How to Put Nail Polish on Your Dog's Nails

Two Parts:Getting ReadyCompleting the Pedicure

If your dog is off to a dog's birthday party or accompanying you to a party, you may want to dress up your dog's nails to match his outfit. Painting a dog's nails is really quite easy, so long as you make sure your dog is properly trained, choose the right products, and use the right technique.

Part 1
Getting Ready

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    Make sure the dog is trained. He won't need to know any fancy commands, but he will need to know how to sit and stay for several minutes.
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    Get the dog used to grooming. You should never paint your dog's nails if he isn't accustomed to being groomed, particularly to having his nails trimmed. You need to get him comfortable with the idea of you handling his paws before you start painting his nails.[1]
    • Always try to make grooming a good experience for your dog. Give him lots of treats to encourage good behavior. This will also help him associate getting groomed and having his nails painted with delicious treats, so he might even look forward to it!
    • If you have never cut your dog's nails before, start by simply handling each paw and looking at it for a minute. When he's comfortable with that, you can progress to clipping, and then to painting.
    • Start with just a few minutes of grooming. When your dog starts looking very uncomfortable, let him go. The next grooming session should last a few minutes longer. Don't start painting the dog's nails until you're confident that the dog can sit still for long enough.
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    Buy non-toxic products. You should use nail polish specifically designed for dogs because it is less toxic than nail polish designed for humans. Dogs sometimes chew their paws, so you want to make sure your dog will not ingest anything that is potentially harmful.[2]
    • Find out how long the dry time is for the nail polish you will be using, and understand that you will need to get your dog to be calm for at least that long. Some dry extremely quickly and others can be used with topcoats that speed drying time. Choose carefully.
    • When it comes time to remove the nail polish, be sure to use nail polish remover that is designed for dogs as well.
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    Set up a space. Make sure you paint your dog's nails in a room where he can do minimal damage if he starts to run around. You will want to avoid areas with carpets and upholstered furniture because it will be very hard, if not impossible, to get nail polish off of these surfaces.
    • A small space is probably best so your dog won't be able to go far if he gets away.
    • Consider laying an old towel or blanket on the floor for your dog to stand on, but make sure that you don't mind if it gets nail polish on it.

Part 2
Completing the Pedicure

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    Choose your design. Plan out what colors and patterns you want to do before you start painting.
    • If your dog has dark nails, you might need to use a white base coat, depending on the color you want the nails to be.[3]
    • If you want to do patterns, try to find dog-friendly nail polish pens, which will give you much more control than a brush. You can purchase these online, or you may be able to find them at a specialty pet store.[4]
    • If this is the first time you are painting your dog's nails, you might want to stick to a simple design.
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    Gather all your materials. Make sure you have everything you need to paint your dog's nails in the room before you bring your dog in. You do not want to realize half way through that you forgot something in another room and have to leave your dog alone. Make sure you have the following items on hand:
    • All of the nail polish you plan on using
    • Nail polish remover, along with cotton balls, just in case you get some polish in your dog's hair
    • Nail clippers
    • Styptic powder, which will stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut your dog's nails too short
    • A small pair of scissors to trim excess hair
    • A towel to cover the floor
    • Lots of treats
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    Keep your dog as still as possible. Try putting one arm around your dog's back and using the other hand to apply the polish.
    • Having a helper hold the dog for you is a good idea. Ask a sibling, friend, or someone else to help you.
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    Prep the paws. Before you start polishing, you should make sure that your dog's nails are trimmed to the appropriate length. If your dog has long hair, trim it back around the nails so you don't get nail polish in his hair.
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    Apply the polish. Dip the brush into the polish and gently stroke the nail brush over the dog's nails. Work as quickly as possible.
    • You may want to apply gentle pressure to the top and bottom of your dog's paw as you are painting.
    • For front paws, you can simply ask the dog to sit and you can hold the paw you are working on. For back paws, you may need to work with your dog standing up, or you may need to have someone hold the dog off the ground.
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    Stay calm. Try not do anything to excite or scare your pooch as you apply the polish.
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    Keep your dog still. While the nail polish is drying, you will need to keep your dog calm and prevent him from touching or licking his nails.
    • Try giving treats to keep your dog happy and encourage him to enjoy getting his nails painted.
    • If your dog is very small, you can hold him while his nails are drying.
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    Add another layer of nail polish. If necessary, apply a second coat of the same color, or use a nail polish marker to apply a design.
    • Your dog will need to be still once again after you apply the second coat. If you are using a topcoat, he will need to be still three times.
    • If your dog seems too hyper, consider giving him a break after the first coat is dry.


  • Some dogs may become aggressive or distressed while having their nails painting. In this case, stop painting and leave it be. Your dog looks fine just the way he is.
  • Keep your dog still in between drying times. Prevent access to carpeted areas unless you want wet polish dragged across the shag pile.


  • Never attempt to do this on a frightened or aggressive dog. Never apply nail polish on a dog you do not know.

Article Info

Categories: Dog Grooming