Nail Trim like a Boss (Part 2 of 2)


The How To’s of Trimming Nails Like a Boss (part 2 of 2)

O.K., then, we’re on our way to the dentist. Yeah, we’re a little nervous, but last time wasn’t so bad. We got this. We can do it. We’re psyched. Dr. Doolittle isn’t such a bad guy. He gave us suckers after the exam.

But seriously, nail trimming doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience for either you or your dog. Last time, we talked about preparation for the trim. Now, it’s time to get down to business.


Let’s get technical. Now that you’ve been working with your dog on getting him used to the clippers, it’s time for you to get down to the nitty gritty of the “how to’s of trimming.”

First, let’s talk tools. There are different types of nail trim equipment available. The right choice of equipment will depend on your dog’s size and also your own preference.



Guillotine style: This nail trimmer has an internal blade and hold to line up the nail. It is similar to an upside-down guillotine in that when the handle is squeezed, the blade moves up through the nail. This style is a good choice for beginners as it can make trimming easier, but it is very important that this tool is held correctly to ensure that it will work properly.

When holding this style of tool, the handle should be held down below the dog’s paw with the nail hole at the top. When it is held properly, the screws should be facing toward the dog, and the nail should also be lined up correctly to make the proper cut.

The blades with the guillotine can be replaced when dull. This type of tool works best for small to medium dogs and is not ideal for large dogs or even very small dogs.

Scissors style: Just as the name suggests, this nail trimmer looks just like a pair of scissors, but instead of having a flat cutting surface, the blades are curved to ensure the nail will be trimmed round. Proper use of this tool requires the blade to be lined up with the nail in the appropriate cutting space. This style is the best choice for small dogs. They are also the cheapest of the nail-trimming tools, but the blade will become dull over time, and there is a possibility of the spring hinge becoming loose.

Pliers style: This trimmer, similar to garden pruners, is the most preferred among professionals. They work in a similar manner as the scissors but with more force. Effective on dogs from small to large, it is important to note, however, that they don’t work as well on very small nails because they can leave the small nails frayed. The blades on this tool tend to stay sharp longer and will become dull over time but may last up to several years depending upon frequency of use.

Other Nail-Trimming Equipment


Styptic Powder: If you happen to cut too deep with a nail trim, the nail will bleed. Even with the greatest care, it will happen occasionally. If bleeding does occur, pressure needs to be applied, but it can be difficult for dogs to hold their paw still and thus difficult to apply pressure. This is when the styptic powder comes in handy. Application is very easy. The most common styptic powder brand name is Kwik Stop. However, if you don’t have this professional product or its equivalent, you can also try using corn starch (or even flour) to help stop the nail from bleeding.


Okay, so let’s talk anatomy. A dog’s nail has a hard outer shell and a soft cuticle in the center which consists of nerve and blood vessels. The cuticle is referred to as the quick of the nail. If the quick is cut, it will cause pain and bleeding for the dog.


The easiest nail to see the quick is a light-colored nail, but many dogs have black or a darker colored nail that make it more difficult to determine the exact placement of quick. Aside from color and size, dog’s nails are all the same, so familiarize yourself with the anatomy of the nail. The optimum placement of the trim is 2-3 millimeters from the nail quick.


It’s important that before you start trimming nails, you and the dog are comfortable. Some people prefer to sit on the floor, couch, or bed with their dog. Some dogs may even be easier to trim while standing on a table or in your lap.



Generally speaking, it is easier to trim a dog while he is lying down. The dog can be sitting for the front nails to be trimmed without problems (usually). You can position yourself beside or in front of your dog.


When you are ready, grasp the dog’s paw firmly with your non-dominant hand but not so firmly that you are squeezing. Hold the clippers in your dominant hand. To provide optimum control, place thumb on the bottom of the foot pad and fingers on top of the foot pad closest to the nails. Line up the trimmers with the blade 2-3 millimeters from quick. Squeeze trimmers in one motion. Do not cut when the dog is moving.

Trimming Dark Nails

If a dog has dark nails and you are concerned about cutting into the quick, in my opinion, it is better to make small deliberate cuts (about 2mm) at a time. The widest part of the nail is the area to use caution. When you near this area, look at the nail between cuts. The center will turn a fleshy white or gray color when the quick is close. Once you see this color, stop trimming. It may be easier to do more frequent smaller cuts with dark nails; doing so will help the longer nail quicks to shrink back.



Cutting into the Quick

It happens! If the dog has yelped or has begun to bleed, then you inadvertently cut into the nail quick. If this happens, then use the styptic powder, corn starch, or flour. Get a cotton ball, paper towel, or tissue to wipe away as much of the blood as possible. Thereafter, apply the powder to the nail tip. The quick does grow with the nail so for long nails the quick can be long

If the dog yelped with no blood, it is more than likely that you got close to the quick but didn’t actually cut the quick. If this happens, do not cut anymore on that nail and be cautious with the remainder of the nails. There are, however, some dogs that dislike nail trims so much that they will actually yelp on every clip even though the quick isn’t close to being cut. More than likely, their quick has been cut in the past, and they are fearful and anticipating pain.

Alright, my friends, I trust that practice will help you grow in confidence. I strongly suggesting keeping up with the part 1 exercises from my Trim Nails like a Boss Part 1 in between trimming sessions to work towards a happy and healthy dog.

Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Piece of cake!


Blog written by Michelle Huntting

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