Grooming 101: Nail care

Grooming 101: Nail care

Probably the number one question I got as a dog groomer, and still today is how do I clip my dogs toenails?

Please note: Clipping the toenails of a dog can be difficult if they do not want to cooperate, which at that point is best left to the professionals. Many veterinary clinics can do this service for you as well as your groomer. If you have a dog that does not mind having it’s feet handled, then trimmings can sometimes be done at home.


The first thing you’ll need are a good pair of nail clippers. If you go to your local pet supply store they wil have many different styles and sizes; please refrain from the guillotine style as those have a much greater likelihood of splitting and cracking your dogs nails. The style you will want is commonly known as theMillers forge or scissor style clippers, they have many different sizes of this style clipper (the ones pictured are a large) and depending on size will cost between $5-$15. Other than the scissor style being better for your dogs nails, they tend to stay sharper for a longer period of time.

After getting your nail trimmers, you’ll also need some styptic powder just incase the nail is trimmed too close to the blood vessel inside called the quick. Styptic powder is important to have on-hand because causes the vessel to contract further back into the claw and also clots the blood. Not only does it control the bleeding of over-trimmed nails, it helps prevent bacteria from the surrounding area entering the blood stream. Depending on the size of the container, it will cost anywhere from $4-$10. Be sure to keep cotton balls and your styptic powder in arms reach while doing your dogs nails.


After you have gotten your clippers and styptic powder it’s time to get your dog on to a sturdy surface in a well lit area so you can clip it’s nails. 
Holding your dogs paw in one hand and clipping with the other as seen in the picture on the right will be the best way for you to see how much nail you are clipping off, and if your dog has clear nails, how close you are clipping to the quick. Be sure you are not bending your dog’s foot too far back, as this can get very uncomfortable for them, and they will be very unlikely to hold still.

When you go to clip the nail it will be best if you take small cuts. You do not want to clip the nail any closer than 2 millimeters to the quick, because any closer runs the risk of exposing your dog’s quick over time as any walking, running or scratching your dog will do can wear down them down.



As you can see on the picture to the right, in clear nails the quick is easily seen and it’s much easier to know where to stop cutting. If your dog has black nails you cannot see the quick from the outside, so small cuts are necessary.
You will need to take off small amounts and look for a small gray to pink colored oval to start appearing on the surface of the nail. When you see this stop cutting, as any additional cutting will result in cutting into the quick. A good example of this oval is to the bottom picture on the right.


If you do cut into the quick of your dogs nail don’t panic, clipping the quick of a dog can look a lot worse than it really is. Clean off the tip of your dogs nail with the cotton ball, and either take a small pinch of the powder between your index finger and thumb and apply to the nail or keep a bowl or dish with the powder in it and dip the nail into the powder. If bleeding continues, try putting a little more powder and adding a small amount of pressure to your dogs nail. If the bleeding does not stop after 5-10 minutes, contact the nearest animal hospital for assistance.







Featured Photo Courtesy: aarontait
Diagram Courtesy: Info Barrel
Millers Forge Image Courtesy:
How to properly hold Image Courtesy: My Grooming Table.
Nail/quick and Black Nail Image Courtesy: Washington State University.



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  • Pup Fan

    Great walkthrough. I wish I could clip Bella’s nails, but she just won’t have it.  We go to the vet instead.

  • Lauren McGregor

    @b2b8ce8be87f6cb22f233a2c0d9b85d8:disqus : Nymphadora is petrified of getting her nails done and Padfoot just sits there and lets you do whatever you want. I have to try to take her in and get them done at least once every three to four weeks at the groomer or they get too long. 

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