The Best Way to Trim Dog Nails Safely at Home – A Handy Guide

If you can hear clicking on the floor when your dog walks into the room, their nails are too long and need to be clipped. If you’ve never trimmed your furry friend’s claws before you may be wondering how easy it is and can you do it yourself at home?

The good news is: with a good set of clippers or a grinder it’s really easy to cut your dogs nails, in this article we’ll look at the best way to trim dog nails and some other claw issues such as:

  • How often should you be clipping your dog’s nails?
  • What problems long nails can cause
  • How to get a puppy used to nail cutting
  • A guide to nail trimming
  • How to cut the claws of a nervous dog
  • Which are better nail trimmers or a grinder?
  • What is the quick and what to do if you accidentally cut it?

When to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Some dogs can go their whole life without their nails being cut as they wear them down naturally, walking on pavements or hard ground, but for dogs that spend their days indoors or exercise on grass, it’s a different story.

Did you know that dogs have a blood vessel in their claw called the quick? Regular nail trimming will help the quick recede making it less likely for it to get infected from the bacteria on the ground.

We would recommend trimming your pet’s nails every 2-4 weeks to keep them at the proper length. Regular clipping is very important for your dog, so let’s find the best way to cut the dog’s nails.

Problems Caused by Overgrown Nails

Like us humans, a dog’s nails keep growing, and if they get too long, it can cause problems.


A dog with long nails is likely to scratch your floors, furniture and if you have young children they may hurt them unintentionally when playing. It also means that they are far more likely to harm themselves when they scratch themselves, potentially causing skin irritation or bleeding.

Severe pain 

As you know, dog nails grow directly out of the last bone in their toes. This means that should their nails be too long, the nails will be pushed back into their respective bones with every step that your dog takes. As you can imagine, this will cause severe amounts of pain for your dog.

Restricted movement 

Due to the nails being pushed back into their bones, therefore causing them pain, your dog will have far more difficulty moving. Moreover, longer nails will cause your dog’s toes to separate as they walk, something that they are naturally meant to do, thus causing them more pain and further restricting their movement. 

Potential for infections 

When grown too long, a dog’s nails will begin to curve. Eventually, they will loop in on themselves. As they reach the full loop, they will start to dig into your dog’s paw pads and skin, cutting them as they walk. As you know, walking on an open wound leaves it ready to be infected.

Related: Why Your Dog Bites Its Nails

Get your Canine Companion Used to Nail Trimming Early

Although it is essential to cut your dog’s nails, many dogs take issue with having their nails trimmed. It can be uncomfortable for them, can take some time, and is a relatively delicate part of their bodies. 

That is why, in order to make dog nail trimming easier on both you and your pup, you need to start trimming your dog’s nails at a young age. The earlier you start trimming their nails, the easier they will be with the process. It will become a natural part of their grooming routine that they will come to expect and not fear.

Clippers or Grinders?

Dog clippers are best for dogs’ nails used when they are sharp and when you’re working with a dog with light-coloured nails so you can see the quick (the fleshy part under the nail). You never want to cut into the quick. Dogs that have light-coloured nails are easier to trim with hand-held clippers because you can see the quick. 

Use an electric nail grinder on your dog if he or she has overgrown nails, dark-coloured nails, or nails rough edges. You can also use the nail grinder on your dog’s nails for regular trimmings. It’s a gentle tool that helps prevent cutting into the quick, which can cause your dog’s paws to bleed (and hurt!). 

An electric dremel-style grinder allows you to gently and slowly file your dog’s nails. You can use a regular dremel on dog nails, but we recommend a rotary grinder that is specifically made for pets’ nails. Why? They have guards that protect the paw, and their motors tend to be quieter, which is less scary for your pets.

The Quick

As you may know, if you cut dog claws too far, they start bleeding. This is because you will have reached what is called the dog quick. The quick is the blood supply containing blood vessels and a nerve that runs into dog claws but stops before the nail tips. 

However, it is difficult to locate the quick in dark nails, making it challenging to keep them trimmed without bleeding.

It is essential to put styptic powder (with a styptic pencil, for example) on the nail once it’s finished bleeding to prevent infection and reduce pain for your dog. Styptic powder will likely be available from your vet

Dog’s Nail Trimming – A Complete Guide

Top Pro Tip “If your pooch has dry nails that split and crack it’s a good idea to clip them after a bath when they are softer, this can prevent further damage” Dyane Fletcher, Leeds Dog Groomer

Here’s a step by step glance at how to trim nails without causing undue stress or any harm to your dog. Can you blame them for being a bit nervous in the first place?

  1. When it’s time to cut dog nails, the first thing that you will need is a safe location. Choose an area to keep your dog comfortable and where you are sure to have better control. You should also choose an area with a lot of light so that you can trim your dog’s nails safely.
  2. In order to make the nail trimming as stress-free as possible, it is essential to use positive reinforcement to help keep your dog calm. That means you having a positive attitude and letting them know how good they are being. You could also use a dog toy or a treat such as peanut butter. 
  3. Before you start your trimming, is your nail clipper sharp enough? Plenty of us have gone into nail trims thinking that a blunt pair of dog nail clippers is nothing to worry about. However, the less sharp the trimmer, the more harm you’ll do to your dog’s nail bed. Sharpen those clippers before you start.
  4. If you are unsure about the location of your dog’s quick, then it is essential to use a safety guard both on the nail clippers and on the dog nail grinders. The safety guard on the nail grinders will also help to catch the dust, making the clean-up job a lot easier! This also saves you from having to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut too deep into a dog’s nail.
  5.  It is always best to use a nail grinder, or at least a nail file, on your dog’s claws after the nail clipper. This will help to soften their nails, thus making them pain-free for your dogs. Sharp nails could cut your dog as they scratch themselves, and you!
  6.  It is essential to have the tools that you need with you when you trim nails. That includes a clean cloth in case you cut the quick, to stop bleeding), any treats and toys that you might need, your nail clippers and grinders, and a styptic pencil if needed.

Cutting Black Nails

As cutting black nails can be challenging because it is far more difficult to locate the quick if you cannot see it, it is essential to always use the safety guard on the nail clippers. Again, this will prevent you from cutting too much and is more likely to protect your dog as you are cutting nails. 

If dark claws are really posing a problem during dog nail trimming, be sure to reach out to a professional groomer for advice. It’s crucial for your dog’s health that you take special care with your nail trims!

Cutting a Nervous Dog’s Nails

No dog – full stop – enjoys having their nails trimmed. Can you blame them? However, you’re helping your dog keep happy and healthy, and for a very nervous dog, reassurance is key.

You should ideally try and desensitise a dog to nail clippers or grinders early, so they can grow past the fear of seeing them. Show them, slowly and gently, that there’s nothing to be scared of.

Try and handle their paws regularly. A nervous dog that gets used to you handling one nail or more at a time will likely be more welcoming when it comes to trimming.

If using a grinder, try and invest in a low-noise option. If using traditional clippers, make sure to keep them sharp.

If you do accidentally cut the quick, be gentle, soothing, and stop blood flow – with our tips above.


What are the best nail clippers for dogs?

The best nail clippers for dogs depending on your dog’s breed, size, and nail health. All dog nail clippers should be sharp, ideally with a safety guard, and should have non-slip, comfortable handles, to help you have better control as you trim their nails. 

How do I tell where the quick is?

It is easier to locate the quick on light-coloured claws, as it is a dark stretch inside of their claws that stops just before the tips. However, it is nearly impossible to locate the quick on darker claws, which therefore requires more care and delicacy when trimming their nails. 

Can you use human nail clippers for dog’s nails?

No, you should never use human nail clippers on dog claws. Human nail clippers are not the right shape for a dog’s claws and do not have the same kind of pressure on them to cut dog nails safely and efficiently.

Final Thoughts

Keeping up to regular dog nail trimming is an essential part of ensuring your dog’s health. They need perfectly trimmed nails in order to move more freely, avoid infections and severe pain. The whole process of a nail trim should never be rushed, either – it’s really not like clipping human nails!

The frequency through which you should cut your dog’s nails depends entirely on their breed, age, and current health conditions. It also depends on where they walk; for example, a dog that frequently walks on hard surfaces will need less frequent trimming, as the rough surface will help to maintain their nails. 

If you are unsure about how to keep your dog’s feet handled for the best, then always consult your vet before starting any nail trimming. This should be especially the case if you are dealing with dark nails, or have no experience with nail trims at all!

Trimming your dog’s nails – front feet and front claws, back or dewclaws – can be tricky, to begin with. Most dogs will be fussy about the process – and if you really want to get your dog comfortable, you’re going to need more than the odd bit of peanut butter!

Your dog doesn’t know how to keep their long claws trimmed – give them a helping paw and consider trimming your dog’s nails at home or do get in touch with a local expert. You see how much dog groomers cost here.

Donna Hepburn

Published author, content writer and qualified dog behaviourist I have owned dogs all my life from Boxers, Rottweilers and Akitas, to Staffies and currently a very demanding Frenchie who is harder work than all the others put together.

I had a collar making business for over 10 years and am involved with several doggy charities. I currently live in the northeast and when I am not writing about dogs I enjoy, travelling, cooking and reading.

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