Snoqualmie Valley Pets 101: Taking the Mystery out of Clipping your Dog’s Toenails

In her newest post, pet trainer for Le Chic Pet, North Bend resident and dog guru, Melissa Grant, teaches local dog owners the art of managing their own dog’s nails – and the importance of it.  


Having recently witnessed a traumatized owner and dog in an unfortunate nail clipping mishap – and having certain fears myself about the dreaded nail trim – I thought a little tutorial on nail trimming was in order.

Just as dogs possess different-colored claws, they possess different attitudes regarding nail-trimming, so you must figure out the best way to accomplish the task without suffering extreme struggling and resistance from your beloved pooch.


Depending on the age, weight and activity level of your dog, his or her nail should be clipped approximately every 4-6 weeks. Nail trims are an important part of your dog’s basic grooming needs. Untended nails can cause your pooch a lot of problems. They can become very long and painfully grow into a pad. They can prevent walking properly if left too long or become torn All in all your pet should be able to walk quietly across the floor without any clicking. If you hear that familiar noise it’s time to cut those nails.

Things You’ll Need

  • Flat, elevated surface
  • Nail clippers
  • Styptic powder containing silver nitrate (optional)


  1. Place the dog on a flat, elevated surface, such as a table, for easier working conditions.
  2. Position yourself on the side of the table opposite to the nails you will trim. Drape your left forearm over the neck of the dog when trimming the right front claws. Hold the dog’s right front paw in your left hand and hold the trimmer in your right hand. Lean your upper body over the dog to prevent it from moving
  3. Look for the location of the “quick” (pink area containing vessels and blood) within a light-colored nail. Position the clippers on the end of the dog’s nail, approximately 2 mm from the quick.
  4. Cut dark-colored nails with several, small clips to avoid cutting into the quick. As a guide, examine each piece of nail after each clip. When the top surface of the cut nail appears gray or pink, stop cutting because you are near the quick.
  5. Squeeze the handles gently to clip the nail. Move the clippers to the next nail. Move to the other side of the table to clip the nails on the opposite side of the dog’s body.
  6. If you cut the nail too short and the nail bleeds. Pinch a small amount of the styptic powder and cover the end of a nail that has been cut too short. Press the powder over the cut surface of the nail until the bleeding stops.

Tips & Warnings

  • Place a wiggly or resistant canine on its side for better control.
  • Pull the dew claw (claw on inside of the dog’s leg) gently away from the body to clip. If not clipped, these claws will eventually curve around and press into the dog’s skin.
  • Avoid cutting into the quick of the dog’s nail because it will cause the animal pain and bleeding

An alternative tool to the nail clipper is an electric grinder. Using a grinder has become a preferred tool for many professionals and owners alike. However, because the grinder has a fast-moving part, EXTRA caution must be taken. You know your dog best and a grinder should never be used on an anxious pet that is liable to shift the foot unexpectedly, possibly causing injury to the pet or the user!

Another factor to consider is the potential for wrapping up a tongue, long ears or tail or even the hair surrounding the nail of a furry pup. Usually this tool is best for calm, obedient dogs with naked feet (like a beagle or 3+ yr old lab!) Grinding nails encourage the quick to recede up into the nail bed so offer the benefit of a longer term between nail trims and a nice, smooth finish without sharp edges. Be sure to ask your professional groomer if they offer a nail grind service or consider adding this tool to your at-home care kit.

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