How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails Without Hurting the Dog

Are you scared to cut your dog's nails? At least a little bit nervous? Don't worry. You're not alone. In fact, most dog owners don't know how to trim your dog's nails without hurting the dog.

The “quick” of a dog's nail is the soft tissue inside the nail that contains the blood vessel and nerves that runs through the nail. As you can imagine, cutting the quick is painful for your pet and can cause quite a lot of bleeding.

If your dog has white nails, it's easy to use a light source to see through the nail to determine exactly where the quick is. If your dog has black or brown nails (like mine), it's impossible to tell exactly where the quick stops.

Even if you learn how to trim your dog's nails, you still may clip the quick once in a while. Expert groomers will tell you that they have clipped a quick a time or two. However, it's nothing to stress about and certainly not something that should prevent you from trying to clip Fido's nails again in the future.

How To Trim Your Dog's Nails
without hurting the dog

how to trim a dog's nails

1. The right supplies

The first step is to gather your tools. You'll want to have everything you need close at hand so you don't have to get up and stop your grooming session to retrieve supplies. These supplies include:

  • clippers and/or a dremel tool
  • styptic powder or corn starch
  • treats

For more tips and tricks, you can check out some of my video guides on how to make your pet comfortable with being groomed where I share tips about making your pet comfortable with paw handling, products that I use to entertain my dogs during grooming and when and how you should start getting your pet used to being groomed.

I've also created a video guide on choosing the right nail clippers for your pet that discusses the types of clippers available and how to select the right model for your pet. You may also find my guide on how to clip your dog's nails when he won't stay still.

This video demonstrates how I cut my dog Joey’s nails. He won’t stay still and tries to run away as soon as I get the clippers out. They make harnesses that allow you to hang your dog from a door frame or closet rod safely. It may sound crazy, but it works. Your dog can’t get away, and you can get his nails trimmed safely without having to spend money on a professional groomer.

2. Make sure the timing is right

Many owners make the mistake of trying to groom their dog at the wrong time. Yes, timing matters in this case.

First, make sure your dog is calm and comfortable. If your dog is energetic, try to tire him out first. Take a walk before your grooming session or play a game of fetch. If you try to clip your dog's nails when he is hyper, you're never going to be able to complete the task.

3. It's time to trim

dog nail trimming diagramWhen learning how to trim your dog's nails, this is obviously the most important part of the process. Be sure that all of your supplies are ready and easy to reach. Make sure your dog is calm and comfortable.

Using your clippers of choice, trim just the tip of the nail to avoid cutting the quick. The quick will recede after a few days, so if your dog’s nails are very long, clip a small piece now and keep clipping away small pieces once a week until they are the right length.

As I mentioned, white nails are easy to clip, because you can see the quick. Use a flashlight to make the quick easier to see. Black nails are much more of a challenge, but there is still a trick to help you avoid the quick.

Lift your dog’s paw and examine the underside of his nail. The tubular shape of the nail will begin to taper to a triangular point as it gets closer to the tip of the nail. You will begin to see outer “walls” on each side of the nail. This is the part of the nail that you'll want to trim.

Now, you may be wondering about the proper length for the nails. Your dog’s nails should not touch the ground when he is standing on a firm, level surface. That means that you should not hear any ‘click-clacking' when your dog is walking on a hard floor.

As I said, you can’t just cut the nails short in the beginning. Clip a little, give the quick about 3 days to recede and then clip a little more. Be patient. If you’ve neglected your dog’s nails for months, it could take you months to get them back to the length that they should be.

READ NEXT: How To Sharpen Dog Nail Clippers

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.