How to Clip a Poodle’s Nails in 8 Easy Steps

When grooming and taking care of a poodle, many people tend to overlook an incredibly important detail, the nails! Trimming your poodle’s nails regularly is important to ensure that your dog is not only presentable from a grooming perspective but also that they are pain-free and keeping their toes and paws healthy. 

So how do you trim your poodle’s nails? These are the eight easy steps you should take to clip a Poodle’s nails: 

  1. Acquire The proper clippers/ grinder
  2. Prepare the room with necessary materials 
  3. Assess nail length and nail anatomy 
  4. Keep Your poodle relaxed 
  5. Trim in small increments from the nail edge 
  6. Reassess clippings and cut again if needed
  7. Nail filing and smoothing (optional) 
  8. Repeat process every month or so  

This is a task you can do at home to keep your poodle’s nails in the best shape. You will only need to acquire clippers to get the job done, as you will likely already have a lot of the other items at home. If you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself, your groomer or veterinarian can do it for you. In this article, let’s walk through the eight simple steps you’ll need to take to tackle your poodle’s nails on your own. 

Eight Steps to Clipping a Poodle’s Nails 

As a large breed, Poodles will need to have their nails clipped every 3-4 weeks to keep them in their best form. This will largely depend on how quickly your poodle’s nails grow! This breed is susceptible to brittle nails that can break off more easily than other dogs, so paying attention to their nails is particularly important. 

These are the safety steps you should follow in clipping your poodle’s nails at home. 

1. Acquire the Proper Clippers/Grinder

You should first make sure you have safe and effective clippers to use on your poodle. There are three primary options you should consider for clipping, all feasible options for your poodle, depending on its size. These options include: 

  • Guillotine Clippers: This type of clipper surrounds the nail completely and closes down on the nail like a guillotine. You squeeze these clippers like a pair of pliers, and they will cut the end of the nail. We recommend using this on medium-sized Poodles who may not have thick nails. 
  • Scissor Clippers: Acting more like a traditional pair of scissors, these types of clippers are better for large dogs like Poodles because they offer more force to cut through thick nails. 
  • Grinder Tools: An alternative to cutting a Poodle’s nails is to grind them down with a grinder tool. This will take longer to do than clippers, but it can be another solution for larger dogs and for dogs that are uncomfortable with clippers. There is the added factor of vibrating that your poodle may need to get used to. 

I recommend using a grinder tool to accommodate a poodle’s larger size and thicker nails than most small and medium breeds. I use the Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Cordless Pet Dog Nail Grooming & Grinding Tool. I love this grinder because it fits well in my hand and I feel it is the most humane trimming option. You can find this tool at most pet supply stores or at Amazon here.

If you choose to go with clippers, I recommend opting for more quality tools as opposed to those that are the most budget-friendly. You will be using them often, so invest in a good pair! 

2. Prepare the Room with Necessary Materials 

While it is really only required to have the clipping tool or grinder, you can use other materials and prep the environment for the dog to be most comfortable. The goal is to keep the dog relaxed, so consider doing this in an area where the dog is able to lay down with easy access to their nails. It is easiest to have the paws facing up so you can accurately see and cut the nail. 

Some other materials and tools to consider using for Poodle nail prep include: 

  • Scissors: You may want to cut the hair around their toes if it is overgrown and will get in the way during clipping. You want to have a clear vantage point that will not allow it to enter the clippers. 
  • Styptic Powder: In the event of bleeding from cutting too shorting, having this binding powder on hand will help to stop bleeds quickly. This is good to have with you in case of emergencies. You can also use other coagulants if you do not have this specific one. 
  • Nail file (optional): You can use a nail file used by humans or a dog-specific one to smooth the nails you cut. They may have sharp edges after you finish. Grinder tools help to eliminate the need for these as they keep them fairly smooth. 
  • Dog Treats: Clipping nails is not the most comfortable activity for your poodle, so consider having some treats on hand as a reward. This will help to ease them in for future nail clipping sessions. 
  • Blanket or dog bed: Especially for larger poodles, you will most likely have to do this task on the floor. Giving them something comfortable to lay on may make the process a little less stressful. 

You know your poodle best and what type of environment they are usually best in. Try to replicate environments that are calming so that they do not feel high levels of stress or activity before you introduce the clippers. You should also be making these clippings in a well-lit environment so you can see exactly what you are working with. 

3. Assess Nail Length and Nail Anatomy 

Knowing when to cut your poodle’s nails is important, so you can jump on it when their nails reach a certain point. Once the nails start to touch the ground or you hear a clicking, these are the best indicators that it is time to cut! After you have determined the length of their nails, you should start to examine the anatomy of their nails to know what you should be cutting. 

A dog nail is made up of a hard outer shell and a soft pink fleshy center (the quick). You will only be cutting the outer shell as the quick will bleed if cut into. Regardless of the color of the nail, the anatomy is the same. The only difference is the difficulty of seeing the quick if your poodle has dark nails. If this is the case, you will need to cut to the pulp at the cross-section of the nail. 

You will know exactly how far you can cut with the light nail but will need to take your time and work slowly in small clippings to safely cut black nails. Cutting past the curve of the nail is usually a sign that you are getting into the quick territory and should proceed with caution. 

4. Keep Your Poodle Relaxed 

Try clipping a poodle’s nails when they are in a more comfortable and relaxed state. It will be more difficult to get them to work with you if they are hyper or want to play. Laying on a blanket or in a comfortable position often leads to more favorable results. 

To keep a Poodle relaxed, consider providing these for them: 

  • Exercise: Giving your poodle ample exercise before you do this will release some cooped-up energy that may make them more irritable or anxious. Read this article I wrote to find exactly what is best exercises are for miniature poodles.
  • Low-stress environment: These are areas with less foot traffic or noises for your dog to relax and experience less stimulation. 
  • Treats: Positive reinforcement is a great strategy to keep them calm and engaged while cutting their nails. Reward them for keeping calm as you start the nail clipping process. 

If your poodle is squeamish and you find it difficult to get them to cooperate, you may benefit from having one person soothe them and hold them while the other clips their nails. There are also different training strategies to get them more comfortable with clipping time. Because this will be a normal occurrence, the goal is to limit stress for both them and you. 

One strategy to train them for nail clippings is to touch their feet with the clippers and spread their toes, so they are comfortable with having their feet touched. You can put their nail in the clipper and apply a little pressure, working through different feet and nails. Reward them as you advance to further steps. The video below demonstrates what this process looks like. 

5. Trim in Small Increments 

I recommend trimming in small increments regardless of nail color, as it does not take much to cut too far. It is best to work slowly from the nail’s edge and move closer to the quick or the pulp. To start clipping their nails, you will want to hold their paw and separate the toe you are working with from the others. This will give you the most control and best angle. 

These are some things to keep in mind when making a cut: 

  • Quick and smooth motion: You will want to clip quickly and without jerking so that the poodle cannot move mid-cut, and you are making clean contact with the nail. Especially because Poodle nails have a tendency to be brittle, you will want to make quick cuts to keep them clean. 
  • Straight across: The cut should be straight across and not at an angle as it may be more uncomfortable for your poodle. You will want to hold their paw straight on when cutting. 
  • Do not squeeze foot: You should not be squeezing toes or feet while cutting but holding their feet gently while firm to get the job done. The added pressure can make the poodle uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. 

The same principles should be applied if you are working with a grinder. You can slowly work to remove the nail and continue until you reach the same stopping points. Grinders work much more slowly, so you are less likely to make a cut that is too far. 

6. Reassess Clippings and Cut Again

After each minor clipping, you should go back and reevaluate the cut you just made to ensure you are not getting too close to the quick or the pulp. If you still see the hard-outer shell, you can continue to cut. Doing so in small increments will avoid any accidents that will result in bleeding. 

If you do run into issues with bleeding, you will need to: 

  • Use a coagulant: This will help to stop bleeding, with the most common being a styptic powder that is designed specifically for this. If you do not have this on you, baking powder or cornstarch will work as a last resort. 
  • Quickly apply pressure and powder: You will want to apply pressure to the nail to stop the bleeding with a towel or use the powder immediately. Place the powder into the cut source directly, and it should stop the bleeding quickly. 
  • Keep the dog off their feet: I recommend keeping a dog off their feet for at least 30 minutes to allow the pain to stop and prevent additional pressure from reaching the area. 
  • Persistent bleeding: If the bleeding does not stop, you should seek veterinary attention as there may be larger issues that need to be addressed. 

After you have stopped the bleeding, you will want to properly wash the area to prevent infection from occurring. You should wash the area with semi-warm water as not to irritate it further. You should then bandage the area so that the poodle will not be able to access or lick it. If any swelling or redness persists after a few days, you should consult a doctor. 

7. Nail Filing and Smoothing (Optional) 

After you have finished trimming your poodle’s nails, you may notice some sharp edges left over. This is likely to happen, especially as you clip nails straight. To combat this, many people take advantage of using a nail file or a grinder. This can be made for humans or specifically for dogs to accomplish the same goal.

If you are going to be filing your poodle’s nails, you will want to be gentle and make sure you are tackling all the edges. These are some key steps you need to take in filing their nails: 

  • Separate toes: Just like when you are clipping their nails, you will need to separate their toes to get a good angle of each toe. You will want to file the nail using the larger face of the file, being consistent in movements back and forth. 
  • File until even with paw pad: You will want to file back and forth about 10-15 times to get a clean and smooth finish on the nail. 
  • Filing multiple nails: I recommend only taking on 2-3 nails per session because it will be difficult for your poodle to sit still for that amount of time. It may be uncomfortable for them, as well. 
  • Grinder: You can also use a grinder to achieve the same results, whether this is after using clippers or using the grinder for the entire time. 

If there are no majorly sharp edges that could snag on something while they are out and about, you do not necessarily need to file their nails. If you do, make sure you do so carefully and try to work quickly to prevent the poodle from getting too stressed. 

If you do choose to use a grinder instead of clippers, I recommend checking out the video below. The tool is fairly straightforward to use with modifications to the sanding bands. Use a harder sander for thicker and stronger nails. The grinder may come with a nail guard, which can allow you to grind the nail easily without hair getting in the way. 

Positioning the poodle and approaching the nails will be nearly the same as if you used traditional clippers. You can also use a Dremel tool that you would find on your workbench to grind or smooth their nails. 

8. Repeat Process Each Month   

Every 3-4 weeks depending on how quickly the nails are growing, you will need to cut their nails. We recommend setting a reminder so that you can check on their nails after this amount of time passes. While it may not end up being time to cut, setting up this consistency will get you in a good routine of checking their nails. 

The 3 to 4-week time range is best for maintaining the current length of the nails. If you want to shorten the nails and train them, you should consider cutting them more often (every week or so). You will need to be careful, though, as you risk cutting into the quick or pulp much more easily with less to work with. 

From this point, you will need to physically check their nails to determine if they actually need to be cut. Especially because of the brittleness, you want to stay on top of this. You should also be trying to strengthen and maintain their nails to combat the brittle problem. This will make it easier to cut in the future and lead to less potential risks of breaking 

If your poodle has brittle nails, you should try these things: 

  • Adding supplements and vitamins: Zinc and omega-3 fatty acids can be added to a Poodle’s diet to promote nail growth and health. These can be found in fish oils, flax seeds, and soybeans. All of these can be added to their food to make sure they are getting those nutrients. 
  • Monitoring diet: Trying to provide them a well-balanced diet is also an important way to promote overall health. This will keep them strong everywhere, including their nails. 
  • Avoid touching and licking: If you can, try not to let your Poodle lick and touch the nail areas. The paws and feet can be a common source of irritation, and when the poodle is near there, they can not only weaken their nails but also cause redness and potential infection. 

The most effective way to take care of brittle nails is to cut and groom them regularly. If you do this, you should not run into many issues with their overall nail health. If you are on top of nail care, there is little risk of cracking and breaking. 

How Long Should a Poodle’s Nails Be? 

The length of your poodle’s nails is not just determined for appearances but also serves an important purpose of keeping your poodle safe and comfortable. Long nails can be painful and cause larger issues related to the feet and infections. 

There is no set length as to how long a Poodle’s nails should be as different feet will allow for some to be longer or shorter than others. When clipping their nails, you should make sure that their nails do not scratch or touch the surfaces they walk on. If you hear a nail sound as they walk, this suggests that it is time to cut. 

The general guidelines for Poodle nail length should be followed as such: 

  • Keep nails off the ground: As we have touched on, a Poodle’s nails should not touch the ground. This can lead to tears, breaking, greater pain to overall nail, and overall walking abilities. You avoid some of these issues if you keep them from touching ground surfaces. 
  • Cut until the ‘quick’: This will depend on the color of the nail, which we detail below. The ‘quick’ of the nail is an area that forms the seal of the nail bed and connected to the skin and blood underneath. You need to be careful by cutting nails in small increments because cutting into this can be incredibly painful, cause bleeding, and lead to infection. 

Cutting Light vs. Dark Nails Poodle Nails

Looking at the nail will help you determine how much of it you can cut. Your indicators will be different in light versus dark nails because you can only see the quick on light nails. This will be largely dependent on the color of your dog, with lighter colored dogs typically having light nails and black dogs having dark nails. 

If your poodle has light nails, it will be much easier to see the quick. You will see the difference in the white-colored nail and the pink-colored quick. You can cut back to the quick, following these color differences as a gauge. 

If your dog has black nails, it will be much more difficult to find the quick. You will need to cut even more carefully and in small increments, checking the nails after each cut. You will be looking at each intersection of the cut to see how much further you need to go. Instead of looking for the quick, you are searching for the ‘pulp.’ 

If you look into the cut you just made, you will eventually approach a dark circle. Once you start to see this dark color, you should stop cutting. The pulp is located just before you reach the quick, and this is the easiest way to determine how much you should be cutting. 

Risks Associated with Long Poodle Nails 

We want to detail the risks associated with keeping your poodle’s nails too long so that you stay on top of it. Failing to cut their nails regularly can result in some painful outcomes for your dog. 

These are issues that can be easily avoided with regular nail care: 

  • Pain and difficulty walking: When the nails are too long and make consistent contact with the ground, they can become irritated and push the nail up into the bed or toes. This can be incredibly uncomfortable for your poodle. 
  • Lead to permanent changes in walking gait: The orientation of the nail to the ground can actually change the way the bones in the feet are positioned, and this can put more pressure on their joints. This may lead to permanent hinderances to walking and running. This graphic provides a great visual of how nail length impacts skeletal structure. 
  • Infections: If long nails are broken, snagged, or torn, this can expose underlying skin and leave your poodle prone to infections. This is especially true if you do not notice the damage right away. 

Keeping your poodle’s nails cut on a regular basis (every 3-4 weeks depending on how quickly they grow) is important for their health and comfort. It also will keep them looking in top shape, and you will not have to hear them clicking all over the house. 

Proper technique for Trimming Your Poodle’s Nails

If you follow the steps listed above, you can easily cut your poodle’s nails at home. We recommend asking your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how to do it first if you have not before. While this is not required, it may help you avoid potential mistakes. You can also check out lots of online videos that will show you the proper technique. 

Above is a video for you to check out that will give you a great visual for easy clipping of your poodle’s nails. While a Poodle might not be the most comfortable during the nail clipping process, doing so is imperative to their health. A poodle’s nails have a surprisingly large impact on their temperament, as well as their ability to walk and function properly!

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Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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