How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

Pedicures aren't just for pampered pooches—your dog is descended from wolves, but her nails don't have the chance to wear down as they would in the wild. A regular clipping every three or four weeks will save her from painful ingrown nails and sore paws.

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Up next in Dog Care & Grooming 101 (51 videos)

Become an expert in the care and feeding of Fido with the advice in this Howcast video series. You'll learn how to give your dog a haircut with clippers; get rid of fleas; get skunk smell off a dog; clean your dog's ears, help an aging dog; put your dog on a diet; make your own dog food and treats; massage your dog; trim your dog's nails; clean his teeth; give him a pill; and much more.

 
 

You Will Need

  • A sturdy table or counter
  • A towel
  • Dog nail clippers
  • Tissues
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch
  • 1-inch-wide emery board
  • A helper
  • Dog treats

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Check dog's nails

    Check to see if your dog's nails need clipping. You shouldn't hear her nails clicking against a hard floor when she walks. If there's clicking, it's time for a clipping.

  2. Step 2

    Position yourself

    Your dog probably won't enjoy this procedure, so she's likely to require some form of restraint. Hold her in your lap, or spread a towel on a sturdy table or counter and place the dog on top. Stand on the side of the table opposite the nails you'll be trimming and lean over her, so you can hold her down with your body, if necessary.

  3. If your dog is large or very wriggly, it may help to have a second person hold her while you do the clipping.

  4. Step 3

    Clip nail

    Holding one paw gently but firmly, clip the tip of the nail. Clip from underneath, holding the clippers at a slight angle in keeping with the curve of the nail.

  5. Step 4

    Clip carefully

    Be careful to avoid the blood vessels and nerves that run through a dog's nail, called the quick. If you cut into the quick, it will cause pain and bleeding.

  6. If your dog's nail is white, you can see the pinkish quick, so it's easy to avoid. If your dog has black nails, snip a little bit at a time until, when looking at the nail in cross-section, you can see a darker dot in the middle.

  7. Step 5

    Stop bleeding

    If you cut into the quick, place a tissue over the nail and apply pressure until it stops bleeding—or try dipping the nail into styptic powder or cornstarch. It's unlikely that the bleeding will continue for longer than 5 to 7 minutes, but if it does, or if the blood is spurting, call your vet.

  8. Step 6

    Trim dewclaws

    Don't forget to trim the dewclaws, located slightly behind the paw on the inner part of the leg. Some breeds have more than one pair on their hind legs.

  9. Step 7

    Use emery board

    If your dog still has some patience left, it's a good idea to use an emery board to lightly file the nails smooth.

  10. Step 8

    Praise your dog

    Praise your dog lavishly before you let her go. That way she'll come to associate these beauty treatments with extra attention from her owner!

  11. Many companies now sell doggie nail polish—it's safe for pet nails, requires only one coat, and dries quickly to keep squirmy dogs from smearing it on the furniture.

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