How to cut your dog’s nails at home?

Do you need to trim your dog's nails?

Yes. If the nails get too long, there will be constant pressure on the dog's feet and paws. This can result in an abnormal position of the feet. Nails that are too long are painful to walk on and cause the dog to cramp or limp. The dog’s toes can also become inflamed because of overgrown nails. It is, therefore, important that you keep a close eye on whether your dog’s nails are getting too long.

What do you need to cut a dog’s nails?

  • Special nail scissors for dogs
  • Possibly a dog ​​nail file
  • Alum stick or alum powder (to stop any bleeding)
  • Lots of treats
Some people use a dremel (sort of sander) to shorten the nails. However, this takes a very long time and can cause splitting of the nail.

How do you know if nails are too long?

If the nails touch the ground, they are too long for most dogs. The gauge is that you should be able to slide a sheet of paper under the nails without resistance. Please note that in some (older) dogs the feet are somewhat sagging and this does not work 100%.

Nails wear out depending on the surface on which the dog walks. Dogs that walk a lot on roads with a hard surface will generally need to have their nails cut less often.

How do you know where the quick begins?

Unlike human nails, dog nails are not all dead tissue, they actually contain a blood vessel and a nerve called the quick. If a dog has white nails, it is clear to see where the quick begins. You will see a pink, flesh-colored part through the transparent white. This is sensitive tissue that you absolutely should not cut! You cut up to 2 mm from the quick.

In dogs with black nails, you cannot see from the outside where the quick begins. In that case, it is best to cut small pieces until you see a darker point appear in the core of the nail, then you know that you are close to it.

What if you accidentally cut the quick anyway?

Don't panic, you can stop the blood by putting alum on it. It can be purchased at most drugstores in stick or powder form. This will only be a bad experience for your dog since cutting the quick hurts. If your pet is already afraid of getting its nails cut, you will need to slowly train your dog not to be afraid.

Cutting the nails on your dog: step by step

Nail trimming is one of the least popular grooming procedures both for the dog and the groomer. This has little to do with past bad experiences. Just try holding the paw of any dog for a minute. Even if nothing unpleasant happens, there will certainly be resistance.
It would be ideal if you let your dog get used to cutting the nails from puppy age. Unfortunately, most people find out later in life that the dog is afraid of the nail clippers.
So how do you get it done? You can do this with the help of counterconditioning and desensitization. Essentially, you teach your dog step by step that cutting nails is not scary. This should be done in very small steps and requires a lot of your time and patience. For example:

  • Show the nail clippers, your dog looks at them but does not experience any stress or fear yet -> reward with treats.
  • Let the dog sniff the nail clippers, your dog looks at them, but does not experience any stress or fear yet -> reward with treats.
  • Just touch your dog's paw, if your dog does not experience any stress or anxiety yet -> reward with treats.
  • Put your hand on your dog's paw for a moment, if your dog does not experience any stress or fear -> reward with treats.
  • Hold your dog's paw for a while, if your dog is happy with it and does not experience any stress or fear yet -> reward with treats.
  • Hold your dog's paw a little longer with nail clippers in sight, if your dog looks at them but does not experience any stress or fear yet -> reward with treats.
  • Etc. You will only start cutting once the previous steps have been accomplished.

This is done in small steps. It is best to spread this over several training sessions. Don't expect this to work after 5 minutes. Sometimes you have to take a step back to make sure your dog is not experiencing stress while clipping the nails. Take the time to train this properly so you can reap the benefits later.


After cutting you can file the nails to get the sharp edges off.

Can you trim a dog's nails too short?

As mentioned, you cannot cut shorter than 2 mm from the quick. Also, remember that dogs need their nails. Nails provide grip when standing, walking, and running, and how about digging? After trimming the nails, let your dog stand on 4 legs to see if the nails touch the ground. If you can slide a piece of paper underneath, they are short enough. When in doubt, you can also file.
Don't forget the thumb's nail
The thumb is sometimes skipped. This nail can grow back into the skin or get caught in, for example, gauze or clothing. It is therefore important not to skip this nail.