How To Trim Dog Nails: A Complete Guide

13 January 2022

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.

Person cutting dog nails white dog nail clipper white and brown dog

Dog nail trimming is not just a beauty treatment, but an action you should perform regularly – every dog parent should know how to trim dog nails. Because overgrown nails can, in fact, lead to massive pain and affect your dog’s life negatively. Taking care of the paws is an essential part of your dog’s health, so check out this guide to trimming your dog’s nails safely at home by yourself. With our step by step process, trimming dog nails can be made easy for you and your furry friend!

dog nail trimming guide infographic from Tractive

Why is it important to trim dog nails?

When dog nails get too long, it can lead to pain and other serious issues. Over time, your dog might develop spine and posture problems (like sitting or standing oddly) due to frequently shifting weight because of overgrown nails. Too-long nails can even lead to difficulty walking, lameness or serious injury; especially if they’re so long that they touch the ground. In general, nails that are too long can limit your dog’s movements.

Overgrown nails significantly decrease the quality of your dog’s daily life.

As soon as your dog’s nails touch the ground and grow past the pad of your dog’s paw, it’s time to take action!

How to know when to trim dog nails

With your furry friend standing in front of you with their front legs under their shoulders, check their nails. Are they touching the ground? If so, then they’re too long. And if you hear your dog’s nails clicking or see them turn sideways, it’s time for a trim. Ideally, you should be able to slip a piece of paper between your dog’s nails and the floor.

dog nail trimming illustration - ideal dog nail length vs too long

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 equipment

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

When everything is ready, get your dog comfortable and you’re good to go. If your dog is a bit nervous, calm them with biscuits or extra cuddles. This will give them a sense of security while you begin cutting.

Step 2: Determine how far to trim dog nails

Be extra careful when deciding where to cut, as dog nails are supplied with blood. An accidental clip in the wrong spot could lead to a lot of pain. It’s easier to find the right range for dogs with clear or light colored nails, while it can be a bit trickier with dark nails. Luckily, a flashlight can help you better see the blood supply area.

dog nail trimming illustration - how far to trim dog nails

Remember these 3 tips and you’ll be fine:

  • The perfect cutting range ends right before the blood supply.
  • Front paws are more likely to get overgrown nails.
  • You should always cut parallel to the bottom. 

Step 3: Let’s do this – time to cut dog nails!

Defined the cutting range? Good! Your dog is (ideally) in a relaxed position. You have your equipment ready. It’s time to start trimming your dogs nails!

illustration - how to cut dog nails - cutting after the quick

Trim by taking small steps at a time, and use rewards to keep your dog comfortable if needed. 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!

Moreover, once you’re done cutting, you can soften the skin around the nails with some paw balsam. It’s optional, but can be comforting for your pup. Trim the hair between the paws for perfect results.

Step 4: Reward your good boy or girl

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?!

How to trim dog nails that are overgrown?

Are you taking care of a dog that already has extremely long nails? Check out the video below for tips on how to cut overgrown dog nails safely. If you are worried about your dog’s nail, paw, or health in general, as always, talk to your veterinarian. He will be able to give you the best recommendations and treatments for your puppy.

How to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding

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.

How often to trim dog nails?

It depends; dogs who are used to walking on soft ground (like parks or forests) can have a harder time controlling the length of their nails, compared to dogs who walk on hard ground (concrete or asphalt). Moreover, that’s not the only factor at play. Dog nail cutting requirements are also affected by:

  • Genetic factors
  • Dog breed
  • Feeding habits
  • How active your dog is

However, we’d recommend cutting your dog’s nails every 2 weeks to maintain ideal nail length. Furthermore, the more you trim their overgrown nails, the more the blood vessel will retreat back into the claw. Therefore, frequent dog nail trimming is highly essential.

More ideas to keep your dog healthy and happy

So, now that you’re an expert on how to cut dog nails, you might want to consider some other ways to ensure that your dog is always happy-go-lucky by your side. Here are our top 5 tips to best care for your dog:

  1. Train your dog to follow basic commands for safety.
  2. Keep dangerous toxins out of your dog’s reach.
  3. Ensure your dog will never get lost with a GPS tracker for dogs.
  4. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise with the help of activity monitoring.
  5. Learn how to handle your dog in heat.

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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