Skip to Content

How to Use Dog Nail Clippers: Step by Step Safely (2024)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

Learning how to use dog nail clippers and dog nail trimming, no matter how nice it sounds, is not just a beauty treatment, but an activity you should perform regularly.

how to use dog nail clippersJust like people, dogs need a good nail trimming from time to time!

In fact, overgrown nails can lead to tremendous pain and negatively affect your dog’s life because grooming paws is an essential part of your dog’s health.

Cutting your dog’s nails can be a daunting task for both you and your dog. But knowing exactly where to cut their nails to avoid injuries doesn’t have to be a guessing game.

Here’s exactly how to use dog nail clippers for easy trimming at home. Of course, always consult your dog’s groomer or vet before starting home care.

When Is It Time To Trim My Dog’s Nails?

This is a question many people ask, especially those with dogs with dark nails that they cannot see quickly. Some people just leave it to the groomers, and then there are others who like to do it themselves.

If your dog is in front of you and his front legs are under his shoulders, his nails should not touch the ground. Otherwise, they are too long. When you hear his nails click or his nails turn sideways, it is high time to cut his nails.

A piece of paper should fit between the dog’s nails and the floor. Nails that are too long hinder your dog’s ability to move. But how do you shorten those nails?

How To Use Dog Nail Clippers Step By Step

Step 1: Supplies You’ll Need

  • Toenail clippers: There are two main kinds of clippers: scissor style and guillotine style. I prefer the guillotine because I think they are easier to use and give a cleaner cut. No matter which style you choose, the sharper the clipper, the cleaner the cut, and the faster the job gets done.
  • Styptic powder or pencil: Powder form is easier to use than to try and apply a pencil to your squirming dog’s foot.
  • Nail file: the same kind you use on your own nails.
  • Dog treats commercial treats, string cheese, hot dog bits, whatever your dog likes, and you can dole out in small portions.

Step 2:Get your dog used to the guillotine clipper

Before you even think about cutting your dog’s nails, warm it up for that scary looking guillotine nail clipper.

To get started, just sit next to your dog and start grabbing his paws and giving him treats and compliments along the way.

Then go up to show your dog the clippers, let him sniff the clippers, and eventually into the pinching clipper (without cutting a nail), all with a lot of treat and encouragement.

This is a slow process and can take a week (or two, if your dog is nervous). Wait until your dog is familiar with the clippers before continuing.

Step 3:Determine the cutting range

Take extra care when defining the cutting range, as the nails are supplied with blood, and a misaligned clip can cause enormous pain. It is easier to define the correct cutting range if your dog has clear or light-colored nails. Front legs are more sensitive to nail overgrowth than back legs.

You can use a flashlight to identify the blood supply area. The problem with dark nails is that you cannot see the blood supply very well. The perfect cutting range is usually just before the blood supply. Always remember to cut parallel to the bottom.

Step 4: Cut your first nail!

Cut Dog Nail using ClippersNow that your dog is used to the movements of cutting (this process will probably take about a week, but it may take longer if he has had bad toenails before), we can start cutting his nails.

Pick up one leg and examine the nails. If your dog has light nails, you should be able to see the quick or the pink fleshy part in the toenail. This is what we will try to avoid cutting because it can be painful and bleed a lot.

If your dog has dark toenails, it will be more difficult to determine the correct length, but you can examine the bottom of the nail.

There should be a groove parallel to the nail growth. If you cut past this groove, closer to the tip of the nail, you should be safe.

Place the cutter around the tip of the nail with the firm guillotine cutter plate facing your dog. Your cut is just past the quick at an angle away from the leg. (See diagram.) Close the trimmer around the nail with one quick movement for a smooth cut.

Continue until you have cut all the nails. Praise your dog after every toe or a few toes and give him a treat. Don’t forget the dewclaws, which are further on the legs, at the ankle. If they sit for a long time, they can continue to catch things and actually injure your dog.

Step 5:File off nail edges

Use your nail file or dog nail sharpener to trim your dog’s nails, so they don’t get caught in clothes, bedding, or toys. Snagged nails can tear and be very painful, so don’t skip this step!

What I Do If My Dog’s Nail Is Bleeding?

If you cut too close to the fast and the nail starts to bleed, apply the styptic powder to the nail tip, and keep applying until the bleeding stops.

A toenail will bleed for about 5 minutes if left unattended, and while it looks like a lot of blood on your floor, it is very rarely harmful. However, a dog may be afraid of this, and you may need to start all over again and re-acclimate.

Guillotine vs. Others

Guillotine vs. OthersThere are a few variations on dog nail clipping tools: the main contenders are guillotine nail clippers vs. scissors.

Guillotine nail clippers prefer smaller dogs with thinner nails (most guillotine clippers aren’t fast enough to cut a big dog’s thicker nails).

In guillotine clippers, a single blade comes down that cuts off the tip of your dog’s nail (similar to a guillotine). Guillotine clippers are easier to handle for those with hand pain or arthritis.

Scissors, also known as Miller’s Forge clippers, consist of two blades that come together and cut your dog’s nail. The squeezable handle provides more power, making this clipper better for thicker nails in large dogs.

Sharpening Guillotine Nail Clippers For Dogs

Make sure your nail clippers are always sharp. If they are boring, you can injure your dog, and she may never trust you again, so make sure they are sharp.

Remove the blades from the trimmer.
Use a grindstone or grindstone carefully to grind them. According to Dog Grooming Supplies, you can also use a diamond tapered rod or a ceramic rod.

Keep in mind that, like all knives, you can sharpen so much and have to buy a new one in the future.


A dog’s nail treatment is often overlooked by people because they tend to only see the “beauty-factor” in it. But nail treatment remains an essential part of your dog’s regular care. After you read this blog post, you should feel more prepared for your dog’s next nail session.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.