Unlike cats, dogs do not have retractile claws. The colour of the nail is determined by the colour of the surrounding skin and hair.
Always remember to trim the dew claws that are located on the inner surface of the paw.
The claws on the rear feet are often shorter and require less frequent trimming than those on the front feet.
Light coloured claws are easier to cut than dark claws as the blood vessels and nerves that supply the claw, called the quick, are easier to see. Cut the claw to within approximately 2mm of the quick. If you cut into the quick, the claw will bleed and the dog will experience pain.
The tip of the nail is placed in the stationary ring in the trimmer with the clipper perpendicular to the nail (cutting either top to bottom or bottom to top). If the trimmer is placed parallel to the nail (cutting from side to side), the nail is crushed and may splinter.
The handles of the trimmer are squeezed to advance the cutting blade through the nail.
Light colored claws can be trimmed with one cut on each nail.
You cannot see the quick on dark colored claws, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. Cut dark colored claws in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick.
As you cut off small pieces of the nail, look at the cut edge of the nail. The light tissue (1) is the curved bottom part of the nail. The mottled light and dark tissue (2) is the top part of the nail.
As you cut the nail deeper, you will see a homogeneous gray to pink oval (3) starting to appear at the top of the cut surface of the nail. Stop cutting the nail at this point as additional cutting will cut into the quick.
The sharper the trimmer, the cleaner the cut. The cutting blade on guillotine-style cutters can be replaced when it is no longer sharp.
You can file the end of the nail to smooth the cut surface.
A correctly cut dark colored nail next to an uncut mixed colored nail. The mixed color nail is darker close to the base of the nail preventing one from seeing the quick. This nail should be trimmed in several small cuts.
If the toenail is cut too short, you can use a styptic pencil containing silver nitrate to stop blood flow, although many animals object to the styptic pencil as much, or more, than toenail cutting. The black end of the stick is held to the bleeding nail and gently rotated until bleeding stops.
Even without any treatment the nail should stop bleeding in about 5 minutes or less.