Instructions on Trimming Dogs' Nails

Trimming your dog's nails is important to its health. Overgrown canine claws can split and break, causing bleeding, discomfort and sometimes infection for your pet. Unkempt nails on your dog may also lead to torn and damaged furniture or accidental injuries for you while playing with the dog. You can trim your dog's nails at home, but it can be tricky.

Place your dog on the table. If you have a small breed dog with a calm and docile demeanour, you may be able to hold it in your lap while trimming its nails, but using a table is often more effective. Place the dog on the table and encourage it to lie on its side. Most dogs are resistant to nail trimming and may try to run away. If possible, ask a friend or family member to help you hold it down, or use a restraining device such as a leash and collar.

Locate the quick of each nail. The quick is a soft pink bed of flesh within the nail that supplies blood flow to the claws. If your dog's claws are white or clear you can easily view the quick within the nail. When trimming the nails, be sure to trim the tips of the claws beneath the quick. If you cut into the quick of the nail, your dog will experience minor pain and considerable bleeding.

Firmly grasp your dog's paw and clip one nail at time. Once you have established how much of your dog's claw can be cut without inducing bleeding, you may begin to trim its nails. Keeping it firmly restrained, offer comforting words of encouragement while proceeding. Hold the clippers perpendicular to the nail with the blade end of the clippers facing away from the dog. Place the stationary ring of the clippers around the nail--about 2mm below the quick--and squeeze the handles in a firm and quick manner to cut the nail.

Check the nail. Take a look at the clipped end of the nail. If you can see a homogeneous pink or grey oval shape in the centre, you have nearly reached the quick and additional cutting may cause bleeding. If the oval is not visible, you may trim tiny bits of nail at a time until you have reached the desired length.

Control any bleeding. It is not uncommon for pet owners to accidentally cut into the quick due to fidgety dogs or inexperience. This is not an emergency situation and can be easily remedied on the spot. If your dog experiences bleeding, silver nitrate can be applied to stop the bleeding by rolling a styptic pencil across the nail or dipping the claw in a silver nitrate powder that can be purchased in most pet stores or animal hospitals. Flour or cornstarch are also used to stop canine claw bleeding.

Praise and reward your pet. Though you have comforted and encouraged your pet through the entire process, it is important to praise and reward it after you are finished as well. Letting it know that it did a good job and you appreciate its cooperation may make it less resistant the next time you cut its nails. Give it lots of hugs, treats and "Good doggy" praise once its manicure is complete.


Since most dogs are resistant to having their paws handled, it is advised to start trimming their nails at an early age. When possible, begin a regular nail clipping routine when your dog is a puppy. To ensure proper instruction and pet safety, consult a veterinarian or professional groomer the first time you trim your dog's nails.


It will be more difficult to locate the quick in dogs who have dark or black nails. If your dog's nails are dark in colour, snip tiny portions of the nail at a time to avoid bleeding and injury. Never hold the clipper sideways when trimming your dog's nails. When clippers are not held perpendicular to the claw, splitting, splintering and breakage of the nail may occur and be painful to your pet.

Things You'll Need

  • Table
  • Leash
  • Collar
  • Dog nail clippers
  • Styptic pencil
  • Silver nitrate powder
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
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About the Author

Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.