How and When You Should Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Why Do You Hate Trimming Your Dog’s Nails?

  • “I’m afraid of hitting the quick and causing my dog pain!”
  • “My dog hates it!”
  • “My dog is too big for me to cut his nails by myself!”
  • “It just causes too much stress for me and my dog.”


Consequences of Long Toenails

Long dog nails can be the ruin of your dog’s paw.

While this is not going to be a quick fix, if you follow these easy tips, you and your dog’s experience with dog nail trims WILL improve over time.

NO FORCE needs to be used.  Just patience, kindness and time.  That’s it.

Just a word of caution, if you are still nervous or anxious about clipping your dog’s nails, even after reading these tips, DON’T DO IT.  Your nervousness will be worse for your dog in the long run.

By seeing your dog make incremental improvements, you will be able to accomplish this somewhat daunting task.


Start Early & Cut Often

Ideally your breeder will have started manipulating and playing with their paws as early as when the puppies are first born and through 8-10 weeks.

A breeder can and should also expose the puppies to a Dremel,

Dremel 7020 Pet Nail Grooming Kit

Dremel 7020 Pet Nail Grooming Kit


or a similar dog nail grinder, and/or dog nail clipper during this time as well.

Pet Nail Clipper

Pet Nail Clipper

When you bring your new puppy home it is imperative that you start cutting your dog’s nails immediately and OFTEN.  So many people ask me, “how often should I be trimming my dog’s nails?” Best practice is doing them once or even twice a week if necessary.

Cutting your dog’s nails is as much an exercise in preventative health maintenance as it is in training and socialization.

The earlier and more frequently you expose your puppy to this new friendly stranger, such as the “Dremel,” the more your puppy will learn to love getting his nails cut.

Dremel 7020 Pet Nail Grooming Kit

      • Battery-operated and cordless for use anywhere, any time
      • Runs quietly to avoide startling pets
      • Nail guard covers the sanding disc which ensures a safe and carefree experience for pets
      • 2 Speed Settings
      • Grinds nails instead of cutting them which can be uncomfortable for pets


Familiarize Your Dog Slowly to Dog Nail Trims

Familiarization (desensitization) works by changing your dog’s already established association with something he doesn’t like, or scares him (cutting nails) from negative to positive by pairing it with something he loves (treats usually).  Desensitization addresses changing the pairing over time at a safe distance, sub-threshold.

Keep in mind, every dog and every situation is different, so you may need to go slower with your dog.  Let’s start with the assumption that the dog or puppy is comfortable with his feet being handled.  If this is not the case, you will want to step back and possibly use this method for simply handling his feet before you ever introduce the Dremel.

Familiarization Process for Cutting Dog Nails

  1. Have the Dremel out where you want to cut his nails so the dog can see it. Maybe cut nails on the floor in your front room so this is where you would put the Dremel.  Carry on about your business.  If he sniffs or is curious about it, treat him and/or praise him.  Keep it light, relaxed, and, as Phil Robertson says “happy, happy, happy.”
  2. Turn on the Dremel and let him hear the sound it makes. Ideally you want the dog to not react at all when he hears the sound of the Dremel, not necessarily salivate when he hears it.  That is the idea behind desensitization at its core.  At this stage, calmly, and in a very soft, sweet voice say, “gooood boy” maybe give a couple treats one at time, pet him slowly where he likes to be petted.  Just don’t make a big deal out of it.  Continue this for a few minutes each day for as long as it take for him to show you there is no fear or reaction to the sound of the Dremel.
  3. When you are both ready, get treats out and go sit by the Dremel. Turn it on. Treat.  Take a paw, and, softly (and calmly) holding one nail still, touch the Dremel to the tip of the nail.    Soft, calm praise.  Depending on how the dog does, just stop here for the day.  All you are really trying to do is show the dog there is nothing to fear, and everything to be gained (treats, praise) by the Dremel touching his nails.  With a new dog, maybe do one nail every day until eventually all nails are cut.
  4. When your dog is ready, you can try to do more than one nail in a session. Reward (treat) after EVERY nail initially, eventually (over several weeks) moving to a more intermittent reward.  For example, a treat per nail in the beginning working up to a treat per foot and perhaps stay at this level of reward for your dog.
  5. Stop each session with your dog wanting more, not less. In other words, you don’t want to push so hard or so fast that you end a session when he runs away.  If this happens you are going way too fast for him.

Reward Generously While Cutting Dog Nails 

  • Use treats liberally when you cut your dog’s nails.  You are not using them to bribe your dog into tolerating something they don’t want to do.
  • Use treats as a reward and to continue to reinforce the pleasure and benefits of getting their nails cut.
  • It is a really good idea to reserve special treats for those nail-cutting moments, such as these Naturally Wholesome Protein-Rich Treats, and only to be used for those moments.
  • It makes the session that much more enjoyable for them.

Remain Calm While Clipping Your Dog’s Nails 

This one is very important!  If you are nervous, your dog will be nervous.  Your nervousness will reinforce his fear.  It will defeat the entire purpose of this training.

The way to calm YOUR own nerves is to go slow.  Even slower than your dog needs you to if you are feeling anxious.

Speak in a calm, sweet voice, and laugh lightheartedly on occasion.  Your calm and confident touch will both serve to comfort your dog.

Be Patient With Your Dog and Yourself

The more patient you are through this process with your dog, the more he will trust you.  Work at his pace, not according to your desire to “just get it done.”

Watch your dog’s body language.  Pay attention to what he is telling you.  Aim to end your nail sessions with him wanting more.  If you end on a positive note, he will be more receptive in the next session.

What if you cut the dog nail quick? 

The quick is the soft cuticle inside the nail that is rich in blood vessels and nerves.

There’s Good News and Bad News…

The bad news is, as the nail length grows, so does the quick length.

But the good news is, as you cut (or Dremel ) a little bit at a time off the end of the nail, the quick slowly (note the oxymoron…) recedes.  Leave an interval of 7 – 10 days in between trims.

This allows you over time to get your dog’s nails to a shorter, healthier length.

You will at some point accidentally cut into the quick.  It is going to happen but it is not the end of the world, for you or your dog.  Always be prepared and have a little container of Kwik Stop Pads or styptic powder, on hand in case you cut the quick.  You can also use cornstarch, baking soda or flour if you don’t have Kwik Stop on hand. Just take a little pinch of powder and press it onto the nail.  That usually stops the dog nail bleeding pretty quickly.

What To Do About A Broken Nail

The following link will take you to PetHelpful – a good source of information on pet nails, including broken nails.


Summary for How to Cut Dog Nails

  1. Begin With The End In Mind  Have a goal and take baby steps to achieve it.
  2. Start Early & Cut Nails Often
  3. Desensitize & Counter-Condition Slowly
  4. Reward Generously
  5. Remain Calm & Confident
  6. Be Patient
  7. Do NOT Freak Out If You Hit The Quick – Just Be Prepared


If you follow the above guidance, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.  Good luck!


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