11 Dog Nail Clipping Tips

Part of your dog’s regular grooming routine should include nail clipping. But for any brave pet owner who has tried, trimming your dog’s nails is not an easy task. But there are some ways you can make dog nail clipping easier and safer for you and your pet. Here are 11 Dog Nail Clipping Tips:

1. Keep Your Pet Calm

Keeping your pet calm during a nail clipping is easier if your dog is in the right mood. Don’t attempt a nail clipping at a stressful time. Make sure your pet’s immediate needs are taken care of first. Is your dog hungry? Have you just got home? Maybe your pet needs a snack or a cuddle before he’s comfortable. A positive and open mood starts with comfort.

2. Bathe Your Dog First

Try to coordinate your dog’s nail clipping with her bath time. Bathing your dog before trimming her nails softens the nails so that they are easier to clip and less likely to splinter. The massaging motion of cleaning your pet’s fur can relax your dog so that she’s more docile for a nail clipping.

There are some dogs who get overexcited with baths. If this is your dog, it is not a good idea to clip your dog’s nails after bath. You know your dog best. Find a time when your dog is naturally calm and clip his nails then.

3. Use a File

german shep with long nails

Dog nail files should be a part of your pet’s nail care kit. Nail files are useful for smoothing out rough edges after clipping your dog’s nails. Use them to stop your dog from snagging your clothes, furniture, carpet, or scratching your arms. To save money, just pick up a human nail file or a fine-grit sandpaper. 

Rough nails also pose a risk to your pet. Snags can cause painful nail splits and a caught nail can cause a serious injury. File your dog’s nails for your pet’s safety and yours. 

If you still find your pet has rough nails after clipping, you can try a nail cap such as Soft Claws Nail Caps for Dogs. 

4. Look to the Quick

How short do you clip a dog’s nails? Look to the quick. On clear and light-coloured dog nails, you should be able to see a pink blood vessel, called the quick. The quick should be the marker for how short to clip your pet’s nails. Always leave at least a quarter of an inch of nail above the quick so as not to clip too short.

Clipping your dog’s nails too short can cause a lot of bleeding and be a painful and even traumatic experience for your pet.

Do you need to trim dog nails that are black? Go very slowly, trimming only a sliver at a time. As you clip, a grayish-white part of the nail should be exposed. As you get close to the quick, you’ll see a black spot begin to appear in the center of the nail. Stop there!

5. Have Styptic Powder on Hand

Even the most careful nail clipper can make a mistake. Always have some pet styptic powder, such as Essentials First Aid Styptic Powder, on hand for a quick stop to nail trimming accidents. If your dog’s nails are bleeding, immediately cover the bleeding end with a generous amount of styptic powder. It quickly stops bleeding.

6. Give Praise

Nail clipping is not usually a pleasant experience for any dog. Make your pet’s experience the best it can be by offering her plenty of praise and comfort during the process. A special treat when everything is finished can help, too.

7. Take Your Time

 clipping dogs nails

While both you and your dog may want to finish the nail trimming as soon as possible, it’s important to take your time. Dog nail clipping can be tricky even for the experts. To prevent accidents, go slowly and cautiously. If your pet is too stressed, stop and begin again when he settles.

8. Secure Properly

Hold your dog firmly, but gently, so as not to scare him. Wrap your free arm around his body and leg and hold his foot pad securely while you clip with your other hand. This should give you plenty of control.

9. Find the Dog Nail Clipper You Like

There are a few styles and types of dog nail cutters on the market. You may need to try a few before you find what works best for you.

Guillotine nail clippers (such as Le Salon Essentials Dog Guillotine Nail Cutter) make claw placement easy, especially for small dogs. They can provide a lot of control for the pet owner. However, the guillotine style can be tricky to manoeuvre for large dogs and may not be the best for fidgety dogs.

Scissor-style dog nail trimmers, also called Miller's Forge trimmers, work well for all types of dogs. Go slowly with this type of nail trimmer. Many of these come with nail guides, but these can be deceiving. Always judge by your pet’s quick – not a predetermined “guide”.

Nail grinders are a newer type of pet nail trimmer. This style of dog nail clipper can be the easiest for novice pet owners and excitable dogs. Since grinders only remove a little at a time, there is less chance that accidents will occur. This makes grinders a safe choice for even new dog owners.

10. Condition Claws

dog licking out jar

Did you know that the condition of your dog's nails is directly related to the food that he eats? A whole, balanced diet manifests itself in a healthy skin and coat - which includes your dog's nails. Plenty of sources of unsaturated fats such as salmon oil contribute to a healthy body all around.

If your pet has dry skin and brittle nails that are prone to splitting, try putting a fish oil supplement such as Wholistic Pet Wild Deep Sea Salmon Oil directly on your dog's food.

Not all dog foods are created equal. Check your dog food's quality with our Dog Food Comparison Chart.

11. Know When to Leave Nail Clipping to the Pros

If your pet is very fidgety, terrified of nail trimming, or if you are too nervous about dog nail clipping, you may want to take your pet to a pet store, groomer, veterinarian, or another pet professional. If you are anxious, you can pass on your fright to your pet. And a bad experience can be enough to make future nail clippings even harder.

While nail clipping is something many pet owners do themselves to save time and money, if you are in doubt, you are best to leave the job to someone more experienced.   


Dog nail clipping doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these dog nail clipping tips to make the job safer, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant for you and your dog.


Does your pet mind getting his or her nails clipped?