Trimming Your Dog’s Nails (You Can Do It!)

By Shannon Yahoudy, LVT
Operations Supervisor for the Small-Animal Patient Care Team, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

Giving your dog an expert pedicure might seem a daunting task. However, by keeping a few tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to becoming a great nail trimmer, and your dog a great nail “trimmee.”

Start early! Early handling and events that occur during the first two to four months of your dog’s life are critical factors in his or her social development. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other animals and new environments during this time may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity and/or aggression.

Pay special attention to your dog’s feet. Play with them, squeeze them gently and start trimming nails early. Little Throttle here is getting his first nail trimming at 2.5 months old.

dog nail trim

Begin with gentle restraint, as shown in the photos. Reward with a favorite treat each time the pet calms down and stops pulling its foot back. Praise with “Good dog” when the pet is still, but say “No” when the dog starts to struggle. Try to avoid saying a comforting “It’s OK” if the pet is exhibiting unwanted behavior. For example, if the dog is pulling or struggling, the pet may think “It’s OK” means that the pulling/struggling is considered appropriate behavior. Stick with “Good dog” and “No” to avoid mixed signals.  

nail trim for dogs

dog nail trim

Be sure to have sharp nail trimmers. At the beginning, you are only going to take off the tips of the nails. As the pet becomes more used to the process, then you can start to clip farther back.  

Nails that are white are much easier because you can see where the quick (nerve/blood) is. On black nails, only take the very narrow, sharp part of nail. Better to take off too little and make it a positive experience than to take too much and potentially have your pet fearful of the procedure.

Good luck! And know we are here if you need us to answer any questions: 360.568.3113