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How Trimming Your Dog's Nails- Dog Nail Clippers

Updated on September 1, 2009

If you cut the quick.

If you clip the quick, you want to make sure that you have silver nitrate or a styptic pen on hand. If you don't have either product, you can use flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. You may have to use a light bandage to apply pressure on the cut. If the nail is still bleeding after 10 minutes, you'll want to call you vet.

If you constantly have problems with cutting the quick, consider purchasing toenail clippers that will detect where the vein is (see below).

Cut Your Dog's Toenails

Cutting your dog's toenails is a very important part of dog grooming. Untrimmed and long toenails can cause several problems, to include broken nails which are very painful, so you want to keep a regular dog grooming schedule, always including nail trims.

The easiest way to tell if your dog needs his nails cut, is when you hear "click, click, click" as your dog walks across hard floors, whether tile, parquet, etc.

You want to start getting your dog used to having his nails cut as soon as possible. If you're getting a puppy, make sure to play with his feet and toes constantly, as this will get him used to you handling his feet.

Some dogs don't mind having their nails cut, but others absolutely hate it, so make sure that you may nail trims as pleasant as you can. You want to reduce the amount of stress and struggle, as best as possible.

If you're a first time dog owner, you will want to have your veterinarian show you how to properly cut your dog's nails, but, a simple guide, such as what I'm about to give you, should be enough.

First, make sure that you know and understand the anatomy of a dog toenail, which is rather simple. In the center of each nail, there is a nerve that supplies blood to the nail, which is called the quick. You can see the quick in clear nails, easily, but for black nails you will want to trim carefully and/or use a vein detecting nail clipper (seen below). If you cut the quick, the nail will bleed, so you will want to have a styptic pen on hand just in case.

Next, make sure that you have the proper tools. Below you will find a guide to nail clippers that should hopefully steer you in the right direction.

Now, to cut the nail...

  1. Have the dog either in your lap or on a table. Just make sure that you have proper lighting and proper restraint of the dog. It may take two people to cut your dog's nails, depending on whether the dog will sit pleasantly or if he's going to fight you.
  2. Determine how much needs to be cut from each nail.
  3. Take your dog nail trimmers and cut the nail below the quick at a 45 degree angle, making sure to have the cutting end of the clipper toward the end of the nail. If you dog has black nails, you'll want to make several small clips instead of one large one; make sure to trim very thin slices until you see a black dot, which will signal the top of the quick.

The more often you trim your dog's nails, the further the quick will regress into the nail, which allows you to cut shorter and shorter each time. Make sure to allow at least 2 days in-between each trim. You want to get your dog's nails to the point where when his paw is on the ground, the nails do not touch the floor. You can use special pet nail grinders to speed up this process (see below).

Choosing a Pair of Nail Clippers

When choosing a nail clipper for your dog, you want to take into account the size of the dog. IE smaller dogs and puppies will need smaller nail clippers and larger dogs will need larger nail clippers.

As puppies have small nails, you may consider the scissor style toenail clippers, they are generally built for puppies 3 weeks to 3 months old. You can, also, use these nail clippers on smaller dogs.

For larger dogs, you want to make sure that you have a clipper that will adjust the the size of the nail. You don't want to force the dog's toenail into a small opening. This will cause more discomfort, which can potentially lead to future problems with nail clipping.

There are generally three types of nail clippers- 1) scissor style, 2) budget clippers or guillotine style, and 3) training wheel clippers.

  1. The scissor style nail clippers are great for puppies and small dogs. They essentially work like scissors.
  2. The Guillotine style are those that have a slide action. The "jaws" slide forward as you grip the handle. These cut slower, and tend to cause slight discomfort.
  3. Training wheel clippers are those built for the inexperienced and weery. They have a lever that you can position to tell you where you can stop the nail. You push the toenail against the lever, and you are provided a safe cut. When you grip the handle, the "jaws" clamp down and cut an adequate portion of the nail without cutting to close to the quick.

When choosing dog toenail clippers, make sure that they have a sharp edge. You want to make the experience as quick and painless as possible, and a sharp edge will minimize discomfort.

Power Operated Nail Grinder

You can use special dog toenail grinders and dremel tools to grind down your dog's toenails. When you use this method, you can get the toenail fairly short within a week's span. The heat of the grinder will entice the quick to recess into the nail; you can safely use a special dog nail grinder once a day without irritating the dog's nail.

This method is the one typically used by those who professional show their dogs, as it gets the dog's nail super short.

Avoid Cutting the Quick of Your Dog's Toenail

Although, I've never used this style of dog toenail clipper, it seems to be a really good method of cutting your dog's nails. These nail clippers are battery operated and have a built-in nerve/vein detector, which shines through the nail to prevent cutting the quick.

There are essential two brands, that I've seen that offer Quick Detector nail clippers- 1) Dogmatic and 2) Miracle Coat.

The Dogmatic Careful Clippers are a scissor- type clipper that have a light extension to help detect where the vein is. The light shines through the nail so that you can avoid cutting the quick.

The Miracle Coat Quick Finder Safety Nail Clippers are a guillotine action clipper. These clippers have a light detection that lets you know where you are in regards to the quick; there are three colored lights on the handle: red means "don't cut", yellow means "caution", and green means "safe to cut." You never have to worry about cutting the quick in your dog's nail again. These clippers are great for dogs who have black nails.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I prefer to use styptic powder over a pen. I bit messier, but much more effective.

      I tried styptic powder for livestock as it is much, much cheaper, but it is too granular. The styptic powder designed for dogs is way more expensive, but it does work far better because of its finer texture.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My pit doesn't like his nails trimmed, so I decided to use a human 80 coarse nail file. I use it everyday, a little at a time. It works great. He now is relaxed enough to lay down when I file his nails. His nails are almost 1/2 inch long now. It's more work but less stressful than clipping or grinding.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I forget how to position the guillotine clipper. Is the flat part of the handle near or away from the paw?

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Our dog is very aggressive when it comes to nail trimming and will not allow me to cut his nails. Any suggestions on how to subdue/paicfy him?

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Georgia

      I'd stick with regular dog nail clippers just to be safe.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I trim my (shih tzu) puppy nails today for the first time she is 9 weeks (is this too soon?) they were really sharp I did it after I gave her a shower and the nails seem to be softer and she was falling asleep on my lap after all the pampering and long day she did really really good i was surprise, but i did it with a pair of small regular scissors I would not do it like that again. But is this bad or is it going to cause her any problems?

    • profile image

      Sugar's Mom 

      11 years ago

      My dog, Domino (shih-tzu) was going to the groomers on a regular basis about a year ago he started having seizures and I had to pick him up..wet! This has happened about 3 times and I will not put him through that stress again. I bathe and groom him at home. I have purchased the table and hair clippers. I just put on a mask and watch my son do the work. I have allergies to the hair. I am okay around Domino but the hair just sends me off sneezing! We have come to the problem of his nails. They are black so I will be getting the Miracle Coat Quick Finder Safety Nail Clippers.

      This is really helpful to me! Thanks!

    • Illinois Health profile image

      Illinois Health 

      11 years ago from Illinois

      Great information, I didn't know there were so many good products out there.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I took my MinPin to have his nails clipped and they hurt him. Now his nails are too long, if I pull out the clippers, he high tails it out of the room and won't come back until he's satisfied I have put them away. Recently I purchased a grinder and he reacts as though it's the clippers. JEEZ! Maybe the spa for a pedicure?

    • byee profile image


      12 years ago

      Thanks! I've been cutting their nails weekly. I'll make sure to check them every other day from now on.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      Oh please don't cut the quicks to get them to recede... This will make cutting their nails even worse, especially since you're already having problems. By cutting the nails regularly, you can get the quick to recede. Using regular nail clippers every other day, trimming off just a sliver of the nail. Or you can use a pet nail dremel tool daily; with the pet dremel tools, the heat will help recede the quick even faster, but you want to be careful as to not use the dremel tool for too long at one sitting, as you can hit the quick if you sit with the tool on the nail for too long.

    • byee profile image


      12 years ago

      Our shih tzu and pug absolutely HATE getting their nails cut. The shih tzu bites and the pug struggles like I'm gonna amputate her foot. I've been taking the shih tzu to the vet ($16 down the drain), but the pug is getting very difficult--the quicks inside each of her toenails are very long. I've read in a book that if the quick is too long, it might be necessary to cut it off for it to get shorter again. I think this will just further traumatize the dog since all 10 toenails will be bleeding. Right now her feet are splaying a bit when she walks because the nails are too long, and I'm getting a bit worried. Any ideas??

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      Yea I've clipped a few black nails myself, but I'm about to purchase a pair of Quick Detector clippers.

    • funnebone profile image


      12 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      Great advice. I cut myu dogs nail too close one time and I felt so bad! He has 8 black nails so I just take him to petsmart since I can't deal with the guilt of messing up. Thanks for the info.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      I've heard they work great, but then I've also heard they're not 100% accurate. I'm actually going to purchase a pair so that I can clip my APBT's black nails with.

    • jim10 profile image


      12 years ago from ma

      Great Hub idea. I have a black lab and can't see her quick at all. I have had her a year and never actually cut a dogs nails until my family and I got her. I try not to cut them too short. I only cut them too short once when she moved but it wasn't too bad.  I wonder if the quick detecting ones really work. I guess it would be kind of like a stud finder. She doesn't seem to mind once I get started. I usually offer her a treat after each paw and seems pretty willing.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      I agree that sometimes nail cutting can be a hassel and very stressful, which is why it's best to find the best method for your dog to prevent stress.

      My APBT lets me cut her nails, but the Yorkie has to go to the groomer. I believe what your vet said, as at a 6 week old pup, my yorkie had to be held down by the vet, a vet tech, and my mom to cut his nails. Now, the groomer does it without problems, but the second I try, it's all over.

    • Patnet profile image


      12 years ago from San Diego Area

      This is a special problem for me as my Havanese is extremely sensitive about her nails. Most of the time I take her to get them cut. I would love to be able to cut the nails myself but she struggles so badly and rips her paw away from the cutter. I'm concerned that her nail will rip right off because of the struggling. I tried cutting her nails as when she was a puppy and occasionally cut the quick as she has a long quick. It was no big deal-just got out the styptic powder and stopped the bleeding. But as an adult dog it's become an unpleasant task.

      My holistic vet told me that he knows of a Dachsund who had to be held down by 9 people in order to cut it's nails! Some dogs are just extremely sensitive about their nails and it causes a lot of stress for them.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      Understandable. But many people prefer to save the $5-$15 and do it themselves. I cut the nails of my APBT, but my yorkie is grouchy when I try to clip his nails and cut his hair; he has to go to the groomer.

      This was a guide for those who want to cut their own dog's nails.

    • Gregorythompson profile image


      12 years ago from Illinois

      I use to cut nails on a terrier I had, but after he died and I got a bigger, heavier dog I couldn't handle by myself, I just pay to have it done. I guess it depends on what kind of dog you have.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Georgia

      Understandable. Many people do that. The nail clippers that detect the vein would be a great option for you and anyone with a dog with dark nails.

    • RyanRE profile image


      12 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      My dog has black nails and I am deathly afraid of cutting her quick. I would rather hire someone else than hurt her little paws.


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