How to Trim Dog Nails – Everything You Need to Know

Jul 15, 2023 | Guides

The importance of maintaining dog grooming hygiene is essential for your furry friend to lead a happy, healthy, and comfortable life. Learning how to trim dog nails can help you maintain that life. Long nails can cause discomfort, pain, and even infection for your dog. Therefore, keeping the nails trimmed is an important aspect of grooming. However, nail trimming can be tricky and nerve-wracking, especially if it is your first time.

In this blog, we will walk you through the steps on how to trim your dog’s nails safely and efficiently so you will be able to do regular nail trims and avoid those long toenails.

Tools You Will Need:

Before you get started, gather the necessary tools that you’ll need. You will need:

  • A pair of sharp dog nail clippers- Plier Style or guillotine style usually are the most common. Guillotine style clippers are best for smaller breeds while plier style clippers are best for larger breeds.
  • A file or grinder to smooth rough edges.
  • Styptic powder to stop bleeding in case you clip too far.
  • You might also need someone to help hold your dog steady, especially if they’re not used to getting their nails trimmed.Get everything you need organized before you begin to avoid any hassle during the process.

    Dog paw print in sand

1. Familiarize your dog with the process:

Before you start your dog’s nail trim, it’s important to get them familiarized with the process. Start by showing them the tools such as the nail clippers and giving them some treats to ensure them that everything is okay, in fact you can give them ‘calming treats’ to make the process easier if they are anxious.

Touch the tool to one nail and paw gently, so they get used to the sensation. Gradually accustom them to the sensation and that will make the process much easier for you and your dog.

Dog Paw

2. Find The Right Length To Trim:

As a general rule, the long nails should be trimmed in such a way that there is no contact with the ground when the dog is standing. This action reduces the risk of the dog’s nails snagging or splitting, ultimately causing discomfort. If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking, its time for some nail cutting.

To achieve this, you need to identify the quick, which is the part of the dog’s nails that contains nerves and blood vessels.

The quick is easy to spot in dogs with light-colored nails or white nails, but it’s harder to find in dogs with dark nails or black nails. If your dog has dark nails, it’s essential to know how much nail to trim to ensure you don’t cut the quick. You will want the nails short, but not too short.

The quick of the nail is sensitive and will hurt if it’s clipped. Look for the pink portion of the nails that indicates where the quick ends. So, you can avoid it by cutting the very tip first, then small bits at a time and working your way back carefully especially if your dog has thick nails.

3. How To Cut Dog Nails:

Once you are comfortable and your dog is relaxed, it’s time to trim your dog’s nails. Hold your dog’s entire paw firmly, but gently, in your hand for better control and cut straight across the nail with the nail clippers.

Cut just one nail at a time and avoid curving or angled cuts that may cause the nail to split. Trim the nail just below the quick and stop before you reach it. If you’re unsure or your dog has a few black nails, it’s better to trim less on your dog’s nails than risk clipping too far.

4. Smooth The Nails:

After clipping your dog’s nails, you’ll need to smooth them out using a nail file or a grinding tool. Find a quiet and calm environment to do this since the sound of the grinder can startle your dog. Smooth out any rough edges while being careful not to apply too much pressure.


After trimming the nail, make sure to praise and reward your furry friend with treats and love to make the experience a positive one.

If your dog struggles or resists the process, try introducing him/her to the nail clipping process over time using positive reinforcement methods.

Dog catching a treat

What Are Some Positive Reinforcement Methods You Can Try?

Dog In Red Hat

1. Treats and Praise

One of the most common methods of positive reinforcement is simply rewarding your dog with a treat or praise when they perform a desired behavior, in this case it would be nail trims.

You can use small, bite-sized treats like dried liver or cheese, or even just a few pieces of kibble if your dog is more food-motivated. Be sure to provide the reward immediately after the behavior occurs, so your dog can associate the treat with completing nail trims.

2. Clicker Training For Nail Trims

Clicker training is a popular form of positive reinforcement that uses a small, handheld clicker to signal to your dog that they have done something right. You can pair the clicker with a treat or praise to reinforce the behavior.

The clicker acts as a marker that signals to your dog what they did correctly. With enough repetition, your dog will begin to associate the sound of the clicker with the reward, and you can eventually phase out the clicker and just use verbal praise to have your dogs nails cut.

3. Targeting

Targeting is another positive reinforcement method that involves teaching your dog to touch a specific object, like your hand or a target stick (or nail clippers) with their nose or paws. You can do this by holding out the object, waiting for your dog to touch it, and then immediately rewarding them with a treat or praise.

This can be useful for getting your dog to move in a specific direction, like when you need them to follow you to where you are planning on doing the nail trim.

4. Play Training:

Dogs love to play, and you can use this natural instinct to help reinforce good behavior.

You could also use play to teach your dog to fetch, come when called, a nail trim or perform other desired behaviors. Just be sure to keep the play session short and fun, so your dog doesn’t get bored or frustrated.

5. Environmental Rewards:

Finally, you can use the environment itself as a positive reinforcement for your dog. For example, if your dog loves going for walks, you can use a walk as a reward for a good behavior.

Dog on a walk

Similarly, if your dog loves playing with other dogs, you can use a playdate as a reward for good behavior. The key is to find what your dog loves and use it as a motivation to reinforce desired behaviors.

Positive reinforcement training is a powerful and effective way to train your dog without resorting to harsh punishments or negative reinforcement.

By using methods like treats and praise, clicker training, targeting, play training, and environmental rewards, you can build a strong bond with your furry friend and establish positive behaviors that will last a lifetime.

So give it a try and see how your dog responds – you might be surprised at just how effective and fun positive reinforcement training can be!

Dog Playing With Rope

How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Nails- Maintenance

Trimming your dog’s nails is a crucial part of their grooming. With the right tools and a little bit of patience, you’ll be able to do it safely and efficiently. Keeping up with the care of your dogs nails is just as important.

Regular Trimming

The most effective way to maintain your dog’s toenail health is regular trimming. Uncut nails can curl, grow too long, and even break, which can be painful for your pet. So, make sure to give your dog a nail trim regularly.

Check For Signs Of Infection

It’s essential to keep an eye on your dog’s nails after trimming them. An infection can happen due to a small cut or a crack in the nail. Check for any redness, swelling, or discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult a vet immediately.

Keep Your Dog’s Nails Clean

Keeping your dog’s nails clean is another crucial aspect of maintaining their nail health. Dirty nails can harbor bacteria and lead to infections. After trimming or filing, clean your dog’s nails with a dog paw cleaner or warm water with a mild pet shampoo. While cleaning, make sure to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that gets stuck in the paws.

Follow the steps in this guide to trim your dog’s nails and you’ll ensure that your dog’s comfort and overall health are well taken care of. Remember always to take your time, stay calm, and reward your dog for good behavior. By doing so, you’ll build your dog’s confidence and create a positive association with nail trimming. Happy grooming!

Are you located in or around Washington, D.C, Maryland or Virginia? Perfect! Ruff House Dog Training is veteran owned and operated and I service clients in all of those areas providing dog training. I would love to meet your furry friend and help you better understand your pup and help them better understand you so that you can spend more time enjoying your dog and communicating in a healthy way! Reach out to us at 904-595-7438, email us at or simply fill out the form on our website and someone will be in contact!

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