How to Use Dog Nail Clippers (And Remain on Good Terms With Your Dog!)

learn how to use dog nail clippers safely

If you allow your dog’s nails to grow too long, it can hurt their paws when they walk and run. Overgrown nails can happen to dogs who don’t spend a lot of time outside; it also happens to dogs who spend more time on grass than on concrete or hard surfaces. Harder surfaces can naturally file down your dog’s nails.

Trimming your dog’s nails is not difficult once you learn how to do it. DIY dog grooming can even be a fun and rewarding experience between the two of you!

How to Use Dog Nail Clippers

If you’re looking to trim your dog’s nails at home, you may be wondering what type of nail clippers are best and how to use them. There are a wide selection of nail clippers today, including guillotine and scissor types. Let’s take a closer look at each. 

Guillotine nail clippers

One such type of dog clippers is the guillotine clippers, which work … well, just like a guillotine. If your dog is okay with having his nails trimmed, you alone can trim his nails. However, if he’s apprehensive about nail cutting, you’ll need someone to hold onto your pet while you cut his nails. Either way, take one of your dog’s paws and place the end of one nail into the hole of the clippers and squeeze the handles. A blade will come down onto the nail, slicing off the tip. Continue with the remaining nails.

Scissor clippers with a guard

Another type of nail clippers are scissor clippers with a guard. These guarded clippers, like the BarxBuddy nail clippers, are ideal for beginners and pros alike. Our model has a sturdy handle that holds a removable nail file — bonus! The real benefit to this style of clippers is they have a guard that prevents injury to your dog by stopping the nail from being cut too short. To use guarded clippers, first hold your dog, or have someone else hold onto him. Grab one of his paws and with the clippers at a right angle and carefully place a toenail into the clippers, squeeze the handles and they will clip off the nail tip. Continue with the remaining nails. 

Human nail clippers

Some pet parents are curious as to whether human nail clippers can be used on dogs. The answer is yes, but with restrictions. They are to be only used on little puppy nails as they are not as thick as adult dog nails. Human nail clippers used on larger dog nails can cause serious injury to the nail bed and dog. If you decide to use human nail clippers on your puppy’s nails, be sure to cut only across the very tip and never the edges.

Nail trimming precautions

Regardless of which type of nail clippers you choose to use, select an appropriate size pair for your dog’s nails so you don’t damage the nail beds or the surrounding skin. It’s crucial that you are careful and not cut the nail too far down. Each dog nail has what’s called a quick. In white or clear nails the quick is the pink area of the nail bed. This special area contains both a blood vessel and nerve that if cut can bleed profusely.

If your dog has black or very dark nails, you won’t be able to see the quick. Scroll down for more information on trimming dogs with black nails.

How to Trim Dog Nails Without Clippers

Working with clippers not working for you? If you’d prefer to maintain your dog’s nails without the need of clipping consider using a dog nail grinder, or emery (Dremel) type tool. It’s important to note that you must be very careful with any of these tools so you don’t accidentally grind off too much of the nail bed or grind into the skin around the nail. For especially long nails, we recommend using our BarxBuddy nail clippers with guard first, and then gently finishing off the rough cut with a nail grinder.

Large Dog Nail Clippers

The best clippers for large dogs are the scissor type. They provide the extra force necessary to cut through the bigger and thicker nails typical of large dogs. 

Small Dog Nail Clippers

For small to medium dogs the ideal clippers are the guillotine type with a guard. The reason is smaller dogs usually have thinner nails, making the cutting with the guillotine-style clippers easy.

Dogs With Black Nails

The challenge with DIY nail trimming is that if your dog has black or dark nails, it is difficult to see the quick. With clear or white nails, the quick is easy to spot: It’s the pink area of the nail bed. In black nails you must look from under the nail tip to observe the quick. 

The best way to cut a dark color nail is small pieces at a time, looking under the nail after every cut to ensure you have not cut too short. If you hit the quick, you will know it. Your dog will react and the nail will bleed. To stop it apply some styptic powder, which will hasten clotting. After bleeding has stopped, wrap with a bandage to protect the wound.

If you aren’t sure about where the quick is, have your veterinarian or professional groomer show you on your next visit.

DIY Dog Nail Trimming Tips

To make the routine nail trimming session easier for you and your pet we have a few American Kennel Club expert tips:

  • Nail trimming is one time you want your dog distracted! So, offer a spoonful of peanut butter that he can lick while you trim his nails. 
  • Spread nail trimming over several days if your dog is new to the experience or is nervous.
  • If you’re nervous, ask your veterinarian or their staff if they would give you a nail trimming lesson.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable cutting your pet’s nails you can always opt to take them to your veterinarian or local groomer.