Dog nails 101- How to trim a dogs nails correctly

I am a certified Pet Stylist and have been working with dogs since 2003!  

Dog Nails 101

One of the things that I do when grooming a dog is trim the dog's nails.  
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Properly trim dog nails

Each dog has a vein in their nail called a quick.  This vein will bleed if it is trimmed with the nail.  As a Professional Pet Stylist, I have been trained to find this vein and cut around it.  

One of the best ways to keeping dog's nails short is to trim off a little and do this frequently.  Their nails will also become shorter if they walk on a hard surface like concrete on their walks.  I recommend getting a dog's nails trimmed once every 2 weeks to keep them in tip-top shape.  
A Professional Pet Stylist can pamper your pet

I realize that is a lot of time and effort if you need to visit a groomer like me this frequently.  It is very important though because it will help the quick stay short. The quick should gradually recede farther into the nail bed with each trim.

A Certified Pet Stylist or Veterinarian will be able to perform a nail trim on your pet. 

Are you interested in trying to cut your dog's nails yourself?  
Paw, Nail, Dog
The ideal length of the nail
Trimming a dog’s nails can be a bit scary and rightfully so. The above color could be yellow or even red with some dogs.  The vein (“quick”) can bleed sometimes even when a professional clips the nail. Nail trimming should not be attempted without styptic powder. 

Styptic powder is a coagulant that stops nails from bleeding. The vein does have nerves and the dog can feel pain if the nail is cut too short. Some dogs do not feel much pain but the sight of blood can be nerve-racking.  Be sure to have this on hand.  

If you can do it, it can take a lot of stress off of you and your pet.  It can be worth it if you have a cooperative pup.  

-The Dog Nail-

The dog's nail is composed of two parts.  There is the nail and the vein (quick). When trimming the nail, try to give the vein room.  Trim above the vein. 

Black nails are some of the hardest to trim because it is difficult to see the vein.  There is a little dot in the nail that may be gray when you trim the nail.  Once the dot becomes black and is clearly seen, do not trim anymore.  This is a guideline but with all nails, there are many margins of learning.

-What you will need-

Dog nail trimmers, styptic powder, patience, and perhaps an extra set of hands.

Safari Professional Nail Trimmer for Dogs, Small/MediumRemedy+Recovery Stop Bleeding Styptic Powder, 1.5-oz jar

There are scissor-style and the guillotine style nail trimmers. I vastly prefer the scissor style of trimmers.  The guillotine style is harder to use because you have to insert the toenail into a hole. 

Again, you should have ALWAYS have styptic powder on hand for any bleeding. Even if you become an expert.

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-Nails types-

White and tan-colored nails may be easier to trim. Always trim a little at a time. You can see the vein on the underside of the nail and cut above this vein.  

A hooked nail is nice because the whole hooked tip can be trimmed off without impacting the quick.

Cutting the vein- Ouch or No Ouch?

Even a Professional can cut the vein and the vein will bleed.  This can make a dog flinch because they feel it.  Some do not feel it at all but this is less likely. The best thing to do is to grab your powder and apply it.  

Do not stress or panic because it can make the dog scared.  The powder will stop the bleeding and that is all that is necessary.  The dog does not need ice, its paw wrapped, or anything else. Just stop the nail from bleeding.  

Short nails allow your pet to play longer 

The pain will not linger but the dog may be apprehensive for further trimming.  In emergency use flour or corn starch, but do not rely on this because it does not stop bleeding as quickly. 


Patience and Practice can make perfect.  Sometimes it does not... and that's when its time to take your pup to the groomer.

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