How To Trim Your Puppy's Nails

trimming a dashunds nails

Key takeaways

  • Only trim a small section off your puppy’s nail at a time. It’s best to clip off a small amount of nail so you can safely avoid the quick.
  • Make sure there is around 2 mm of nail above the quick. You want to clip your puppy’s nails short enough so they don’t touch the floor but not so short that you cut into the quick.
  • Prepare your puppy before you cut their nails. Use praise, encouragement, and treats to build up your puppy’s confidence around the nail clippers.
  • Use nail clippers designed for dogs. Human or cat nail clippers don’t fit the shape of your puppy’s nails, so they could lead to breakage or fractures.
  • Have styptic powder on hand to prepare for accidents. If your puppy’s nail is bleeding, styptic powder will help the wound clot.

In this article

How to cut your puppy’s nails

The best way to cut your puppy’s nails is to place your thumb on one of the paw pads and your forefinger on the top of the toe.


Pull your thumb slightly backwards and your forefinger forward, then clip the tip of the nail in a straight line.


Cutting puppy nails step-by-step

Cutting your puppy’s nails for the first time can be a little nerve-racking and overwhelming, but it’s a pretty straightforward task once you know what you’re doing.


Don’t worry, we’ll be going over how to cut a puppy’s nails below to help you through the process – you’ll be a pro in no time!


Step 1

Hold your puppy’s paw firmly and place your thumb on the pad of one of their toes, then put your forefinger on the top of your pooch’s toe. Brush your puppy’s fur out of the way of their paws so you can see the nail clearly.


Step 2

Press your thumb up and slightly backwards on your puppy’s paw pad as you press your forefinger forward. Doing so will make the nail appear longer so you can easily cut it.


Step 3

Cut a small section of the nail straight across (only the very tip). Don’t forget your dog’s dew claws! You can find these on the inner side of your pup’s paw.


Step 4

Make sure you avoid the quick while you’re trimming your puppy’s nails. Clipping into this will be very painful for your dog and can lead to bleeding.


In dogs with light-colored nails, the quick is easy to identify as it will look like a pink region in the center of the nail. It can be hard to find the quick in pooches with dark nails, but there should be a groove in the nail if you view it from underneath.


If your puppy tries to pull their nail away or yelps as you’re cutting their nails, that’s usually a good indicator that you’re too close to the quick

nail trim on a puppy

How short should you trim a puppy’s nails to?

A puppy’s nails should be short enough so that they don’t touch the ground while standing. That said, you should make sure there is at least 2 mm of nail away from the quick. 

Any shorter and you risk cutting into the quick, which can cause bleeding and a lot of pain.

Video demonstration: puppy nail trimming

If you’re still a little unsure about how to trim your puppy’s nails properly and safely, this video does a great job demonstrating the process:

How to prepare your puppy for getting its nails trimmed

If your puppy has never had their nails cut before, you’ll need to prepare them for the experience as the ordeal will likely be very scary and stressful the first few times.


It’s important to build up your puppy’s confidence around having their nails cut from 8 weeks, otherwise, it will lead to problems in the long run (and make your job a lot harder!). This process can take some time, but it’s a necessary measure to help your puppy view nail grooming sessions positively. 


Step 1

First things first, you should get your puppy accustomed to seeing and being around the nail clippers. Summon them over and pick up the nail clippers excitedly, then shower your puppy in praise and offer them a treat.


This will help them associate the object with a positive outcome! Make sure you repeat this process several times a day for a couple of weeks or until you think your puppy is ready for the next step.


Step 2

Now it’s time to increase your puppy’s courage around the noise of the nail clippers. Open and close the trimmers (or, if using a nail grinder, put it on the lowest setting), then offer praise and a treat.


Without physically touching your puppy, gradually move the nail clippers closer. Your puppy can begin the next stage of their training once they no longer act fearful around the sound of the nail clippers.


Step 3

For this next step, you’ll need to handle your puppy’s paw and open/close the clippers at the same time. Place the clippers/grinder on the floor and gradually edge it closer to your dog.


If your puppy isn’t bothered by either action, praise them and offer a treat. However, if they become fearful, give them some time to settle down before trying again. You may need to repeat the previous step to build up their trust again.


Step 4

Once your puppy is comfortable with each of the previous steps, they are fully prepared to have their nails cut! Grasp your puppy’s paw firmly (but not too hard) and hold one of their toes. Trim the tip of the nail, making sure to avoid the quick.


Show your puppy that they’re doing a great job by rewarding them with praise and a treat after you cut each of their nails. This will help them look forward to future nail trim sessions as they’ll know it involves affection and a tasty snack!

puppy trimming nails

How to avoid your puppy crying when getting its nails clipped

Cutting your puppy’s nails can be a fearful experience, especially as the sensation is likely to be unfamiliar and ticklish to them. 


It’s not uncommon for puppies to cry or whine when they’re getting their nails clipped, but there are a few things you can do to help them settle back down.


Speak to your puppy in a soothing voice

Before and during your puppy’s nail manicure, reassure your pooch by speaking to them in a calm and soothing voice. Offer lots of praise so your puppy knows they’re doing a good job and that there’s nothing to be scared of.


Don’t scold or yell at your puppy if they’re frightened as it will only make things worse. It will also make them more likely to act anxious the next time they have their nails cut. Positive reinforcement is key.


If your puppy is becoming overly distressed, stop cutting their nails immediately and give them a break. Only begin the process when your puppy has calmed down.

Use treats

Giving your puppy a treat while they’re having their nails clipped not only gives them a distraction but also helps them build up a positive association with the experience. 


Over time, your puppy may even begin to look forward to having their nails clipped as it means they’ll get something tasty in return.

Clip your puppy’s nails over multiple sessions


Trimming all of your puppy’s nails in one sitting can take a while, especially if they are upset or are constantly fidgeting. It might be better to cut your puppy’s nails over a few days – one nail per day.


That way, your puppy won’t have to sit still for very long and can take a break as soon as things get too stressful.

Plan a fun activity with your puppy afterwards

A great way to help your puppy view having their nails clipped as a good thing is to plan a fun activity with them after the session. This could be a walk, some bonding time on the couch, a new puzzle toy, or a game of tug-of-war.


Doing so will give your puppy something to look forward to after they’ve had their nails clipped.

Written by: Joshua Gordon

Written by: Joshua Gordon

Head of Research and Editorial, Joshua has over 7 years of experience as a finance and automotive research consultant. He is a childhood pet owner and dog enthusiast.