How To Trim Overgrown Dog Nails? A Step-by-Step Guide for Pet Owners

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Author: Jacob Kay

Both you and your furry friend were living a great life. Until the dreaded day came along. Your dog’s nails are too long and have started to curl. Whenever your dog walks, it sounds as though they are tap dancing.

Long nails in the long run (haha) can cause various health issues such as Balance issues, as the nail starts poking at paw pads. To help with the pain, the dog may start licking the paw, this can result in bacteria ingestion which can lead to digestive problems.

It is better late than never to relieve your dog of the pain. So gather some tools, get your dog, and let’s begin!

how to trim overgrown nails?

Key Takeaways

  • Help your dog form a positive correlation with nail trimming. Be patient and provide reassurance.
  • Use the right tools and make sure they are sharp. Blunt tools can cause painful trimming.
  • Keep your dog in a comfortable position, whether it be on your lap or a non-slip rubber mat.
  • Cut nails at a 45-degree angle and use a grinder when trimming at 90 degrees to avoid the quick.
  • After trimming, give your dog treats for their cooperation.
  • Examine them for wounds or bleeding, and keep an eye on how they walk.

Step 1: Gathering The Right Tools

You will need Clippers, File/Grinder, Treats, Numbing Powder and Styptic Powder. Invest in good, durable, sturdy tools that can last long.

Now, there are three types of Nail Clippers: Guillotine-style clippers – provide good control and have a hole where you can insert the nail. Scissor-style clippers – more suitable for small and medium-sized dogs, it operates just like a scissor would. And, Pliers – The two handles on these dog nail clippers are spring-loaded for added force.

Tip: When deciding on the clipper, keep in mind the breed and size of your dog.

File/Grinder helps blunt the nail, so it’s no longer sharp. It helps when the dog is running around, they won’t trip on carpets and saves you from scratches when the dog jumps on you excitedly.

Very important rule to keep treats near and dear for your sweet doggo, to award them for their patience and cooperation. This helps reinforce their behavior and they will only get calmer after each passing session of nail clipping.

If you find that your pet’s nails are extra sensitive, consult a vet regarding Numbing Powder. This will make the process easier for both of you. And, lastly dab Styptic Powder after the nail clipping session, to heal any cuts and wounds.

Step 2: Mentally Preparing Your Dog

Before you proceed with cutting nails, it’s best to help your dog form a positive correlation[1] between nail clippers and treats. Make them feel safe around the sound of File/Grinder. Give your pooch a treat whenever they go near and sniff the tool.

This process can take time, young pups may come around easily. Older dogs who hold bad memories with the clipper or grinder will need more time and assurance. As they take each step, be patient and give them rewards.

Like us humans, dogs are sensitive with their paws.

A dog sensitive to touch is not uncommon. Some dogs have touch sensitivity all over while others only have small areas, such as their paws, that they don’t like being handled. But there are steps you can take to help your dog become less nervous and even enjoy touch,” says an expert from Resources Best Friends.

They use their paws to navigate the world, and check temperatures. So, when you hold their paw, it makes them feel awkward but, they will eventually ease into the feeling.

dog handing paw

Check the paws for any infection or unusual growth before proceeding. It is best to consult a veterinarian if something doesn’t seem right.

Step 3: Trim The Nails

Once you’re certain that your furry friend is ready for a trim, you can position[2] them so that it’s comfortable for both of you. If your pet is small or medium-sized, you can hold them against you while you trim their nails. If they’re big doggo, get them a rubber non-slip mat to be comfortable on.

A dog’s nail unlike humans is cylindrical in shape and it consists of “quick”. Quick is a culmination of nerves and blood vessels, think of it as cuticles. It nourishes the nail and helps the dog navigate its surroundings.

nail quick

Your goal is to avoid cutting the quick as it can lead to bleeding. To prevent this, it is advised to cut the nail at a 45-degree angle. Use a Grinder/Flie when attempting to cut at 90-degree. Trimming at 45 degrees also gives the dog a comfortable shape.

Tip: Trim only short bits at a time, instead of chopping a huge bit. Use sharp clippers.

Step 4: Aftercare

Following the session give your pooch its favourite treats for being brave and patient. Pet them and reassure them. This will help them slowly feel more at ease with paw handling and nail trimming.

dog treats

Check their paws for any signs of bleeding or infection and rub in some Styptic Powder. Monitor how they’re walking and if there are any signs of discomfort. If they are limping, it can be a sign of over-trimming. Contact your vet immediately.


(Some pointers to keep in mind!)

  • Instead of cutting nails short, you want to keep them from touching the ground. If it is in contact with the ground, there is a risk of tripping over the carpet and other surfaces.
dog slipped on carpet
  • Keep your tools sharp. Using blunt clippers might make trimming painful.
  • Hold the paw in a way that you’re pressing the nail out. You place your forefinger on the pads and your thumb on top of the paw.
  • If you’re having trouble keeping your dog still, try using a sling hammock harness. or if they’re a small dog you can wrap them in a towel like a burrito.


What happens if you never trim a dog’s nails?

This grooming task is essential for your dog’s joints. Regular nail trimming relieves pressure on the structure of the leg and reduces the risk of arthritis and other joint issues.

How do you cut a dog’s nails when they are too long?

Cut only small sections at a time. Don’t chop big chunks. This can help avoid the quick. Make sure the nail stays off the ground.

How do you cut overgrown dog nails that are curled?

A scissor-type nail clipper is the best option for curled nails. Cut at a 45-degree angle and cut short tips.

What is the least painful way to trim a dog’s nails?

Using a grinder is the least painful way to trim nails. Nevertheless, you’ll need to help your dog get used to the vibrations.

What If I accidentally cut the quick?

Press on the bleeding nail with cotton or a clean cloth for at least 2 minutes. Use Styptic Powder or rub a non-fragrant soap on the wound.


Consistency can help make nail clipping less terrifying. Practice empathy towards your dog, understand their fear, and give them time. Provide reassurance and care, your pooch will come around soon.

Train your pups young to have less hassle when they’re older. We wish you happy nail trimming!


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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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