How to Trim Dog Nails

No dog likes getting their nails cut, but every dog can learn to accept the procedure.


With a little practice, nail trimming can become a stress-free part of your regular grooming routine. We get you started with the two primary methods for trimming nails and some tips for troubleshooting. Most dogs do not like having their nails trimmed, but with patience, every dog can learn to tolerate it. If you can hear the click-click of your dog’s nails when he walks across a floor, it’s time to trim his nails.

How to Trim Dog Nails with Clippers

  1. Gently fold back any loose hair so you can clearly see the nail.
  2. Identify where you are going to cut. For white nails, avoid the pink “quick” down the middle of the nail and just cut in solid white. For black nails, focus on the tapered part of the nail and not the wide base.
  3. Clip in one smooth steady motion.
  4. Praise and reward your dog.
  5. Trim sharp edges if using scissor-type clippers.
  6. Move on to the next nail.

How to Trim Dog Nails with a Grinder

  1. Spend some time getting your dog used to the sound of the grinder. Give her treats while it is running, first a few feet away and then held close to her paws.
  2. Touch the grinder to your dog’s nail and immediately praise and reward. Repeat several times so she associates the vibrating sensation with good things.
  3. When ready to grind a nail fully, hold the grinder at a 45-degree angle to the nail. Apply light pressure so it files the nail back. Repeat on the other side of the nail to even it out.
  4. Smooth out any rough or sharp spots so the nail tip is rounded.
  5. Move on to the next nail (or take a break if your dog is new to this).

How to Trim a Dog’s Nails That Hates It

Rare is the dog who likes having their nails cut. But you can gradually accustom your dog to having his nails trimmed:

  • Identify valuable rewards for your dog. Some dogs go ga-ga over peanut butter, others prefer cheese or hotdog bits. Some think playing tug or fetch is the best thing ever. Figure out what your dog LOVES and use that to pay him well at nail trim time.
  • Go slowly. It is far better to do one nail at a time and have your dog happy than fight through all of them.
  • Take just the tips. This limits any risk of hurting your dog and will help both of you get more confident. Trimming just the tips once a week will still get your dog’s nails under control over time.
  • If your dog suddenly flinches while grinding the nails, you probably hit the quick. Be less aggressive with the next nail.
  • Try different positions to see how your dog is most comfortable being still and how you can see what you are doing. Some options are standing on a secure table, lying on the couch, or lying upside down in your lap.
  • Get a helper to feed tiny treats or hold a spoon with peanut butter while you trim the nails.
  • Practice holding your dog’s feet every day for treats and teach tricks such as shake and high five.

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Kate Basedow, LVT is a long-time dog enthusiast. She grew up training and showing dogs, and is active in a variety of dog sports. She earned her Bachelors Degree in English from Cornell University in 2013, and became a licensed veterinary technician in New York in 2017. She has been writing professionally about dogs for most of her life, and has earned multiple awards from the Dog Writers' Association of America. Kate currently has three dogs at home, as well as a cat, two zebra finches, and six ducks.