How to trim a dog’s nails

How to trim a dog’s nails

Most dogs don’t like having their feet touched and clipping their nails is sometimes stressful to both the dog and owners alike. For this reason, it is always a good idea to get your dog used to have his feet touched and handled from an early age – spend a few minutes every few days touching or stroking his feet and even introducing the clippers without actually cutting the nails.  Make sure to follow these sessions with lots of praise and even some treats. 

What you’ll need:

  • Good restraint
  • A pair of clippers
  • Lots of praise or a tasty treat for afterwards

Some dogs are happy to sit on your lap while you do the trimming, but in most cases, it’s easier to have a helper hold your dog for you – you can’t make an accurate cut on a moving target. 

There are several types of clippers on the market, with guillotine clippers and scissor clippers being the most common. The scissor-type is easiest to work with and can be bought at most vets or vet shops.

Salon Grooming Guillotine Clipper

Salon Grooming Nail Clipper

Choose a time when both you and your dog are feeling calm and content – remember that dogs are experts at picking up on how you are feeling and quickly become stressed if they notice that you are impatient, stressed, in a rush or otherwise dreading it – already not a good start!

Similar to your own nails, a dog’s nails also consist of the nail and the quick. The quick is the pink part that contains the blood vessels and nerves of the nail – if your dog has light-coloured nails you’ll be able to see the quick.

So how do you go about it?

Once you are ready, have your helper hold your dog for you and hold one of his paws firmly but gently in your non-dominant hand. Use your fingers to gently separate the toes to make clipping the nails easier. Hold the clippers in your dominant hand and clip the nail below the quick, taking off small increments each time. Aim to cut the nail 2-3mm below the quick. If the nail feels spongy, don’t cut – you’re probably cutting the quick. In most cases, you’ll be able to trim the nail to the level where the clipper starts lying flat against the footpad.

Always remember to cut the dewclaws as well, if your dog has them. The dewclaws don’t contact the floor surface at all and thus don’t get worn down like the other nails – if they are left to grow too long they will eventually start growing into the pad, which is painful.

If you cut the quick it will be painful to your dog and it will bleed. Keep in mind that it always looks more dramatic than it actually is – no dog has ever died from a nail cut into the quick. It is much the same as cutting your own nail into the quick. If this happens immediately give your dog a tasty treat and use an earbud or piece of cotton wool to apply pressure to the bleeding nail – the nail will stop bleeding within a few minutes. Even though you feel very bad about it, try not to dwell on it or make a fuss of it – your dog will pick up on how you are feeling, think that something very bad happened and develop a negative association towards having his nails trimmed.

Always give lots of praise and treats so that your dog associates nail trimming with good things. 

Many dogs are drama queens when it comes to trimming their nails – if you are struggling in any way don’t hesitate to contact your vet. He or she will be happy to show you a few tricks or even trim the nails for you.