How to Trim a Dog’s Claws: Instructions for Owners

how to trim dog claws

Today our experts will tell you how to trim a dog’s claws at home, how to prepare an animal for the procedure and what to do if the dog becomes aggressive and bites.

Healthy claws for a dog are very important, allowing the animal to stay healthy and feel comfortable. Long, split and diseased claws can be uncomfortable and even painful for your pet.

Therefore, nail clipping is a mandatory and necessary procedure that you can do yourself or contact a groomer/veterinarian from a veterinary clinic, but some pets grind their nails during long walks on flat surfaces (asphalt) and do not need a cut.

How to trim your dog’s claws at home

If you notice your pet clattering loudly on smooth floors for a long time, limping, or finding claw fragments, it means you missed the moment when you had to clip the claws.

Normally, the procedure should be done once every 1-4 weeks, but a lot directly depends on the characteristics of the breed and the body of your pet. So, for example, in small breeds (Toy Terrier, Chihuahua, Bichon Maltese, etc.), the claw growth rate is much faster than in large dogs – Caucasian Shepherd, Alabai or Great Dane.

Nail clippers for dogs

  • Claw cutter. This tool is used most often by homeowners due to its convenience. It helps to make a good nice cut.
  • Crusher. This is a type of electric nail trimmer, which in its functions resembles a file and saves the owner from scratching furniture and floors.
  • Pliers. They are selected under the claws of a particular animal.
  • Scissors. This tool is the most economical option. They resemble ordinary claw scissors in structure, but with rounded tips. Nail clippers at home are not very convenient, you can use them only if the dog does not run away and behaves calmly.
  • Guillotines. The safest tool, even for owners considering nail clipping for the first time. The guillotine design has a limiter that will not allow you to cut the claw more than the fixed one.
  • Claw file. Used at the end of the operation to file irregular edges and polish the claw. Claw files are not suitable for this. A dog’s claw is much harder and more durable than a human’s fingernail.


The cost of tools in stores are affordable. By buying the cheapest nail clippers, you run the risk of throwing the tool away after a few uses. But you probably won’t need expensive copies at home either. They are best suited for groomers, veterinarians and other related professionals who trim nails daily.

How to prepare a dog

It is important for the owner to understand that this procedure is stressful for any animal. It is normal for dogs to behave aggressively when trying to clip their claws. Therefore, there are several points where you should not perform manipulations, as this will cause additional stress.

  • Sickness
  • Estrus
  • Farrowing
  • Moving to another place of residence
  • Recent encounter with other dogs
  • Any situation that has frightened your pet.

Preparing an animal for nail clipping begins with touch training. Touch your dog’s paws when he is relaxed and in a good mood. Let him get used to these sensations, repeat the process of stroking several times a day. Soon the pet will fix in his head that he is safe and even pleasant.

A good sign in this case is that the dog will completely stop paying attention to your touch and continue to go about its business.

Then you can show the dog the tools with which you plan to cut the claws. Let the dog sniff them, examine them, and maybe even play gently with them in your presence. Such a procedure will allow the animal to get used to the tools, to understand that they are safe for him and in the future will not cause aggression and stress.

Be sure to inspect your dog’s paws before trimming them. Any anomaly should alert you:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Lost wool
  • Cracks
  • Tumors
  • Injuries
  • Allergic reactions (redness between the paw pads).

In these cases, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian and do not carry out manipulations with the claws yourself.

How to prepare the tool

Immediately before clipping claws, you should sterilize any tools you plan to use. It can be done with boiling water and alcohol.

Use tools specifically designed for dogs and of the correct size.

Make sure the tools are sharp enough. Otherwise, sharpen them yourself or contact a specialist. If the tool can no longer be sharpened, the best option is to buy a new one.

Pay attention in advance to the presence of hemostatic agents in case you damage the claw and cut it, touching the vessel.

Claw cutting process

  1. Pick a time to clip the nails when your dog is relaxed and positive about interacting with you.
  2. Lay the dog on its side and start touching the legs, as you did earlier in the preparation.
  3. Study the structure of the dog’s claws. Please note that in the living part of the claw there are capillaries and a large number of nerve endings. If you touch this area, you will cause the dog severe pain and bleeding.
  4. The claw cut should be done about 3 millimeters before the live part.
  5. In dogs with clear and translucent claws, it is easy to find the living part: it is seen through the light as a pink base inside.
  6. In dogs with dark claws, you won’t find the live part so easily, so it makes sense to consult a veterinarian or professional groomer the first time, who will tell you the correct distance from the hairline. In the future, you can perform this manipulation yourself at home, without fear of harming your pet.
  7. Look where your dog’s claws are the shortest: on the front or back legs. Most likely the second, so start with them. In addition, animals are more relaxed to cut the claws of their hind limbs.
  8. Prepare your dog’s favorite treat in advance. In times of intense stress or the onset of aggression, comfort the animal with petting, loving words and a piece of something tasty. The dog will understand that the upcoming process is in the hands of a kind and caring owner, and this will become an incentive to relax.
  9. After cutting, use a claw file to smooth out sloppy cuts.


Good to know. A dog’s cry doesn’t always mean you hurt it. However, it is still worth reacting to such behavior of the animal and checking whether you have touched the nerve endings.

What to do if the claw is injured when cutting

If you failed to perform the procedure accurately and painlessly, you cut off the living part, after which the bleeding began, here are some recommendations on what to do first.

  • With any improvised clean material, pinch the place where the blood comes from. It can be napkins, bandages, cotton pads.
  • Find any hemostatic agent in the home medicine cabinet and thoroughly moisten the claw with it.
  • Comfort your dog by stroking and petting him.
  • If after 10 to 20 minutes the blood still does not stop, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How to cut a dog’s claws if he bursts and bites

There are times when an animal, even with proper preparation, does not allow to cut its claws. Then we recommend that you take the dog to a veterinary center. Professionals know how to make friends with the most restless and active animals, perform the procedure using professional tools and help the owner avoid conflicts with the animal.

You can find a lot of bad advice on forums, so before applying it, check out our recommendations below.

What absolutely cannot be done

  • Tie and somehow independently secure the dog with belts and ropes.
  • Immobilize and calm the animal with medication.
  • Exhaust the dog with active play before the nail clipping procedure.
  • Raise your voice, use corporal punishment.


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