How to Cut Your Puppy’s Nails

how to cut your puppy s nails at home cat

We’ve all seen those viral videos where a pet parent tries to trim their pup’s nails but the little canine is so freaked out they begin to yelp, even pretending to pass out just to avoid the entire ordeal. Though those vids are endearing, cutting your puppy’s nails can be scary, both for the dog and for you—you don’t want to hurt them after all. However, lengthy nails make running and walking difficult because they impede traction (and snag carpeting), so regular trimming is a must. Below, a breakdown of how to cut your puppy’s nails safely and with as little drama as possible.  

How to cut your puppy's nails

In an ideal world, you’ve got a second person to help achieve this daunting task. However, there are ways to do it alone and live to tell the tale. 

What you need:

What you need to know:

  • The quick: a soft, pink tissue sitting in the center of your dog’s nail. The quick includes a nerve and blood vessel and grows with your pup’s nail. The longer you let the nail grow, the longer the quick gets - and the harder it is not to cut it.

Step 1. Hold your dog’s paw in your hand gently, yet tightly enough that he can’t yank it away.

Step 2. Make sure no paw fur is in the way. It might be wise to trim this hair before you start.

Step 3. Hold one toe between your thumb and pointer finger (thumb on the pad, pointer finger on the fur above the nail).

Step 4. Push your fingers together slightly to hold the nail steady.

Step 5. Using your nail clippers as directed (see below for different styles of clippers), gently trim 1mm off the nail tip. (Hint: The pointiest part—and the safest part—of a dog nail is usually thinner than the rest of the nail. Stick to 1mm trims at first, but use that skinny portion as a guide if necessary.)

Step 6. Take a look at the trimmed nail.

Step 7. If you don’t see the quick, trim another 1mm of nail. Repeat until you see the quick or reach the curve in the nail.

Step 8. An ideal length is 2 to 3 mm away from the quick. Once you’ve reached that point, you can move onto the next toe.

6 Tips for cutting your puppy’s nails

1. Get the right clippers

Always make sure the clippers are sharp. Dull blades can make for a painful and ineffective trimming session. Guillotine-style trimmers have one blade that pops up to trim the nail. Scissors-style trimmers have two blades that come together. Explore both types when you’re just starting out to see which works best for your pup. And using the right size is also important. Generally speaking, guillotine-style is easier for large dogs and scissors are better for smaller pups. 

2. Get your pup some exercise

The Dog Training Secret recommends tuckering your dog out with playtime or a long walk before attempting a nail trim. Once they’re ready to snooze, you can more easily pick up their paws and start trimming.

3. Make sure your dog is lying down

The vet specialists at Washington State University say laying your dog down on a table and leaning over their body is a good way to approach nail trimming if you’re flying solo. This stance offers an opportunity to hold the dog in place. You can also try this on the ground with your dog on its side. Keeping one arm above the neck and shoulder area prevents your dog from picking up its head. Make sure you don’t bend their leg in a wonky position - let your pup’s joints bend naturally.

4. Have some treats handy

Dogs who don’t enjoy sitting still may need constant treats during the process. You can even try a licking mat full of peanut butter—as long as you’re still able to hold your dog’s paw safely in your hand.

5. Don’t rush the process

Even if you have to do one nail at a time over the course of the day, it’s worth it. Rushing the process could lead to an injury or traumatizing your dog, making any future attempts more difficult.

6. Avoid the quick

Cutting the quick—the pink tissue that grows with your doggo’s nails—isn’t the end of the world, but it doesn’t feel good and can lead to your dog putting up a fight every time you try to cut their nails. If you do happen to cut into the quick, apply a styptic powder to staunch the bleeding and relieve pain. A doggy-safe powder like Miracle Care Kwik-Stop is a solid choice.

How often should you cut your puppy’s nails?

A healthy, active dog will need a nail trimming about once a month. Catherine Barnette, DVM, of VCA Animal Hospitals says if you always walk your dog on sidewalks, you may need to trim less frequently since rough cement acts as a convenient nail file. On the other hand, less active and senior dogs may need their nails cut more often.

Regardless of activity level, if your dog’s nails touch the floor when he’s standing still (or you can hear those talons click-clacking down the hallway), it’s time to trim.

You can do this! Your dog—and your floors—will thank you.

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Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...

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