How to trim dog nails: a complete guide

26 February 2020

Dogs require special treatments as much as we do. But what if one of those treatments considered as “special” turns out to be a necessary hygiene practice? Dog nail trimming, as fancy as it may sound, is not just a beauty treatment, but an action you should perform regularly.

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Dogs require special treatments as much as we do. But what if one of those treatments considered as “special” turns out to be a necessary hygiene practice? Dog nail trimming, as fancy as it may sound, is not just a beauty treatment, but an action you should perform regularly.

Overgrown nails can, in fact, lead to massive pain and affect your dog’s life negatively. Because taking care of the paws is an essential part of your dog’s health, check out this Do’s and Dont’s list for your next dog nail trimming, which will turn out to be necessary to keep your dog healthy.

Why is it essential to shorten the nails of your dog?

It goes without saying that dogs who are used to walking on soft ground (a park or a forest) can have a harder time controlling the length of their nails, compared to dogs who walk on hard grounds (concrete or asphalt). However, not only the ground upon which your dog walks is a crucial factor. Pay also attention to these:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Type of dog breed
  • Feeding habits
  • How active your dog is

When dog nails are too long, it not only leads to pain. Postural defects can be another result, caused by your dog shifting weight. The worst case scenarios are lamenesses or serious injuries. If that’s the case, the nails continue to grow and can even grow to a length where they touch the ground. This significantly affects the quality of your dog’s daily life. As soon as the nails touch the ground and grow past the pad of your dog’s paw, it’s a sign they are definitely too long and that you should take action!

When are the nails too long?

dog nail trimming

If your dog stands in front of you and his front legs are under his shoulders, then his nails must not touch the ground. Otherwise, they are too long. If you hear his nails clicking or his nails turn sidewards, it is high time to trim his nails. A piece of paper should fit between the dog’s nails and the floor. Excessively long nails hinder your dog’s ability to move. But how do you shorten those nails?

Step-by-step instructions for dog nail trimming

Step 1: Prepare the equipments

  • Dog nail clippers/scissors/grinder
  • Scissors
  • Flashlight (for dark nails)
  • Optional: Paw balsam

When everything is ready, get your dog comfortable and you are good to go! Always be prepared for a nervous dog – and have some dog biscuits ready. This will give him a sense of security!

Step 2: Define the cutting range

Be extra cautious when defining the cutting range, because the nails are supplied with blood and a misdirected clip could lead to massive pain. It is easier to define the right cutting range if your dog has clear or light colored nailsFront paws are more susceptible to nail overgrowth than back paws. 

dog nail trimming

You can use a flashlight in order to identify the blood supply area. The problem with dark nails is that you cannot see the blood supply easily. The perfect cutting range is usually right before the blood supply. Always remember to cut parallel to the bottom.

Step 3: Let’s do this!

When you’ve defined the ideal cutting range, your dog is ideally still in its relaxed position. You have the equipment ready: it’s time to start. Cut by taking small steps, keeping in mind to keep your dog comfortable (and do it step by step) by rewarding him if necessary. If there’s no blood at the end of the whole process and your dog behaves like nothing has happened, you’ve done everything right!

dog nail trimming


Trim them every two weeks to maintain the optimal nail length. The more you trim his overgrown nails, the more the blood vessel will retreat back into the claw. Therefore frequent nail trimming is extremely essential. At the end of the process, you can choose to soften the skin around the nails with some paw balsam, but the choice is up to you. Trim the hair between the paws for a perfect result.

Step 4: Aftershow-reward!

Don’t forget to reward your dog afterward! Only by doing so, your dog can associate the “unpleasant procedure” of nail trimming with something positive and this can reduce the fear. Who would say no to a reward just because of a little nail trimming?!

What if it bleeds after dog nail trimming?

Even when you’re very cautious, it’s always possible that something goes wrong during this process. Golden rule: don’t panic if you see a little bit of blood on your dog’s nail. Instead, try to stop the blood flow and prevent any dirt from getting in contact with the wound, this to avoid infections. If the blood flow doesn’t stop after 30 minutes, contact your vet.

If you cannot contact your vet and need to act rapidly, use styptic powder or pencil (on sale at every pharmacy) on the wound/s. If you don’t possess any styptic powder or pencil and you cannot visit the pharmacy, try applying some ice cubes.

Dog nail trimming: conclusion

A dog’s nail treatment is often overlooked by people because they tend to only see the “beauty-factor” in it. But nail treatment remains an essential part of your dog’s regular care. After you read this blog post, you should feel more prepared for your dog’s next nail session.

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