Step by step guide to cutting your dog’s nails


Almost all dogs need their claws trimmed regularly – here’s what you need to know about it. A dog’s 'nails’ need regular care, just like ours. If your pet does not spend a lot of time outdoors and does not naturally scrape its claws on hard or rough surfaces, they need to be trimmed regularly. Here you will find out what, how and when to trim your dog’s claws and how often. And when you get down to it, you’ll do it with the skill of a master dog groomer!

Why do dogs need their claws trimmed?

Just like in humans, a dog’s claws grow throughout its life. Nowadays, domesticated dogs spend more time indoors and their claws do not wear down at the same rate as they grow. If you don’t trim your dog’s claws, they can crack, break and cause pain.

When and how often should I trim my dog’s claws?

Normally, your dog’s claws should be trimmed when they start to touch the ground. If your dog taps his claws on the floor every time he sets foot on it, it’s a sign that it’s time to cut them short! The time it takes for your dog’s claws to grow past a comfortable length depends mainly on his lifestyle and environment. The claws of an urban dog that walks on hard, rough pavements will naturally shorten on its own, unlike the claws of a dog with a carpeted lifestyle or that runs on soft lawns.

It’s a good idea to get your dog used to having his claws trimmed from an early age – it will save him unnecessary stress during the procedure.

Can I trim my dog’s claws with pliers, a clipper or a file?

There are many tools available for trimming your dog’s claws, but they can be divided into three groups:

Claw clippers or clippers: dog owners usually go for sturdy clippers that can easily deal with their pet’s hard claws. There are many different models and sizes available, so there is plenty to choose from. You’re sure to find one that not only fits comfortably in your hand but is also suitable for the size of your pet’s claws.

Guillotines: as the name suggests, these have a single blade that cuts the end of the dog’s claw. These are easier to use than classic clippers, but unlike them, they don’t trim claws with the same amount of force – generally better suited to smaller dogs with more delicate claws.

Files and grinders: Dog owners can also choose from files and grinders designed to shorten and trim their dog’s claws. These usually come with a small rotating file to shape the claws and smooth out the sharp ends after trimming.

Will I need other things too?

You will certainly need a few other things.

  • Powder to stop bleeding: Have this on standby and apply it to the claw when blood is flowing after it has been excessively shortened (meaning you have cut it down to „live” – more on this in a moment).
  • Treats: Have some dog treats on hand to help your pet get through the claw trimming process stress-free, especially if you inadvertently hurt him.

Claw clipping is not your pet’s favourite pastime. In practice, he will not like it. Prepare some of his favourite treats to reward him for his cooperation.

How do I clip my dog’s claws?

Once you’ve gathered all the tools, it’s time to start trimming your dog’s claws. Choose the right time, preferably when your pet is relaxed, such as after a meal or a long walk, and follow these tips:

1. Hold one of his front paws in your hand

When trimming your dog’s claws, start with his front paws. Hold the paw firmly, but sensitively, and determine where you want to trim the claw.

2. Shorten the length of the claw so that you don’t cut it to 'live’ – trimming black claws in a dog

Trim the tip of the claw. Always cut downwards from the top, keeping the clipper perpendicular to the claw. Avoid cutting claws at an angle.

The inside of each dog’s claw is filled with living tissue called a matrix. This is where the blood vessels and nerve endings are located, which you don’t want to damage. So don’t cut the claws too short, as disturbing the living tissue will cause profuse bleeding and pain. If your dog has light-coloured claws, you can easily see the matrix forming a pale pink line. Cut the claws at least 2 mm from this line.

For dogs with dark claws, finding the matrix is not so easy. Look out for a dark spot in the middle of a freshly clipped claw – this is where the matrix starts.

If you are unsure, it is always better to cut too little than too much – you can always shorten the claw again if necessary. If your dog has black claws and you’re worried that you’ll injure your pet while trimming them, it’s better to visit a vet or dog grooming salon where they can professionally shorten them.

What if I accidentally damage the matrix and blood is flowing?

Don’t panic! Accidents do happen. Trimming your dog’s claws takes practice. If something has gone wrong this time, put some powder on the damaged claw and wait until the bleeding stops. Give your dog a treat and pet and praise him. If you can’t trim the rest of the claws yourself, take your dog to a dog grooming salon or veterinary office where they will expertly shorten the claws.

Lay your dog on his side to trim the claws on his hind legs. In this position, you will have better access to the hind paws and it will be easier to hold them.

When you are finished, be sure to reward your dog with a treat and petting!

Trimming your dog’s claws is a routine grooming procedure that needs to be done regularly, so try to make it a positive association for your pet. When he’s finished, give him a few treats, pat him on the back and praise his brave behaviour.

I don’t want to do it / I don’t like to do it!

Don’t worry! Many professional dog grooming salons and veterinary surgeries offer a dog claw shortening service for a small fee.

Are you worried about your dog’s claws?

If you have concerns, for example, if you think the claws are causing your pet pain or discomfort, contact your vet.


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