How to cut a dogs nails without clippers

As I sit on my porch this morning sipping my coffee I remembered that I needed to trim my dog’s nails. I always hate this because he gets so uncomfortable and he always seems to know when I’m about to tackle those little toenails of his.

I have found filing doesn’t seem to stress him out as much but takes a while to accomplish. As soon as he sees the nail clippers (you know the type with the round hole in the middle where you put the nail in) he runs for the hills, well in this case anyways the other room. So I’m going to be searching for a more comfortable way for performing this task that all my animals seem to really hate.

How to Trim Dog Nails without Clippers

What is the best way? What is the safest and easiest? The normal clippers squeeze their nails as they cut which is where the uncomfortable part comes in for my puppers (and my kitties).

Noisy options seem to scare the heck out of him I tried the rotary tool route and in fact got a few scars myself from that when it slipped out of my hand…I have discovered they do make a battery operated nail file for animals but if you don’t use that from the get-go and they’re not familiar with that they’re going to be very nervous and pull away. I will show you several alternatives to the standard clippers so that you can trim your dog’s nails without clippers.

Looking for tricks to clipping dogs nails? Check out our post 6 Easy Tricks to Cut Dog Nails.

Option 1: Filing Dog nails instead of Clipping

As I stated before, this method is by far the least stressful I have found for my animals. I usually do it by hand with an emery board, but it can take a good amount of time to use this method though it does work very well. I usually start at nail bottom nearer the tip and do it in a curved motion coming around and upward in a 45 degree arch.

You can also try a scratch board for dogs invented by these genius people, it just takes a little training and patience on your part!

Option 2: Cut Dog Nails with Scissors

I have been asked if this is something that should be done…my answer is simple…no. Unless your dog has thin nails or you can see the quick very clearly cutting your dog’s nails with scissors would not be a good way to go especially for a bigger dog.

It can squeeze the nail bed even more than the clippers designed for this and shred their nails, making it a more traumatic and painful experience…talking from experience when attempting other options for my little one.

Options 3: Cut Dog Nails with Human Clippers

The only time it would be recommended to do this is when the dog is a puppy with their tiny sharp tips (but only until a certain age) or if you have a tea-cup or miniature dog breed.

You can make your puppers experience a positive one as you work with them daily, touching their paws without clipping to get them used to being handled.

Start by taking off a little at a time until your pet is more comfortable with the process as are you. Always give your pet words of encouragement and rewards.

Thanks to Dr. Becker from MercolaHealthyPet for great advice and ideas for nervous pets.

Something I have always practiced is rewards. Positive rewards are always a good idea, treats after a nail trim have always helped my pup. And most pets are food motivated!

If you accidentally cut the quick, don’t stress. I always have styptic powder on hand. You can purchase this at many pet food shops or if you find you have run out you can also use cornstarch..

You can find more related information here:

Every pup is different and will react differently to the various nail trimming techniques so it is wise to see what works for your individual pup.

All the information here is for educational purposes, I am not a veterinarian so if you have questions please ask your vet.

The Bottom Line On Trimming Dogs Nails Without Clippers

Hand filing with a traditional emery board or using a scratch board are by far the best options for trimming your dog’s nails without clippers. Grinders can also work, but you need to acclimate your dog early on to these. Never use scissors and only use human clippers on small puppies who have tiny nails.

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Table of Contents

Recently I was asked, “How can I cut my dog’s nails without clippers?

My initial reaction was to use a Dremel but had no other answer to give.

Honestly, the question bugged me. Well more accurately, my lack of a better solution bugged me.

I am the type of person when asked a question that, if I don’t feel I’ve answered it sufficiently, it niggles at the back of my mind until I dig in and find a better answer.

So, as I kicked the question and possible answers around in my head. I came up with a few possible ideas, but nothing that was entirely satisfactory.

Well, after diligently searching, I was able to come up with four different options for trimming your dog’s nails without clippers:

  • Nail Grinder AKA Dremel
  • Nail File
  • Nail File Box
  • Nail Scissors

I should state that my definition of a clipper refers to the two traditional styles: the guillotine and the plier shaped clippers.

Nail Grinder

The nail grinder, more commonly referred to as a Dremel (likely because it doesn’t sound as horrible) does precisely that:

It grinds down the nail.

Calling the nail grinder a Dremel is like calling a tissue a Kleenex. Dremel is a well-known name brand that has taken on a more general meaning.

Now, I get that it sounds quite intimidating, grinding down your dog’s nails versus clipping them.

However, nail grinders are used by professional groomers everywhere.

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They are an excellent alternative for dogs who don’t do well with clippers.

Nail grinders are also used to finish the nails after clipping to smooth any rough edges.

Another added benefit of a nail grinder is they don’t split the nail as clippers do from time to time. (That splitting can also happen when you let your dog’s nails get too long! [1] )

Though like all things, nail grinders have drawbacks.

  • Price – Nail grinders can range from $15-$40
  • Upkeep – Dogs that only have their nails ground instead of clipped require higher routine maintenance
  • Some dogs fear the noise and vibrations from grinders more than the clippers

For more detailed instructions on how to use a nail grinder, click here.

Product Recommendations

All of the options below are cordless options.

I think trimming dog’s nails can be stressful enough without adding a cord to get tangled up, or to have to designate your grooming area to be near an outlet.

When the weather is nice, I prefer to groom my dogs outside on the deck, and I don’t have access to an outlet out there.

  • Dremel 7300 – I like this model for its simplicity and price.
  • Dremel PawControl – (See why everyone calls them Dremels?) This one costs a bit more, but has more features. The PawControl has a nail guard and multiple attachments for different nail grinding options. What that means is there are more coarse options to grind down the nail faster and there are finer attachments to round and smooth the nail over.
  • Pet Republique Grinder – This one is on the more economical side, but still well built. This model has a different head style. On top of this nail grinder, there are two openings, one small and one medium to help hold the nail in place. However, the guard can also be entirely removed to expose the full rotating head.

Nail File

Nail files are frequently used in place of a nail grinder for finishing work.

I will wholeheartedly admit that I tried using a nail file on Ginger’s nails in the hope that she would stop trying to bite me.

But unfortunately, neither of us had the patience to deal with this method.

However, for dogs that are sensitive to both nail grinders and clippers, this is an option worth trying.

Depending on the thickness of your dog’s nails, you may need a more aggressive grit, so using one traditionally used on humans might be a good option.

To file your dog’s nails, it is very much like filing your own. You will want to have a firm but gentle hold on your dog’s paw, then move the file gently back and forth until you reach the desired length.

The obvious drawback to using a file for your dog’s nails is that it takes a lot longer than the other methods.

Product Recommendations

  • Karlash Emery Boards – Though this brand generally caters to the human market, they do recommend these for pets as well. This file has both a coarse and fine grit.
  • FACEFOODING Pet Nail File – This file is two-sided and shaped like a paw. It may be more comfortable to hold for those with larger hands.
  • Coastal Pet Products Diamond Nail File – This is the most common style of dog nail files on the market. It has a nice handle, and the file itself is slightly bent to fit the curvature of the nail better.
  • Dog Fashion Spa Crystal Glass Nail File – I have not used this style of a nail file. However, it is guaranteed never to wear down, which is noteworthy.

Nail File Box

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty jazzed about this option!

I’ve never seen a box style nail file before I started on my journey to find a way to trim a dog’s nails without using a clipper.

So far as I can tell, there is only one brand of these out there on the market, called Digger Dog.

It is a simple design: a box with a coarse grit on top.

The cover slides back so you can put tasty smelling treats inside.

Then, as your dog tries to dig the treats out, they are also filing down their nails.

The most common reasons for avoiding nail trims are that the owner is afraid of “quicking” the dog, or that the dog fusses and creates bad feelings around the procedure.

Nail cutting becomes an event surrounded by angst and drama. For very active dogs who run all day long on varied surfaces, cutting nails may not be necessary. High mileage wears them down naturally.

But among city or suburban dogs who are lucky to get a mile or two walk daily, excessively long toenails are more common than not.

Consequences Of Long Toenails

So what’s the big deal?

The first consequence of long toenails is painful feet. When a dog’s toenails contact hard ground, like a sidewalk or your kitchen floor, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on all the toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side.

Either way, those toes become very sore, even arthritic. When the slightest touch is painful to your dog, he will fuss when you pick up his paw to cut nails.

The second consequence of long toenails is more serious. All animals rely on information from nerves in their feet to move through the world and process gravity accurately.

For millions of years, wild dogs have run long distances while hunting and worn their nails short. The only time their toenails would touch the ground was when climbing a hill.

So a dog’s brain is evolutionarily programmed to associate toenail contact with being on a hill, and he shifts his body posture accordingly: leaning forward over his forelimbs, up the imaginary hill as reported by his toes.

Since the hill is not real, a secondary compensation with his hind limbs is necessary to avoid a face plant.

This abnormal compensatory posture can be called “goat on a rock” because it brings his paws closer together under his body. Normal neutral posture is a nice show dog “stack,” with vertical legs like a table.

Recent research shows that standing with limbs “camped-in” is hard work to maintain. These goat-on-a-rock dogs get over-used muscles and eventually over-used joints, especially in their hind limbs, making it difficult to jump in cars, climb stairs and even hard to get up from lying down. Sounds like a lot of older dogs we know!

Cutting toenails short can be like a miracle cure for your dog whose hind end has become painful, weak and over-used.

That’s the “why.” Now for the “what and how.”

Tools Of The Trade

  • Use only “scissor” type clippers. Guillotine style clippers crush the toe, which is painful. Never put the whole nail in a clipper.
  • Use small size clippers for better control. Only giant breed dogs will need large ones.
  • Keep your tools sharp: either replace or sharpen your clippers regularly.
  • “Pedi-paws” type grinder: Smooth out your trim afterwards with a rotating emeryboard.
  • File only the insensitive nail around the top and sides of the quick: “Sharpen the pencil” where the nail is the wood and the quick is the lead.


  • Use corn starch to staunch the bleeding if you make a nail leak. With shallow cuts, this will be rare.
  • It’s easiest if you use a small container with tightly packed powder.


Trim nails outside or in a well lit room.

If you need “cheaters” for reading, use them for toenail clipping too.

It’s actually easier to see the nail structures on pigmented nails than on white ones.

The insensitive nail will show as a chalky ring around the sensitive quick.

Keep clipper blades almost parallel to the nail – never cut across the finger.

Don’t squeeze the toes – that hurts!

Use your fingers to separate the toes for clipping and hold the paw gently.

Use a pair of blunt edged children’s scissors to remove excess toe hair: nothing dulls clippers quicker than cutting hair!

Remember, no dog ever died from a quicked toenail. If you “quick” your dog accidentally, give a yummy treat right away.

Make nail trimming fun: always associate nail cutting with cookies and praise.

For maintenance, cut every two weeks. To shorten, cut every week.

Once the insensitive nail is thinned out and isn’t supporting the quick, the quick will dry up and recede. This will allow you to cut your dog’s nails even shorter. Each dog’s nails are different, but very long toenails often become dry and cracked, with a clear separation of the living tissue and the insensitive nail. This will make it easier to trim back longer nails.

What’s inside your dog’s toenail?

On the left, the interior structures are shown, along with the suggested angle to remove the “roof” of the nail, while not harming the sensitive quick.

On a black claw, the interface between sensitive and insensitive nail is usually chalky and white – very easy to discern. On the right is a close-up view of the inside of the nail. On cross section, the sensitive quick will look translucent and glossy, like living flesh.

In untrimmed claws, there will often be a “notch” below the tip of the quick. It is usually safe to initiate your angled cut at the notch. Some dogs act like cutting their nails is their worst nightmare.

This may be a learned behavior from their painful, overstimulated toes, which will slowly dissipate along with the pain once the nails are short.

Use all your best restraint and behavior modification tricks to get through the initial phase, whether your dog is a squirmer or a drama queen. Start on the hind feet, because the nails tend to be a little shorter and less sensitive than the front.

But remember you can’t make an accurate cut on a moving target so get help from your dog trainer or groomer if needed.

Make nail trimming “quality time” you spend with your dog. Lots of kisses, lots of treats and a positive attitude go a long way.

If you dread it, your dog will too, so learn how to be a good actor until you succeed in believing it can be a loving experience for you both. If your dog loses patience quickly, try cutting one nail a day.

As long as you keep the order of toes consistent, this will be a good maintenance schedule, giving every toe a trim every 16 days.

Short toenails are critical to your dog’s health and soundness. Failure is not an option!

(You can follow your dog’s nail trim with a calming bath. We have a great article for keeping bath time safe for your dog. Check it out here …)

(Illustrations by Michael A Simmons MFA)

Tap, tap, tap. Are those your puppy’s nails tapping on the floor? If so, it’s time to trim those babies! Unlike our trips to the salon for a fresh coat of polish, pawdicures aren’t cosmetic. When a dog’s nails tap on hard surfaces, it pushes their nails up into their nail beds, which can be painful. Not only does it put pressure on the toe joints, but it can also force the toes to twist to the side, resulting in soreness or even arthritis.

Before you grab the clippers and start trimming, let’s chat about basic nail anatomy. I know that doesn’t sound too fun, but it’s important.

What’s Inside Your Dog’s Nails?

The hard, outer part of your puppy’s nails is called the shell, and inside is a pink nerve called the quick. The quick supplies blood to the nail and, during trims, your goal is to leave the quick fully intact. If you cut this part, you’ll immediately hear your dog shriek in pain and you’ll see blood.

If your dog has white nails then it’s pretty easy to spot the quick (as you can see in the photo below) . Over time, you’ll notice regular nail trims cause the quick to recede (short quicks are ideal). If your dog has black nails, though, you won’t see the quick through the shell. This certainly makes trims a bit more complicated, but not impossible.

Below, I have included two different sections for clipping white nails and clipping black nails.


If your dog regularly walks and plays on rough surfaces—like concrete—you may not have to cut his nails often, since the hard surface will wear them down naturally. With that said, most dogs need a nail trim every two to four weeks.

To trim your dog’s nails you’ll need:

Good High-Quality Set of Dog Nail Clippers or a Dremel – A high-quality set of dog nail clippers can make a huge difference. Cheap clippers can leave your dog’s nails cracked and crooked. When looking for a quality clipper, you’ll notice two different styles: scissor-style (which works like a pair of scissors) and guillotine-style (where a blade lowers and slices off the nail). I personally prefer the scissor-style clippers.

If you and/or your dog is extremely afraid of the clippers, you may prefer using a Dremel, which is a tool that grinds your dog’s nail. For my Chihuahua, I use regular scissor-style clippers, but my Poodle is way more cooperative with the Dremel. She just prefers the feeling.

*Find out how to use the grinder tool in the video under the “Cutting Black Nails” section. The video highlights Dremels at the 5-minute mark.

Styptic Powder/ Cornstarch – If you accidentally cut too far, this will help clot the quick and stop the bleeding. This is the one I keep on hand:

Nail File – If you use a traditional clipper versus a Dremel, you may feel some sharp edges leftover on your dog’s nails. Use a nail file to smooth them.

Getting Your Dog Comfortable

I know “hate” is a strong word, but a lot of dogs hate having their paws touched. So, if you have a young puppy on your hands, this is the perfect time to desensitize. Here are some tips to get your dog more comfortable with you handling his paws, and ultimately clipping his nails.

  • From the first day you bring your puppy home, frequently touch and hold their paws. If your pup seems relaxed, give him a treat.
  • Before clipping your puppy’s nails, show him the clipper or grinder. Let him sniff and explore, and give him a treat and praise for doing so.
  • Next, gently touch the clipper or grinder (turned off) to each paw. Give a treat and praise. Repeat this step several times.
  • Once your dog seems comfortable with the last step, place the clippers around their nail, but don’t actually clip. Remove and give a treat and praise. If you’re using a grinder instead of clippers, turn it on quickly so your pup can hear its sound. Only keep it on for a few seconds and don’t actually touch it to your dog’s nails. Give a treat and praise.
  • Try trimming one nail, clipping off just a small piece to get your dog used to the feeling. Give a treat and praise. Don’t rush this process and work your way up to a full nail trim!

Cutting White Nails

  1. Hold your dog’s paw firmly, but gently.
  2. Place clippers around the tip of your dog’s nail – below the quick at a 45º angle.
  3. Double-check that the clippers aren’t on top of the quick. If you’re in the clear, snip off the tip of the nail.
  4. If your dog’s nail starts bleeding that means you hit the quick. If this happens, immediately press your dog’s nail into a bottle of styptic powder to clot the cut.
  5. Don’t forget to cut the dewclaws (if your dog has them).
  6. Lightly file your puppy’s nails to eliminate any sharp edges.
  7. Reward your pooch with treats and affection.

Cutting Black Nails

While cutting white nails is typically done with one cut per nail, that’s not the case for black nails. The trick is to make several very shallow cuts, pausing between each one to check the cut surface. If the cut surface appears whitish, it’s safe to trim a little bit more. When you’re about to approach the quick, the nail’s center will appear black. So, once you see black at the cut surface, stop!

Since it’s easier to see a visual aid, I have included a great video that highlights cutting black nails. *Note: I am not in this video, nor did I create this video. I just think it has some great tips:

Remember: Always finish up your nail cutting session with plenty of treats and praise!

Humans aren’t the only ones who get manicures and pedicures — dogs need pampering too, and you can do it yourself at home.

All dogs need their nails trimmed regularly. “Long nails tend to break, and then you can get a split toenail,” says Grace A. Mengel, DVM, assistant professor of clinical primary care medicine at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Other issues that can arise if your dog’s nails grow too long is that it can make it difficult for them to walk properly and maintain traction on the floor and in severe cases the nail can grow into the skin on the paw pad, causing pain and infection.

That’s why it’s so important to know the proper, safe way to clip your dog’s nails if you plan on doing it yourself. Here’s how to provide your pup with the perfect pedicure.

What tools do you need to cut your dog’s nails?

There are three kinds of tools you can use to trim your dog’s nails.

  • Scissor clippers: These nail trimmers are similar to household scissors, but have sturdier, shorter blades. Larger dogs usually need this type of trimmer due to the size and thickness of their nails, says Shawna Garner, DVM, US Lead Veterinarian at on-demand video consultation platform, FirstVet.
  • Guillotine clippers: These have a loop that you insert the nail into, and then you squeeze the tool and the blade will cut the nail. These are best suited for small dogs.
  • Grinders: Grinding tools like a Dremel can work wonderfully to slowly and gently file down a dog’s nail. Look for a grinder made for pets.

How to cut your dog’s nails

Once you have your clippers ready, you can prepare to cut your dog’s nails. This should be a two-person job at first, says Christopher Lea, DVM, DABVP, a clinician at the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and associate professor at Auburn University. This way one person can hold and comfort the dog and the other can focus on the clipping itself.

It’s important to note that since most dogs are resistant to having their nails trimmed, it helps to put them up on a table or counter to prevent them from trying to get away from you.

Step-by-step guide to safely cut your dog’s nails

  1. When clipping the front nails, have your dog assume a sitting position. When clipping the back nails, have them stand.
  2. Firmly grip your dog’s foot and center your grip on their paw.
  3. Use your thumb to isolate the nail that you are going to trim.
  4. Identify the delicate part of the nail called the quick. This is the blood supply to the nail, and it will appear pinker than the rest of the nail. “Beyond the quick and towards the point of the claw, the nail will appear white, about two-thirds of the way down. This white area is where you want to focus the trimmers,” says Garner.
  5. Place the blade in this spot and trim with a gentle but firm motion.
  6. Repeat for all nails.

If your dog has darker nails, this process can be trickier since you can’t see the quick. In this case, Garner says you should look at the underside of the nail and identify the hollow area towards the tip, and focus the clippers at the tip.

Also, unless they’ve been properly introduced to the procedure, most dogs do not enjoy having their nails trimmed. Ideally, introduce nail trimming to your puppy starting from a young age. Using lots of treats, clip one nail at a time, going slowly and reassuring your puppy using a soothing voice. This technique can also work for older dogs.

Grinding your dog’s nails

One of the main benefits of nail grinding is that it allows for more control, which can help you avoid the quick. Additionally, grinders work like a nail file and prevent you from making sharp edges or splitting the nail, which can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to bleeding or infection, says Carly Fox DVM, Staff Doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center.

Before you use a grinder for the first time, Fox says it’s a good idea to get your pet used to the sound of the grinder by introducing it slowly and giving your pup treats when you turn it on.

Step-by-step guide to grind your dog’s nails

  1. Hold your pet’s paw firmly with your thumb on top of their paw and your other four fingers on the underside.
  2. Isolate a toe gently but firmly with your thumb and middle finger.
  3. Place the grinder on low speed at the top of the nail for about three seconds.
  4. Repeat on other nails.
  5. If your pet is tolerating this, you can increase the speed and continue to repeat the process.
  6. When the nails are a good length, start rounding them out so they’re smooth.

Just like with cutting the nails, you need to be mindful of the quick.

“In dogs with darker nails, you should stop dremeling once you see a white circle appear on the tip of their nail. This lets you know you are getting close to the quick,” says Fox.

What to do if you nick the nail

If you accidentally cut into the quick, your dog might yelp in pain and the nail may bleed a lot. Store-bought powders, called styptic powders, can help staunch the bleeding. And if you don’t have styptic powder, you can always use corn starch.

Mengel recommends putting the styptic powder on a piece of gauze and then holding it against the nail and applying some pressure to help stop the bleeding.

Important: “Don’t wrap it and leave the wrap on. You can wrap it too tight, or if you leave it on too long you can get an infection,” Mengel says.

Though there may be lots of blood, a nicked nail isn’t an emergency. However, if the next day the wound is swollen or seems sore, it could be a sign of infection so take your dog to the veterinarian.

Important: After treating the wound, put your dog in a crate to give the nail time to heal. Walking or running can irritate the wound, making it bleed more.

Insider’s takeaway

Cutting your dog’s nails at home can be more convenient and cost-effective than having it done at a dog groomer. Overgrown nails can be dangerous for dogs, so it’s important to keep trimming their nails regularly.

If you choose to cut your dog’s nails at home, the method you use will vary based on you and your dog’s personal preference. Be patient with the process, since there is a bit of a learning curve for both you and your pet. If you’re having a lot of trouble with it, don’t hesitate to visit your family veterinarian for some help.

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Dogs’ nails need regular care, just like ours. Unless your dog spends a lot of time outside on hard or rough terrain (which will naturally keep a dog’s nails short), you’ll have to cut them regularly. If this task sounds intimidating, don’t worry — with a little know-how and patience, trimming your dog’s nails can be far easier than you might think.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails in 4 Steps

Use our guide to clip your dog’s nails quickly and safely.

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you start trimming, make sure you have all the necessary supplies close at hand.

  • A nail trimming or filing tool. There are a few options when it comes to choosing a nail trimming tool:
    • Nail clippers. The most commonly used device for dog nail trimming, nail clippers are tools that come in several styles and features: plier style or scissor style, ergonomic or rubberized grip, and quick-stop guard. These clippers are especially useful for cutting the thick nails of large and giant breeds.
    • Guillotine nail clippers. Despite its name, this type of nail clipper is a very effective and practical tool, especially on smaller breeds. They can be easier to handle than larger nail clippers and feature a convenient area to hold the nail in place while it’s clipped.
    • Nail files. Nail files usually have a small rotating wheel that grinds or files down your dog’s nail tips. Nail files are versatile: They work on thick nails as well as thin, and they trim the nails without leaving sharp edges. They also are a good solution for dogs that are scared of having their nails clipped.
  • Styptic powder. This powder is useful to have on hand if you accidentally cut the quick of your dog’s nails while trimming them. Dab some of the powder onto your finger and press on the bleeding nail to help stop the bleeding. You can also dip a cotton swab into the powder and press the powder-coated tip on the nail.
  • Treats. Have a few of your dog’s favorite treats on hand to help them through the process, especially the first few times you trim.

2. Start with the Front Paws

Hold one of your dog’s front paws firmly but gently, and identify where you want to make the cut.

Trim off the end of the nail. Always cut from top to bottom, and try to cut perpendicular to the nail. Avoid cutting the nail at an angle. When clipping your dog’s back nails, lay your pet on their side. This will make it easier to access and hold their back paws.

3. Avoid the Quick

The quick in each dog nail contains nerves and blood vessels. You should avoid cutting the quick, as it will bleed and cause your dog some discomfort. If your dog has white nails, you should be able to see the quick as a faint pink line. Cut no closer than 2 mm from the quick.

Unfortunately, the quick won’t be visible if your dog has black nails. As you cut your dog’s nails, look for a dark spot in the center of the newly clipped edge — this is where the quick starts.

If you accidentally cut the quick, don’t panic. If you react dramatically, your dog could think the situation is more serious than it is, which may cause them to form a negative association with getting their nails trimmed. Instead, apply styptic powder to the affected nail until it stops bleeding, and give your dog a treat and some reassurance.

If you’re unsure about where to trim, it’s better to cut off too little than too much. You can always cut off a bit more later if needed. It’s never a bad idea to go to your local veterinary clinic for guidance; they can give you a demonstration on your dog.

4. Give Your Dog Treats and Cuddles

You’ll have to trim your dog’s nails on a regular basis, so make it as positive as you can for your pet. When you’re finished, give them treats and praise for behaving so well while you worked.

While most dogs do not like having their nails trimmed, with some patience it is a task you can complete at home. It’s best to start trimming nails in young dogs so that they get used to the process.

How do you safely clip a dog’s nails?

Some dogs will happily sit in your lap or on a table while you trim their claws, but many require some form of restraint. While this can done at home, it’s recommended owners learn to trim their dog’s nails from a veterinarian or veterinary technician first.

To clip your dog’s nails, drape your arms and upper body over the animal. When trimming the front claws, keep your left forearm over the neck to keep the dog from lifting its head. If the dog tries to stand, lean your upper body over its shoulders to prevent it from rising. If your dog is too wiggly, try laying it on its side. Grip each individual toe firmly with your thumb and forefinger.

Place the tip of the nail in the stationary ring of the trimmer with the clipper perpendicular to the nail. Squeeze the handle to move the cutting blade. The cutting blade should be closest to you, not the dog. Be sure not to cut too short, as the nail will bleed. Nails should be cut from underneath at a 45-degree angle.

How do you avoid cutting a dog’s nails too short?

It is important to be careful to not clip your dog’s nails too short and cut into the quick, which can be painful for the animal and cause bleeding.

There are several styles of nail trimmers, including a guillotine type and a scissors type. The guillotine-type is the easiest to use in dogs. The scissors-type is often used to trim the dew claw.

Light colored claws are easier to cut than dark claws, as the blood vessels and nerves that supply the claw, called the quick, are easier to see. Cut dark colored claws in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick. It’s best to not cut within 2 millimeters of the quick.

As you cut the nail deeper, a gray to pink oval starts to appear at the top of the cut surface of the nail. Stop cutting the nail at this point as additional cutting will cut into the quick and cause bleeding.

Styptic powder stops bleeding when applied. It is recommended to have styptic powder on hand in the event a nail is cut too short. Without styptic powder it may take about 5 minutes for the bleeding to stop.

How do I clip a dew claw?

The dew claw, which is attached by loose skin, can usually be bent away from the leg so that you can trim easily with the scissors-type trimmer. The dew claw is on the inner side of the paw and often grows into the toe pad causing pain for dogs. Dew claws do not touch the ground and are not worn down by walking, so it is important they are cut regularly.

May 05, 2021 3 min read

We’ve all been there. Your dog’s nails have gotten too long and it’s time for a trim. After all, you don’t want your pup scratching himself too hard, clawing up your beloved couch, or hurting you! Clipping your dog’s nails can instill stress in you and your dog. Take a deep breath, relax, and read on. We’ve got a guide on how to cut your dog’s nails painlessly.

How do you know when it’s time for a trim?

There is no golden rule. It depends on your dog’s breed and activity levels. Some dogs’ nails naturally wear down from running on hard surfaces so they can go longer between trimmings. Most dogs need to get their nails clipped on a range of once a week to once a month.

What are the best dog nail clippers to use?

There are several types of dog nail clippers to choose from. You can experiment with what works best for you and your pup.

  • Scissor clippers are best for large dogs
  • Guillotine clippers are best for smaller or medium-sized dogs
  • Grinder tools are an alternative to traditional clipping tools; they grind down the nail and are best for larger dogs or skittish dogs who get spooked by regular clippers

No matter what tool you choose, take some time to ensure that your dog doesn’t associate it with a fearful or stressful experience. Allow your dog to sniff the clipper or grinder and get familiar with it. If you’re using clippers, help your dog get used to the noise by clipping it by him and praising him when he stays calm.

How to cut your dog’s nails painlessly

If you’re a new dog owner, have a vet or dog groomer show you their technique. This will help you learn how to use the nail clippers and see how short to trim the nails.

Ready to go for it on your own? Here’s a step-by-step walk through.

  1. Make sure to choose a time when your dog is calm. After a nap or a meal often works well.
  2. Make it a pleasant experience. Your dog can sense when you’re stressed, so be sure to use a gentle touch and a calm voice. If he gets worked up, take a break. You don’t have to clip all the nails at once.
  3. Hold the paw gently but firmly so you don’t accidentally trim too short or miss the nail.
  4. Cut the tip of the nail only. Don’t go too far or else you’ll go into the “quick,” which is the pink or dark part of the nail. This is where blood vessels are, so trimming too short will cause bleeding and pain. When you’re clipping the nail, it should be easy and brittle. If it feels spongy and soft, don’t clip—that’s the quick. Clotting powder can help stop bleeding if you do accidentally clip too far.
  5. Don’t forget the dewclaws, which are the thumb-like nails on the side of the paw. These don’t tend to wear down as easily as other nails, so they can grow longer more quickly.
  6. The proper dog nail length is when the nail doesn’t reach the ground when standing. When your dog walks on wood floors and you hear that familiar clicking noise, it’s time for a trim.
  7. When you’re done, be sure to treat your dog to something special. Give him his favorite treat and a well-deserved belly rub. Bully sticks or ear treats are the perfect ending to a positive nail-clipping experience.

Unless your pet is a very active outdoor dog his nails will need to be trimmed on a regular basis – anywhere from once a week to once a month.

Nail trimming and grooming are activities that are often feared by both dogs and owners. The best way to calm your fears is to ask your professional groomer at Head To Tail Pet Spa. The best way to calm your dog’s fears is to train it from a very young age to be comfortable with the process.

If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails we will be happy to do this regularly. And often dogs do not need their nails trimmed if they go for frequent walks on footpaths or concrete. Just watch those dew claws (thumbs).

Types of Nail Trimmers

There are many different types of nail trimmers. Buy quality nail trimers that are sharp and designed for the correct size dog. They should be concave at the cutting edge, to avoid crushing the nail. Blunt or poor quality trimmers will split the nail. If the nails aren’t that long but are sharp you can simply file them or use a pumice stone to take off the tips. A Dremel or file will help take away any sharp edges

How to trim the nails

The first step is to get some treats, make the whole experience positive and don’t feel like you need to be a hero and trim all the nails at once. Start with one, reward and come back later if you or your pet is nervous. One technique that helps is to hold the handle of the nail trimmers flat against the toe pad and cut straight across the nail, so that the nail will sit just above the ground. This technique makes it extremely unlikely you will cut the nails too short.

To get a shorter cut than the previous method, aim to cut at a 45° angle, after visualizing the quick. The quick is the pink area within the nail where the nerves and blood vessels are, similar to the area underneath our nails.

Working With Black Nails

If your dog has black nails, look at the underside of the nail and you will notice that towards the tip the nail separates out into a triangular shape with two outer ‘walls’. At this point, there is no quick and it is safe to cut the tip off. Otherwise use the technique of simply cutting straight across from the pad, rather than attempting to cut up at a 45° angle. Another trick of the trade is to apply gentle pressure with the nail trimmers without actually cutting where you think you need to cut. If your dog reacts to the pressure, most likely you are too close to the quick and you will need to more the clippers further down the nail.

What If I Make the Nails Bleed?

If you accidentally cut the nails too short you can use styptic powder, or simply use a clean bar of soap and run it under the damaged nail. The soap will plug the vessel and stop the bleeding. Usually if you have made your dog bleed, they will be a bit nervous next time, so make sure you have lots of treats at the ready and take it slow. If you pet or yourself are nervous about nail trimming. Just give us a call at Head To Tail Pet Spa.

Old Dogs or Deformed Nails

Older dogs tend to end up with long quicks, elongated nails and often extremely hard nails. Nails can also grow back a bit deformed if there has been some sort of trauma to the nail bed, such as when the dew claw has been caught in something and torn.

Clipping after bathing can help with the hardness issue, as they nails will be softer. Ensuring you just take the tips off the nails or cut them so they sit just above the floor when your dog is standing can help to ensure you don’t cut deformed nails too short.

Alternatively, if you gradually take the tips off, you can often make the quick recede a little over time, but you will need to be patient. So long as your dog’s nails are not touching the ground, getting caught in anything and causing the toes to splay out or bend, there is no need to worry too much about keeping them extremely short.

Whenever you trim your dog’s nails remember to make the whole experience rewarding by having treats at the ready and always take a little bit at a time if you can’t clearly see the quick beneath the nail. And if you have a very patient dog, why not paint those nails or put on soft paws. We have 30 colors options to choose from in all sizes. They are great to protect your floor, furniture and people from scratches.

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed prevents them from dealing with unnecessary pain.

Cutting or filing your dog’s nails regularly should be a routine part of dog grooming, but for many dogs, having their nails clipped can be extremely stressful.

Here’s a guide for dog nail trimming, including how to cut dog nails, how to file dog nails, the tools you’ll need to trim your dog’s nails, and tips for minimizing stress and preventing injury.

Jump to a specific section here:

Tools for Trimming Your Dog’s Nails at Home

Thankfully, you won’t need an entire toolbox dedicated to your dog’s pedicure—just these handy tools will do the trick:

Dog nail clippers

Styptic powder (or flour or cornstarch)

Types of Dog Nail Clippers

There are a variety of options you can use to trim your dog’s nails. While some people might prefer guillotine-style clippers, the spring-loaded scissor-style or plier-style nail clippers are favored by most veterinary professionals. These are especially helpful for dogs with thick, tough nails.

Some brands even have a guard so you don’t accidentally cut the nail too short.

Scissor-style or plier-style nail clippers can be used for both small and large dogs, but you may find it easier to use nail clippers specifically made for cats or small dogs if you have a miniature pooch.

For very small or very young dogs, you can use human nail clippers, but it’s generally easier to see what you are doing with trimmers made specifically for dogs.

Using Treats

Keep some treats nearby for positive reinforcement to help make nail trims less scary for your dog.

Styptic Powder

A good styptic powder is smart to have on hand for those instances where you accidentally cut a nail too short. Styptic powder will help stop the bleeding so that you can care for your dog’s toe.

How to Cut Dog Nails Safely

It may be helpful to gradually get your dog accustomed to the sight and sound of the nail clippers before you try to cut your dog’s nails.

Try bringing the nail clippers out, clicking them, and letting your dog smell them on different occasions (without actually cutting their nails) so they get used to them.

Give your dog tasty treats when the clippers come out.

Here’s how to cut dog nails safely:

Find a quiet area where your dog is comfortable and free from distractions.

If you have a small dog, hold your dog in your lap or place them on a steady surface. If you have a large dog, it’s helpful to have another person hold your dog while you cut their nails.

Gently but firmly hold one of your dog’s paws between your thumb and forefinger.

Push down slightly on the paw pad to extend the nail forward. Make sure there is no hair blocking your view of the entire nail.

When your dog is holding still, clip straight across the tip of the nail. Do not clip behind the natural curve of the nail.

Give lots of high-value treats before, during, and after to associate nail trims with big rewards.

How to File Your Dog’s Nails to Smooth Them After Clipping

Filing your dog’s nails is primarily done to remove any sharp tips or fragments left over after clipping your dog’s nails.

Take a heavy-duty nail file, grasp your dog’s paw gently, and spread the toes apart.

With your dominant hand, hold the file and gently round off any sharp edges for a smooth finish.

How Short Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails?

It is important not to clip behind the natural curve of the nail because this is where the “quick” starts.

The quick is the center portion of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. If you accidentally cut this part of the nail, it will cause bleeding and some pain for your dog.

If you are concerned that you may be cutting too close to the quick, it is best to leave that nail a little longer.

If at any point you feel uncomfortable with the process, or think you are causing your dog pain, please stop and contact your local veterinarian for further instructions.

How to Cut Dog Nails That Are Black

Dogs with black nails can present more of a challenge. Since their nail is naturally pigmented, it can be difficult to see where the quick begins.

Once you begin cutting, you may see a chalk-like white ring that surrounds the beginning of the quick. If you feel uncomfortable clipping your dog’s black nails, schedule a nail trim appointment at your veterinarian’s office.

You can also ask one of the veterinary clinic employees to demonstrate how to cut black nails properly.

How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Nails?

The amount of time between nail trims depends on how quickly your dog’s nails grow and how quickly they are worn down.

The average dog should have his nails clipped every three to four weeks, but it should be done as often as needed to keep the nail from touching the ground when your dog is standing.

If your dog is a lapdog whose feet rarely touch the ground, you may need to trim their nails more often, whereas dogs that run on pavement or rough surfaces may not need theirs done that often or at all.

How to Stop a Dog’s Toenail From Bleeding

A bleeding toenail can be very distressing for you and your dog. Here’s how to stop the bleeding.

Styptic powder can be used to help stop the nail from bleeding by helping the blood to clot. If you don’t have styptic powder, flour or cornstarch can also be used to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding and can be applied the same way as styptic powder.

Pour a small amount on the tip of your finger and press the powder into the nail tip.

Pressure can be applied for a few seconds to allow the styptic powder to stick.

If the bleeding does not stop after several minutes, call your veterinarian for further recommendations.

Dog Nail Trimming Alternative

As an alternative to cutting their dog’s nails, some people choose to grind them down with a Dremel tool (also called a nail grinder) specifically created for pet nails.

The Dremel uses a special sandpaper-type bit and a 30,000 RPM speed to grind the nails down quickly and safely.

It’s best to use the nail grinder every 7-10 days for maintenance.

For dogs with long hair, trim the hair around the toes prior to filing, and move the Dremel around constantly to avoid friction that can cause an uncomfortable warming sensation.

With the right tools, a little patience, and a whole lot of treats, you can save some time and save your pup the stress of traveling to the groomer or the vet clinic.