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June 17, 2020

How To Trim Dog Nails (in 4 Easy Steps!)

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Knowing how to trim dog nails is an essential skill for anyone hoping to groom their dog at home. It can, however, also be a daunting process for inexperienced owners. Thankfully, with a little knowhow, trimming your dog’s nails becomes a simple, painless process.

There are a few important things to know about your dog before you begin clipping nails for dogs.

You’ll need to know the shape of a dog’s nails, the tools available, and how to get them comfortable with nail trimming.

Related post: Ultimate Guide to Dog Grooming at Home

1. Know the Shape of Your Dog’s Nails

When we trim our own nails, it’s fairly easy to know where to stop based on the natural shape of our fingers. For dogs, the question is a bit more complicated. Dogs’ nails are made up of two parts: the nail and the quick. The quick is made up of a series of blood vessels and nerves, and it’s important to avoid overcutting into this area of your dog’s nails. As this blood supply is rather sensitive, avoiding this area will keep your dog happy and make grooming time a breeze.

Adorable dog with cute paws lying in a couch

To identify these two distinct parts of your dog’s nails, take a careful look at them before cutting. If your dog has light-colored nails, you may be able to easily spot the quick by simply looking for a pink, flesh-colored area above the white nail. If your dog has darker nails, using a flashlight to illuminate the area may help you more easily spot the quick.

2. Choose Your Tool

There are a number of different types of nail trimmers available for keeping your dog’s nails short. Different dogs have different sensitivities, and it is important to take this into consideration when deciding on which grooming tool is right for you. There are two main tools used by dog owners to keep their furry friend’s nails short: the nail clipper and the nail grinder.

The nail clipper is a classic choice of nail trimming tool. Many modern nail clippers have safety features designed to help you avoid coming into contact with the quick. Safety guards and safety sensors are features that will help you to avoid over-clipped dog nails which can hurt your dog’s paw.

You may, however, find that your dog is sensitive to nail clipping even when the quick is avoided. If this is the case, you may want to consider an electric nail grinder instead of a nail clipper for when you trim your dog’s nails. If you’re not sure what to buy, we have a complete guide to the best dog nail grinders available right now.

A nail grinder works a lot like a nail file if the nail file were circular and rotates at high speeds. This gradually grinds down your dog’s nail with the quick shearing motion of a nail clipper, and maybe a good choice if your dog is sensitive to nail clipping.

On the other hand, some dogs may not enjoy the vibrations and noise of a nail grinder, although modern nail grinders generally keep these to a minimum. If a grinder is too loud for your dog, the nail clipper may be right for you. Alternatively, you may simply want to use a more conventional, manual dog nail file.

Additionally, some owners may find that they get the best results by combining these two methods. The nail clipper can be used for shearing off the nail, and then the grinder can be used to smooth out any rough edges. If neither of these tools works for you and your furry friend when it comes time for a nail trim, you should consider consulting a veterinarian to ask what method is right for your unique dog.

3. Get Your Dog Comfortable

If this is your first-time dog nail trimming, you may find that your furry friend is a bit anxious or uncomfortable with the process. We recommend taking a gradual approach, of the sort you may be familiar with from training for walks or potty training. This is also an excellent time to examine your dog’s nails and get a feel for where a blood vessel may be in your dog’s nails.

You’ll want to get your dog used to the scent of the unfamiliar tool you’ll be using for nail trimming. This will increase their comfort. You’ll then want to make contact between your dog’s paw and the tool you’re using. Be sure to use positive reinforcement throughout, especially if they show discomfort. Giving your furry friend small treats may also help.

Once your dog is comfortable with the tool in question, start by clipping or grinding just one nail at a time, maybe even just one per day. Follow this up with positive reinforcement, and your furry friend will hopefully be bravely allowing you to keep their nails nice and trim in no time.

4. Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The time has come to actually begin trimming your dog’s nails. We recommend doing this in a well lit, relaxed environment. Take your clipper, grinder, or file in your dominant hand, and your dog’s paw in your other hand.

Dog that has black or dark-colored nails

If your dog has black or dark-colored nails and you still find yourself having trouble identifying the quick, you should take special care and slowly trim your dog’s nails in several small cuts. With each cut, take a look at the edge of your dog’s nail. At a certain point, you should begin to see a sort of pinkish-grey portion. At this point, you’ve reached the quick and should stop trimming. If you’re using a grinder or file, gradually grind up until the point that you see this pinkish-grey portion and then stop.

If your dog has light-colored nails with a clearly visible quick, the process should be straightforward. Simply bring the nail clippers up to a point before the quick and clip off the excess nail. If you’re using a grinder or file, simply grind or file up until the point where the quick begins. You should then stop trimming.

Once your dog’s nails have been trimmed, we recommend a bit of positive reinforcement. Give them a treat, a belly rub, or praise them in a positive voice. Dog nail trimming can be stressful for your furry friend, so it’s important to let them know what a good job they’ve done.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if my dog’s paw begins bleeding during trimming?

When giving nail trims, it’s important to go slowly and take extra care. Still, accidents happen to the best of us. If you find you’ve accidentally cut into the part of your dog’s feet where blood flow is, stop trimming immediately. You’ll want to apply some pressure to the wound and make sure dirt or dust does not get in it. The styptic powder may also be used here. Styptic powder (often with pain-relieving components) can be applied to an over trimmed nail to stop the bleeding. If your dog’s nail does not stop bleeding within 30 minutes, or if it is bleeding an alarming amount, you should immediately contact a veterinarian for advice.

I can’t get my dog to relax during nail trimming, what should I do?

No dog is born ready to have their nails trimmed, and dog nail trimming can be a stressful activity even for grown dogs. If you find your dog is abnormally resistant to nail trimming despite your best effort, you may want to consult with a veterinarian or a dog trainer. These professionals will be able to use their expertise to give your dog the help they need. All dogs are different, and what works for one may not work for another. For this reason, individualized help is sometimes necessary.

Lovely dog with big ears in yellow background

My dog’s nails are overgrown, what should I do?

The key here will be to give your dog or dogs a series of gradual nail trims instead of doing it all at once. You’ll also want to take extra care with handling your dog’s paw. Trimming overgrown nails is not that different from regular nail trimming in terms of technique, you’ll simply want to focus on taking things more slowly and making sure your dog is extra comfortable. Once the overgrown nails are back at a normal length, you should try scheduling time to regularly give your dog nail trims in the future so that your they do not have issues with overgrown nails in the future.

I just don’t feel comfortable trimming my dog’s nails, what should I do?

Your dog is special to you, and we know how intimidating nail trimming can be. If you truly do not feel comfortable doing it yourself and don’t have anyone in your house who can do it, there is nothing wrong with paying a professional dog groomer to do it for you. While veterinarians can take care of clipping for you, the time that elapses between one visit and the next can often be a bit too long for your dog if you want to avoid issues with overgrowth. Dog groomers are experienced professionals, and they’ll be able to clip your dog’s nails with ease.

Michael Ducker

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