Can You Use Nail Clippers on Puppies' Nails?

Get your puppy used to having his nails trimmed by using nail clippers.

Get your puppy used to having his nails trimmed by using nail clippers.

Nail trimming is as much a part of your pet's life as it is yours. Long nails can break and tear, causing pain when the quick is exposed. Start trimming your puppy's nails from the first week you see his sweet face to get him used to the process.

When to Use Nail Clippers

Human nail clippers weren't designed for use on dogs, but sometimes they make life easier for you and your puppy. Puppies' nails are shorter and thinner than those of adult dogs, often feeling like little needles on your skin when your pup jumps up to welcome you home. Depending on the size of the puppy, nail clippers might be the best option to trim his nails. Large breeds might have nails that are too thick by the time they hit six weeks old, but smaller breeds, such as those less than 20 pounds when full grown, can benefit from the use of human nail clippers when they are puppies. The nail clippers are shorter than trimmers made specifically for dogs, giving you more control over the cut. They are also designed to cut only a small amount, making it more difficult for you to cut your dog's nail down to the quick.

When Not to Use Nail Clippers

Check the size of your puppy's nails to help determine whether nail clippers can work for him. Each nail should slide in easily; don't use it if you have to trim the sides to make the center fit inside the clipper's slot. If your puppy has large paws with long nails, a set of dog nail trimmers might be best. Trimming off just the pointed tip of the nail might not get them short enough, and the human nail trimmers that fit over the point won't fit over the thicker section beneath the quick.

Other Options

A guillotine trimmer is a type of nail clipper made for dogs. It has a circle on the end to hold the dog's nail and a blade the slices up through the circle when you close the handles. It's usually is easier on a puppy's small nails than the scissors style, and it normally has a guide that helps you trim only a small amount off the end of the nail to help prevent cutting to the quick. Some scissor-style trimmers have a guide as well. Scissor-style trimmers resemble short-bladed scissors and work the same way, by compressing the nail as they cut through it. Nail grinders are the power tool of nail cutting, and normally they are unnecessary for puppies. The noise and the vibration of the grinder can scare puppies who are unused to having their nails cut.


Even though human nail clippers only take off a small part of your puppy's nails, take care not to cut off so much that your puppy bleeds. Keep some styptic powder handy to touch quickly to the nail to stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut it too short. The styptic powder is a clotting agent that causes the blood vessels in the nail to contract and stop bleeding when the nail is cut into the quick. Apply the powder by dipping a dampened cotton swab into the powder and holding the swab against the puppy's bleeding nail. Try to keep your pup happy about getting his nails cut by offering him treats constantly as you cut. Hold him in your lap with one arm around him to make him feel safe, and choose a time when he's in a good mood but not so excited he can't sit still. For example, try cutting his nails immediately after a nice walk instead of when you first walk in the door from work.

About the Author

While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.

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