Despite their adorable nature, when a puppy comes galloping your way with those needle like nails, your skin soon knows about it!

If that’s not reason enough to keep your pup’s nails smooth and trim, how about the fact that when a dog’s nails grow too long, they can cause toes to spread and force joints out of position. A puppy’s delicate nails can also crack and break by catching on things, which can lead to infection.

All these things cause unnecessary pain, problems with walking and also require a long time to heal and correct. That’s why it’s essential that you understand how to trim your pup’s nails, and here’s the important part – without causing them any harm!It’s understandable if you’re feeling slightly apprehensive about nail trimming, but rest assured, we’ll walk you through every step of the way. As with all things pup, the sooner you start, the easier it will be to get your puppy accustomed to this process.

As your dog grows, if he’s naturally very active and runs around all day on different surfaces, nail trimming may not be required. That’s because constant activity across multiple surfaces generally wears down the nails enough by itself.

Tools for the Job

There are two basic tools you’ll need to keep nails nice and trim: dog nail clippers and a file. Although there are a number of different types of clippers available, we recommend using the ones styled like pliers. These clippers sometimes also come with a guide attached which can prove useful, especially when you’re first starting out (see the main article image above for an example).

Online, you’ll no doubt also notice that there’s a whole range of electric grinders you can purchase for trimming dog nails. Depending on the nail grinder, they’re not always the easiest tool to use on a puppy’s small nails, and the noise some of these grinders produce can unsettle your pup.

So for now, a good set of dog nail clippers and a file to smooth the trim out will suffice.

Dog Nail Clipper and File

Tool Tips:

  • For better control, use the smallest clippers available for your sized dog.
  • We don’t advise you use guillotine style clippers as they can crush fragile nails.
  • Dog nail clippers are specifically designed to the shape of your dog’s nails, we don’t recommend you try to substitute clippers meant for cats or for humans.
  • Always keep your clippers sharp, or replace them when they start going blunt.

Paw-Happy Handling

Puppies can get nervous, uncooperative and easily scare around unfamiliar objects and new experiences.

To ease your pup into the nail trimming process and avoid clipper-phobia, we recommend that you condition your pup to having his paws touched. As well as to the sight and feel of a clipper before any trimming takes place.You can do this through the following three easy steps:

  1. Everyday
    A week before you plan on trimming your pup’s nails, gently handle his paws. Making sure to swiftly praise and offer him a treat as a reward when he stays still and remains calm (even if only for a few seconds).
  2. A couple of days into the week
    Pull out the clipper and lay it next to your pup whenever you’re handling his paws, making sure he can see it clearly. Continue to praise and treat positive responses.
  3. Three days before trimming
    As you’re handling his paws, also rub them with the clipper and then open and shut it so your pup gets used to the sight and sound it makes. Again, followed by praise and a treat.

Do not attempt to trim your pup’s nails during this conditioning period. The point here is to make your puppy feel safe and comfortable with paw handling and with the clippers.

Dog's Paw in Hand

Before the Trim

If you’re feeling especially anxious and would like to kick things off with a little hands-on professional help, there’s no harm in visiting a dog groomer or veterinarian to show you the ropes and generally help with your first attempt at nail trimming. Your first few tries, we do in fact advise that you have an extra pair of hands to assist you in holding your dog. Ultimately you’ll be able to do this by yourself, but having someone around at first allows you to focus solely on trimming, and significantly lowers the risk that you’ll cause your puppy any harm.

Make sure to have some styptic powder available before you do any trimming. It works well to stop bleeding and relieves pain should you accidentally cut any of your dog’s nails too short. Before you begin, you’ll want to calm your puppy. Try sitting and holding them in your lap. Talk to them in a calm voice and allow them sufficient time to relax.

Trimming Your Puppy’s Nails

Step 1: Find a safe work space

When puppies are small (if you’re trimming by yourself) the best thing to do is to position your puppy nicely in your lap. When your pup is a little bigger, you can even place him in the crook of your arm, allowing you easier use of your hands. If you have someone who can help, use a table and get that person to hold your puppy steady so your attention is focused on getting the nail trimming right.

Step 2: Hold the dog’s paw

Gently grab a paw and hold back any hair growing around the nail. Then, with your thumb on top of the foot and your index finger underneath, lightly squeeze the pad of the paw to give you easy access to the nail.

Start out by only trimming the very tip of your puppy’s nails, working your way through all the nails, one at a time. This way you’ll start gaining some confidence, get your puppy accustomed to the process, and you’ll avoid cutting into the “quick.” The quick is the core of the nail bed, it’s filled with nerves and small blood vessels and gives nourishment to the nail, allowing it grow.

Dog Nail Diagram

You must avoid cutting into the quick, it’s painful for your dog and it also tends to bleed profusely for a while. If at any point you do accidentally cut the quick, use styptic powder to help stop the bleeding and relieve the pain. Each time you successfully cut a nail, give your pup some praise for being brave. It will assist with the whole process and help to keep them settled.

Step 3: Start small

If you need to trim more than just the very tip of your pup’s nails, work conservatively to trim his nails back further. Just remember that you don’t want to go too short and cut into the quick. On lightly colored nails you’ll be able to see the pink portion coming from the base of the nail, this is the quick which must be avoided. On dark colored nails, chances are you won’t be able to see the quick. The best thing to do here is not cut past where the nail starts to curve downwards. In other words, avoid cutting past the apex of the nail.

Step 4: File down

The last step is to grab your file and just gently smooth out all the nails to make sure they do not catch on anything and break. It’s always best to file in one direction instead of back-and-forth in a sawing motion.

When To Cut

To start, you’ll want to trim your puppy’s nails once every one or two weeks. This way you will prevent the quick growing out too long. This is beneficial for when your dog grows into adulthood as you’ll have less worry about cutting into the quick whenever trimming your dogs nails. When your dog is older, you will only need to trim his nails on average once every month or two. Just remember to keep an eye on the length and any signs of discomfort.

Tip: A sure sign that your dog’s nails are getting too long is if they continually click against a hard floor as he is walking. You now have all the information required to successfully trim your puppy’s nails, just remember to always go slow and offer your dog plenty of praise and a nice reward at the end.