When to Start Clipping Puppy Nails For The First Time

You have just brought home the newest addition to your family. Every aspect of your new puppy is adorable. Tiny ears, tiny paws, and the smallest toenails. This little guy catches everyone’s attention with “awe” s and the frequented “can I pet your puppy” requests. But what very few people realize is all the easily forgotten training and maintenance that comes along with this new bundle of joy.

Part of grooming your dog is trimming its nails. Starting this routine is crucial while your pup is still young. This will ensure that nail trimming time in the future won’t turn into a constant battle.

Still, you may be wondering where to start, how can you train your new puppy not to dread having to get their nails trimmed? What sorts of tools are required to promote a hassle-free experience for both you and your dog? How do you know much is a safe amount to cut? Learning how to trim puppy nails is much different than doing it for adult dogs, so in this article, we will be addressing puppies specifically.

You should trim your puppies nails once a month. First get your puppy used to the clippers by offering them rewards in the presence of the clipper. Then firmly hold your dogs paw and clip off the end of the nail, being careful to avoid the pink area (the quick), then reward them.

Ready to dive into the details? Let’s get started!

Choosing the Right Tool For Your Puppy

Before you trim your pups nails, you first need to figure out which trimming tool is the best for both you and your pup. There are three basic types of tools to use on your dog’s nails.


These function in the same manner as the scissors you use to cut paper. The scissor style clippers are equipped for handling thick claws, making them ideal for large dog breeds.


Acting like the guillotine of medieval times, this trimmer brings down a blade that takes off the end of the nail. Guillotine clippers work well for small or medium sized dogs.


A grinder tool works in the same principle that filing your nails works. They are heavy duty enough for larger nails and take away the “clipping feeling” that many dogs don’t like. They do take longer to trim the nails than traditional clippers.

For puppies, our preferred method is a guillotine. However, any of those tools with work. Since you’re the one who will be doing the trimming, the best choice is the one you’re most comfortable with.  Once you choose which tool you’ll be using, it’s time to introduce your puppy to the tool.

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Introducing Your Puppy to the Experience

Nail trimming doesn’t have to cause anxiety for either party. Acclimating your new puppy to nail trimming while they are young will make it easy to trim their nails when they are an adult.

The biggest mistake people make is to begin cutting before they’ve taken the time to introduce their dog to the clippers. To start, you’ll want to get your puppy comfortable with your holding their paws and playing with their nails. Don’t have the clippers anywhere near you, just spend some time playing with their nails until they’re comfortable with you doing so. It’s also a good idea to give them a treat or two at this point so their brain will create a positive association of getting a treat each time you touch their paws.

Once your puppy is comfortable with you touching their paws, you’ll want to get them used to the clippers touching their paws. Sit with them on the couch or the floor. begin touching their paws and nails with your hands as usual, then every once in a while tap their nail with the clipper. After you do this a few times, give them a treat. Again, you’re using the treats to create a positive brain association with the clippers. We want them to eventually get excited when you bust out the clippers (or trimming device of your choice).

Once they stay calm while tapping the clippers to their toes, you can begin cutting. Start with one nail and see how they respond. Don’t cut a lot off, make it a tiny cut just to see if they are ok with it. If they are, continue cutting. If they weren’t ok with it, give them a treat and try again.

Cutting the Nails

Now comes the daunting task. A good tip is to first analyze the nails before making any cuts. This will give you a good idea of how much is available to trim off. While young, puppy nails are fairly straight. But as they grow, they will begin to curve downward. The downward point can be one way to gauge how much you have to trim off.

Dog nails can be both light or dark in color, making it extra tricky while trimming your puppy’s nails. With whiter nails, the bloodline is more visible, so you can easily see how far you have to trim off. But black nails are opaque. This is where the real challenge lies. The safest thing to do is take off a little at a time, keeping a close eye on the cut part. As long as the cut part appears dry and brittle, you can rest assured that you haven’t cut too much off. If you are worried about cutting too much off of the nails that don’t show the bloodline then make sure to have a quick clotting power handy. We recommend (and use) styptic powder.

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While your dog is still young, there isn’t very much to trim, so focus on taking off just the tip. Keeping in mind that each individual nail has gone through different levels of wear means they will have a different amount to remove.

Always remember that this is a brand new experience for your new puppy and perhaps you as well. The sounds and feeling of cutting the first few nails may startle your little guy. So take it easy. No need to traumatize each other the first time. Expect to set aside a chunk of your day to get used to this new routine. The more you do it the easier (and less scary) it will become.

Don’t let fear cause you to procrastinate with trimming the nails. nails that get too long will cause your pup to go through pain. Keep that in mind next time you think “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

Why Trimming Your Puppy’s Nails is So Important

Failure to upkeep your dog’s nails will result not only in discomfort and pain for your pooch but also for your own sanity. You will have to endure the constant tapping sounds as an excited puppy greets you on uncarpeted floors. Rugs also aren’t friendly for a dog with long nails. They will snag, tear up your carpet, and trap their overgrown nails, which can be painful for the dog.

The longer the nail grows, the greater the discomfort and pain for your pup. Hard surfaces will push the nail into the toe. Imagine walking around with constant pushing and pressure on your toes.

If growth without trimming continues, the nail will either grow deformed or break off. When this happens, it could break too short resulting in bleeding and a lot of pain for you puppy.

It also doesn’t reflect very well on the owner when their dog is playing with all the other pups in the dog park and their dog is the only one with badger claws.

Final Tips

Puppies all respond differently to nail trimming sessions. Some pups might be completely ok with it, some might be terrified. Here are some final tips and tricks that may help when trimming puppy nails.

  • Don’t be alarmed if your puppy seems to be crying. As long as you haven’t cut past the pink bloodline then you haven’t hurt your pup. Cutting the nail is the same sensation as cutting your nails. The quick pressure can be startling the first few times.
  • Corn starch is both cheaper and equally as effective as commercial clotting powder. So consider using this method to save a few extra bucks in case the inevitable excessive cut may occur.
  • Don’t forget about the dewclaws. These can be found on just the front legs or all four legs. They never receive natural wear from the ground so they may need particular attention.
  • Just as humans can go back and file their nails after cutting, keep in mind that if necessary, you can go back and file down any problem areas.
  • Taking your dog on walks outside will naturally file the nails. This means you won’t have to trim the nails as often.
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If you take the time to get your puppy comfortable with your touching their nails and then create a positive brain association with the device you’ll be using to do the trimming, you should have no problem trimming your puppy’s nails. Just remember to stop right before “the quick”. If you accidentally cut too much and there is bleeding, just stop the bleeding and move on. Don’t let that experience scare you away from trimming their nails in the future.

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