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How to Cut Dog Nails and Why It's Important

How to Cut Dog Nails and Why It’s Important

Trimming your dog’s nails offers as much benefit to you as does to your dog. Neglected nails can lead to discomfort or infection, not to mention the damage they can do to your floors and furniture. If your dog’s nails appear long or brittle, or if you hear a constant clicking sound when they walk, those are clear signs that it is time for a trim. It’s best to start this routine when your dog is young so they get used to clippers or nail grinder, and then it should be performed at least once a month thereafter.

Finding the best dog nail clippers and trimmers

When doing home nail care, you’ll want to invest in high-quality, appropriately sized clippers for your dog. Choose dog nail clippers with a sharp blade made especially for dogs so as not to crush the nail. If the blade is sharp, it’s less likely that a nail will be pulled or cracked. An emery board or file can smooth out any rough edges and give your dog’s nails a more rounded appearance.

There are different types of clippers that work better with some dogs than others.

Scissor clippers work like scissors and are best for large dogs with thick nails.

Guillotine clippers are best for small to medium dogs. With guillotine clippers, stick the end of your dog’s nail into the hole created by the blades, and squeeze.


Grinder tools wear away at the nail and are best for dogs who are squeamish around regular clippers.

How to cut your dog’s nails at home

Once you’ve gathered everything you need—clippers, towel, styptic powder and treats—sit with your dog in a comfortable spot on the floor, providing reassurance and petting. You can get your dog used to having their paws handled by gently playing with their paws every day.

  1. Once you feel ready, firmly hold your dog’s paw so that they cannot pull away and start clipping.
  2. Cut the nail at a 45-degree angle away from the paw, avoiding the quick, which is the blood vessel inside of your dog’s nail.
  3. Make sure you cut very thin slices off the tip of your pup’s nail, trimming until you see a black dot appear in the center. You will see this whether your dog’s nail is pink or black. This is an indicator that you’re getting close to the quick and the nail is short enough.
  4. If your dog has dewclaws, be sure to trim them as well.
  5. Reward your dog with a treat after successful clipping to remind them that a nail trim is a positive experience.

Remember, if your dog shows any signs of distress during the process, stop what you’re doing, reward them for the nails that have been trimmed, and try again at a later time. If your pet is highly anxious or scared during nail trims, take them to a professional groomer or their vet for this procedure.

How to cut black dog nails

Dark-colored nails can present a challenge in trimming, as the quick is less visible. A good way to work around this is to observe the underside of your dog’s nail toward the tip. The nail should appear as a triangle with two outer walls. There is no quick at this point, making it safe to cut the tip.

A black dot will appear in the center of the nail when you’ve cut to the shortest point, regardless of what color your dog’s nails are. Use this as your guide to ensure that you’re not trimming too much. However, your dog will also pull away if you get too close to the quick which is an indicator that they are uncomfortable and it is time to stop.

Not ready to do it yourself?

If you, or your pet, feel anxious about nail trims, or if you simply don’t have the time to do it yourself, Petco Grooming Salons offer professional dog grooming that includes nail trims, nail buffing, paw care and even pet-safe nail polish. Let our stylists give them a paw-dicure in a relaxing environment that will keep their paws in tip-top shape for weeks.