Not all dogs need nails cut, but most would need it done at least occasionally. Also even for the dogs which wear their nails down while walking on concrete, the ‘thumb’ nails (dewclaws) will not get worn as they don’t touch the ground.
Get your dog used to having her feet handled. Preferably from young age. A bit of basic obedience also helps, the humble sit-stay can be a life saver.
Get the right tool for the job. Never use human nail scissors. A pair of basic dog nail clippers will set you back $10 or so and it’s a good investment. Also make sure the clippers are suitable for your dog’s size. Scissor-type clippers are good for small dogs, while for a bit Labrador you will need something resembling a pair of pliers.
How to know where to cut? Look at your dog’s nails. If your dog has white nails – some or all, you are lucky. Look at a white nail – you will see a subtle colour change probably about 1cm or so from the nail bed. That’s where the blood vessel stops. Now give yourself another 1mm or so of extra space and cut away. Don’t cut any closer then that or you will make the nail bleed, which is very distressing but not the end of the world. More about that later.
If your dog doesn’t have any white nails, that’s a pain. Generally if you cut at the point where the nail begins to taper off, you are usually ok, but not always.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you will make your dog’s nail bleed. It looks very dramatic but is never as bad as it looks. As I always say, no dog has ever died from a bleeding nail. No dog that I know of, anyway. Don’t quote me on that one.
Before you start clipping, make sure you have a bar of hard soap on hand. If a nail starts bleeding – stick the nail into the soap aiming to get a soapy ‘cap’ over the nail. Then keep your dog from running around for 20 minutes or so.