Dog Nail Trimming Step by Step

Dog nail trimming is a necessity in terms of dog health care. It should be done once or twice a month, but the more you trim your dog's nails the easier it will be on both you and your dog.

Desensitizing your Dog

Many dogs are afraid of having their nails trimmed because they have not been conditioned to accept it. If you have a puppy, you should start immediately handling his feet. If you have a frightened older dog, the steps are the same, but you might have to continue at a slower pace.

  • Spend a few minutes each day holding your dog's paws where nothing happens. Hold each foot for just a few seconds and give a treat after each foot. Use lots of praise. If he pulls his foot away, take it again and hold for a shorter period. Reward all times that you let go of the foot before he pulls it away.
  • Build up the amount of time that you hold each foot.
  • Once your dog is good at that, hold each toenail firmly at the base of the nail for a few seconds. Increase the amount of time until you have enough time to trim each nail. Some dogs are less sensitive on their back feet, so you might want to start there.
  • After step 3 is successful, have the nail clippers sitting next to you while you do this exercise. Let your dog sniff them.
  • Hold the clippers and hold the nails. Build up your time.
  • Clip one nail. Give your dog a treat. Stop there and trim a couple more the next day. Build up to trimming all nails in one session. Continue to use lots of treats and praise.

Clipping Basics

  1. Before you get started, visit a local groomer to find a high quality pair sized appropriately for your dog.
  2. Read the instructions for the trimmer of your choice and follow them. For example, clip upward if it says to clip upward or from the sides if you choose that type. Clip firmly and smoothly so the nail pops off easily.
  3. Hold the nail firmly at its base and don't try to cut if your dog is squirming. Practice handling skills more if this is the case.
  4. Trim only the edge, clipping a little at a time.
  5. When you start to see pale pink tissue, stop. In dogs with dark nails, look for a darker circle in the middle of the nail.
  6. To round off the edges, you may want to use a nail file or dremel tool. These can be used to keep nails short as well.

Note: If the tip of the nail starts to bleed, apply pressure with a tissue or cotton ball to stop the bleeding. If your dog's nails are long, you won't be able to get them to a normal length with one cutting because the quick grows as the nails grow. Try trimming less length but more often until you have them the correct length, which is just a bit protruding over the dog pad but not touching the ground.