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How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Home

May 05, 2021 3 min read
person trimming a shepherds nails on front paw

Trimming your pet’s nails can be one of the more difficult tasks in dog ownership but learning the proper way to do it will make it easier! Learn about why you should trim your dog’s nails, how often you should do it, and the best way to safely clip their nails.

Why you should trim your dog’s nails

Trimming your dog’s nails is a little different than trimming a person’s nails. Dog pedicures prevent their nails from splitting or growing too long, which can cause discomfort and improper posture. If your dog’s nails are too long, when they walk the nails are pushed back into the nail bed. This can be harmful as it either puts too much pressure on all the toe joints or twists the nails to the side.

This can cause your dog’s paws to become sore and painful, and your dog won’t be as mobile or active as they might usually be. If the long nails aren’t trimmed, your dog may change their posture when walking or standing. This can cause alignment issues and change their weight distribution, which can impact the rest of the muscles and tendons in the body. Their joints can become overused and make it difficult to climb stairs, jump, or get up after lying down.

How often should you trim your dog’s nails?

There are a number of factors that affect how often you should be trimming your dog’s nails. If your dog spends lots of time outside on asphalt or concrete or other hard, rough surfaces, their nails may naturally be “filed” as they walk or run around. Dogs that spend more time on carpet or walking on grass or dirt may need their nails clipped more often.

Another factor to consider is diet. Your dog’s nutrition plays a role in the growth of nails as certain vitamins and minerals can speed up nail growth.

Typically, you should trim your dog’s nails whenever they are just about to touch the ground when they are standing. For most dogs this will be between 2-4 weeks.

How to trim your dog’s nails at home

The first step in trimming your dog’s nails is to make sure you have the appropriate tools. You can’t use just any nail clipper, there are special ones made specifically for dogs and vary by size. There are scissor types, grinder tools, and clippers.

Once you have your tool, pick up your dog’s paw and put your thumb on the bottom of the toe and use your index finger to pull back any skin or fun above the nail. Extend the nail using your thumb and index finger and clip the tip of the nail straight across. Make sure you only clip the tip and do not cut too much off of the nail, as you can cut some nerves and hurt your dog.

The pink area of your dog’s nails is where the blood vessels start, so avoid clipping beyond where the nail curves. If your dog has black nails, this will look like an opaque or white ring.

You may need to have someone else help if your dog is larger or squirms to keep them steady. Some owners play relaxing music, give their dogs treats, or start with a mini massage to calm down their dogs and prep them for the nail trimming.

If your dog is nervous around nail clippers, give them a treat like a bully stick or give them peanut butter to distract them while you clip.

With patience and persistence, trimming your dog’s nails at home can be easy!


Trimming your dog’s nails at home is a great way to save money on going to the groomer. For more pet price posts, check out our blog on the average cost of a dog’s teeth cleaning!

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