gets used to it, start tapping his nails with the nail clippers or grinders so he becomes more intimate with the tool and will eventually become less nervous with nail trims.

Your goal is to get your dog to associate nail trimming with having a good time and lots of his favorite treats. It will take time and patience, but you can do it with consistency!

Secure your dog and his paw

Your dog may struggle with nail trims. It’s very likely with most dogs and they may instinctively want to retract their paws right when you have it in position for the first cut. For your dog’s safety and sanity, you have to secure your dog in a comfortable position. Since most dog owners don’t have a table for nail cutting, we would suggest enlisting the help of a friend for this.

Your assistant should be someone your dog trusts because getting him used to a stranger will take even more time. Once you have him in position, secure your dog’s paw by holding it firmly in your with your thumb on his large toe pad.

Make the first cut

So you’re ready for the first cut. Once you have your dog’s paw in position, position the grinder or clipper and only allow it to go as far as the quick. For dogs with clear or light-colored nails, this is easy to identify. You can see it clearly as the pink center if you look closely. For dogs with dark nails, this will take some experimentation so we advise doing it slowly and carefully.

Trim a tiny bit of your dog’s nail with the chosen tool and take a close look at the center. Holding his paw parallel to your eye level, you should eventually see a dark dot in the middle of the nail. The dark spot is quick on a black nail.

Give lots of praise

When you finally make a successful cut, make sure you give your dog lots of praise. In fact, you should shower him with praise every time he makes strides in the nail cutting process. From the moment he lets you grip his paws to the moment the clipped come down on your dog’s nails, you should be encouraging him in a happy tone of voice.

Dogs can discern your emotions through your tone, so keep it happy and light. Praise him at every step because the process of cutting dog nails is very daunting for most canines.

Have treats ready

Aside from verbal praise, your pooch’s favorite treats also say a lot about how pleased you are. When you’re going to trim your dog’s nails, make sure you get the yummy stuff ready. Sometimes, your dog will be so busy keeping an eye on his next treat he will forget all about his nails, which makes the process a lot easier.

How to Stop a Dog’s Nail from Bleeding?

We know you tried your best to be careful, but accidents happen. You may accidentally nip the quick, but don’t worry, it’s important not to panic. We know you’re heart is breaking, but you need to act quickly to stop the pain and bleeding. Styptic powder or pencil is something you have to have in your arsenal, although cornstarch and baking soda also work well in a pinch.

Place a generous amount on the part of the dog nails that are bleeding and put slight pressure on it. Keep a hold on it for around 3 to 5 minutes or until the bleeding stops. If it’s a very serious cut and the bleeding won’t stop, head to the vet immediately.

After an accident, it’s natural for your dog to be more resistant to nail trimming. Take a break for a few days until he feels more comfortable to give it another try.

How to Know When to Trim Dog Nails?

trimming a dog's nail
Image by alektas on Pixabay

It’s quite easy to know when your dog’s nails need trimming. It’s time to break out tools when the nails touch the ground. If you don’t deal with it when this happens, your dog’s nail will continue to grow and perhaps even curl, break, splinter, and then get infected. Ideally, there should not be clicking and clacking when your dog walks across hard surfaces.

You may still have one or two nails that do still hit the ground due to a long quick, but the problem should fix itself if you trim your dog’s nails regularly.

Generally, you would stop trimming right at the quick, but it’s perfectly fine and even more preferred to leave a few millimeters of the nail before the quick. Dogs need their nails for traction, grip, and digging, so giving them a bit of leeway for that would be very helpful. Think of it like how you should need a bit of a nail tip to open a soda can or something – it just makes life easier.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell how short to cut a dog’s nails?

You can tell how short to cut a dog’s nails by locating the quick. The quick is a collection of nerves within a dog’s nail. The quick is easier to spot on clear nails, but it takes incremental trims and monitoring to locate it on dark nails. You would stop a few millimeters before the quick to still give your dog enough nail to dig and grip terrain.

How do you know where the quick is on a dog?

The quick is easier to find on clear nails. You can spot it easily as the pink center within the nail. On black or dark nails, you can’t spot it with your naked eye. Dog owners would have to slowly cut the nail tip little by little until they see a dark spot in the center of the nail. The black spot is the quick on black nails and it’s also when they should stop.

What length should your dog’s nails be?

You trim your dog’s nails just shy of the quick. It doesn’t have to be right at the quick, because leaving a few millimeters can be highly functional for your dog. Your dog uses his nail to dig and grip terrain among other things. As long as the nails aren’t touching the ground, you’re good.


Cutting your dog’s nails is daunting for not only your beloved pooch but for you as well. Try not to be nervous or anxious, because your dog can sense your emotions. We know it’s easier said than done, but you can feel confident in your abilities after going through the steps we outlined above. We have every faith in you and your dog!

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