How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown

Nobody likes to cut their dog’s nails. Nobody. But when they get long, they get unhealthy and bad for your dog. So suck it up, here’s how to trim dog nails that are overgrown.

First Thing, Don’t Cut to the Quick

Dog nails are different than humans in a number of ways. The most important is that dog nails contain a quick. The quick is a nerve and vein that runs through the nail.

If you cut a dog’s nail that includes the quick, it will be painful for your dog and it will ooze blood.

So our goal in trimming overgrown dog nails is to do it without cutting the quick.

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Next Get a Good Pair of Dog Nail Clippers

Nothing will make your job more difficult then bad clippers. You can go for a simple pair of clippers like these Safari Professional Nail Trimmers for usually less than 10 bucks:

Safari Professional Nail Trimmer for Dogs, Standard -

If you want to get a little more high tech you have a couple of options. The most popular and most effective is using a power grinder. Dremel makes one that is probably the best and most popular. It actually comes in a kit with the right attachments that you can get here on Chewy. It’s cordless and rechargeable which is handy.

Dremel 7300-PT Dog & Cat Nail Grinder Kit -

Effects of Long Dog Nails

The tricky part is that the longer you go without cutting your dog’s claws, the further the quick pushes toward the end of the nail.

This means the longer you go without trimming, the harder it will be to cut your dog’s nails without cutting the quick.

In addition, overgrown nails are bad for dogs. They can effect how a dog stands and can eventually get ingrown.

How to Trim Dog Nails That are Overgrown

It can be bad, but don’t beat yourself up. You are not alone.

You don’t like to cut your dog’s nails because your dog doesn’t like it either.

Most dogs don’t like their nails being trimmed, and this makes the process difficult both for you and your dog.

There’s nothing worse than wrestling your dog with a pair of clippers in your hand.

The key comes in two parts. First, try to relax your dog as much as possible.

Second, break it down into small trimming sessions over time to Avoid nicking the quick and allowing the quick to recede.

Let’s get to the first part, relaxing your dog.

How to Trim dog nails

How to Trim Overgrown Dog Nails

For future reference, you can train your puppy to get used to the sound of clippers and get your puppy used to having his feet handled.

You can also do that with an adult dog, but the earlier you start, the easier it is. Here are the 5 tips:

How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown

  1. Touch your pet’s paws frequently.

    Have your pet sit in front of you as you touch its feet. If you do this frequently, the dog will get used to placing the paws in your hands knowing that you are not doing to harm it. From this point, you can introduce the idea of trimming.

  2. Make the dog comfortable and relaxed.

    You need to cut the nails without a struggle, right? Then make your pet sit in the position that it likes most. This way it will feel less scared as opposed to holding it.

  3. Treat your dog well.

    Try the trick of treating your pet well as it lies relaxed in front of you. You can do this by giving it something like peanut or anything that it likes to lick. Its concentration will be minimal on the paws as you touch them and also put in some minimal pressure. Don’t trim at this stage let it get used to the pressure on the nails so that you can comfortably use the clipper on them next time.

  4. Start with front feet.

    Your pet will be at peace if it can see what you are doing on its nails. There is no restriction on this; you can as well start from whichever feet you are comfortable with.

  5. Work slowly

    By working slowly you will ensure that you don’t injure your pet or that the nail doesn’t crack during trimming. Slow trimming will also help you to distinguish between the quick and the underneath of the nail.

5 tips to trimming dog nails that are overgrown

As I mentioned earlier, you can’t go in and just start clipping away if your dog’s nails are overgrown.

This is especially true if your dog doesn’t get out on hard surfaces outside much. Walking on pavement will naturally wear down a dog’s nails and provide some natural regulation.

If your dog doesn’t get out of the house or yard much, the nails will keep growing and the quick will keep filling up the nail.

Before you start make sure you can see the quick. Trim, but not to the quick.

The plan is going to be to trim little by little over the next few weeks. Be sure to wait in between clippings to give the nail time to grow and the quick to recede.

If possible, try to get your dog outside to encourage the natural wear on the nail.


Using these tips on how to trim dog nails that are overgrown, you can get your dog’s paws back on track. The challenge then will be to keep on top of it.

But I know you can, right? Especially after going through all that!

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5 thoughts on “How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown”

  1. I never knew that the quick could recede if she is more active. I was wondering why when I go to trim her nails I couldn’t clip much off and they would be sharper and scratch me worse. Well I’m glad u shared this before he’d 2 yr b day next month so I can change this to for the safety of us both.

  2. I really wish you post a picture of how you should use the clippers. Also how you should hold fhe nail in the clippers and making the clip.

    1. The article was not very helpful. It did not address how frequently you should clip the dogs nails if they are overgrown other then to say clip them over the next few weeks. How often should they be clipped if they are overgrown once a week every two weeks how often???? The dog I have is a lab and unfortunately her nails are very long so I need to get them back to the normal length!

  3. Do you have any suggestions for trimming nails on a dog that will not sit still. We have a rescue chihuahua and it is such a chore to do his nails. He bites you, not hard but will grab your hand to stop the trimming and cries and screams like we’re killing him. It is a 2 man job and we hate it! Hence, his nails are long and unruly. I can’t take him anywhere to get his nails done because he won’t go to strangers and is deathly scared of new people. Going to the vet is excitement enough. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    1. If there really bad you may have to have the vet put them asleep to get them trimmed. I take mine to the vet and let them cut. Then I’m not the bad guy.

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