Nail Trims for Your Dog

Dog nail trims can feel really stressful, especially when it’s your dog. As a veterinary nurse, I provide this service to pet parents on a regular basis, but I still have moments where I put off performing them on my own dogs because I feel nervous. 

The thing is, with the proper tools and understanding, dog nail trims are pretty easy. They’re also really important to keep up on. Long nails are actually harder to trim and can become torn easier, which is painful. Long nails also change the way our dogs move, which is an especially important consideration for arthritic pups or dogs with body pain. 

In this blog, I’m going to outline how to successfully trim your pup’s nails like the pet parent ninja you are!

First, round up your supplies!

Your nail trim kit should include: 

  • Nail trimmers for dogs.
  • Styptic powder. I use Kwik-Stop. This is important to have on hand, as a way to stop bleeding if you nick the quick. Hopefully, you don’t even have to use it! Some household alternatives to Kwik-Stop (in a pinch) are baking soda, baking powder, or cornstarch. I’m hoping you will never need these, but it is good to be prepared!
  • Treats! These are a must-have! Frozen kongs or frozen baby food are great options (I use chicken, beef, or turkey baby food). Check out some of Dr. Angie’s kong recipes for more inspiration.
  • A comfortable working area. This includes a comfortable sitting area for both you and your dog, good lighting, and an extra pair of hands. 

Get started!

Tips for successful dog nail trims include…

Go slow

Many dogs don’t like having their paws touched, or are just not used to having their nails trimmed. Going slow is the key to success here. Start with one nail at a time, pairing each trimming experience with a treat. If your dog’s stress increases, stop and start again at another time. It’s okay if you only get one nail done each day or every few days!

Find a good position 

It’s important that both you and your pup are in a comfortable position. The more relaxed you both are, the better the experience will be! You can trim your dog’s nails while they are laying down, standing up, on their dog bed, or in your lap. Anywhere goes, so long as you both are comfortable and have adequate lighting.

Dog getting a nail trim

Have an extra pair of hands

Dog nail trims are often a 2 person job, so don’t hesitate in asking for help. An extra person can encourage your pup by feeding treats, petting them, or talking to them while you do your thing!

Understand and visualize the quick

The “quick” is the soft, pink center of your dog’s nail. It is at the base of the nail (closest to their toe), and contains a nerve and blood vessels meant to nourish the nail. Many pup parents are worried that they will cut their dog’s quick during a nail trim, perhaps because they have experienced or heard of this before. 

If you cut the quick during a nail trim, it is painful and will bleed. This is why knowing how to identify the quick is so valuable and important. If this were to happen, styptic powder dapped on the bleeding quick will help stop bleeding faster. 

Photo of the quick of a dog's nail

The nail’s quick will continue to grow with the nail, which means that long nails are often accompanied by long quicks. Ugh! The good news is that the quick will recede (get smaller) the more you trim. Another great reason for routine dog nail trims! 

Visualize where you will trim

This is why understanding your dog’s nail anatomy is important. Before you trim a nail, it’s essential that you’ve identified the quick. Any of the white/clear portion of the nail beyond the quick is game, so your cut line should be just past where you see the quick end. 

Photo illustrating cut line for dog nail trims from the side

The quick is much easier to see on white/clear nails as opposed to black nails. With white nails, you can easily see the quick when looking at the nail from the side. For black nails, instead of looking at the nail from the side, look from underneath. The cut point should be just before where the black nail becomes thick and white (that’s the quick!). 

Photo illustrating cut line for dog nail trims from underneath

Pro tip: Less is always more here! Avoid cutting off a large portion of nail at once. Instead, “chip away” by trimming small portions of the nail off at a time. There’s no rush! You can spread the nail trim out over a week’s span, trimming one paw at a time with days in between. 

If you cut your dog’s quick and the nail begins to bleed, try not to panic! It happens to us all. Grab the styptic powder (Kwik-Stop) and pinch a bit between your fingers. Press the powder directly onto your pup’s nail where it is bleeding. Reapply if needed. I know it’s stressful, but it’s a learning experience for us all.  


Take a deep breath and be proud of yourself. Praise your dog with tons of treats, sweet words, affection and encouragement! You both are a stellar team!

Trimmed dog nail

Still have questions? Need more tips? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat!

With love,


3 thoughts on “Nail Trims for Your Dog”

  1. Question, I’ve adopted so many “seniors” that have neglected nails and have gotten a routine and method down (and your tips are fabulous). But, my curiosity is now that I have a young dog, I have no clue how “aggressive” to be. Some of her nails are clear, some are black. I’ve been just “nipping the tips” about every 3 to 4 weeks while she was a “puppy”, those tips are now turning into full adult nail. As a young, active dog – should I try to get close to the quick or is a little length okay? Currently, I just clip when they start to make contact with the floor when standing casual and basically make them blunt like your pic.

  2. Thanks for the tips and especially for showing the “cut lines”! I use a Dremel tool instead of clipping because MY dogs are way bigger than I am and I think it is less likely to inflict pain. Message from my dogs: Doing nails every day would be a recurring nightmare to them. It’s the nail trim that never ends. NO WAY!


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