How to Trim Dog Nails – The Fool-Proof Process
by Jessi Larson
“How to trim dog nails” is a common question among all new pup parents.
Cutting a dog’s nails regularly is important for their health and wellbeing, so it’s important to figure this out. But, as we’ll talk about more, it’s definitely a task most people dread.
This guide to how to trim dog nails will simplify the process, teach you the needed skills and help calm your nerves.
How to Trim Dog Nails – A Dog Owner Dilemma
When you start hearing your pup’s footsteps on the floor, it’s probably time for a nail trim. But if the thought of trimming your dog’s nails brings about dread and panic, you’re not alone.
Figuring out how to trim dog nails without causing pain and discomfort to your pup (while maintaining your sanity) can be a little tricky.
But with the right preparation, tools and technique you can minimize the stress and make this important grooming process as comfortable and smooth as possible.
Preparing for the Task
So much fear and stress can be taken out of trimming your dog’s nails if you do a bit of preparation. There’s only so much you can control, but a little bit of knowledge and planning can help avoid some painful situations.
Here’s everything you should know before getting started.
1. The Anatomy of Your Dog’s Nail
Before you start cutting away at anything, it’s important to consider the structure of your dog’s nail, which is made up of several layers.
The tough outer layer is the “shell” that protects the inner soft layer known as the “quick.”
The quick contains blood vessels and nerves, which means it’s both extremely sensitive and bleeds profusely when cut.
It’s very simple to identify the quick if your dog has light colored nails, but with dark nails, you’ll have to take extra care not to approach the quick closer than 2-3 mm.
2. Selecting the Right Tools
You’ll have a few options when deciding which tool you’re going to use to trim your dog’s nails. Your best choice will depend on the size and temperament of your dog.
The tools you’ll come across generally fall under these categories:
- Scissor Clippers
- Guillotine Clippers
Scissor shaped clippers are ideal for large dog breeds, while guillotine style clippers may be better suited for a smaller pup.
Some people find it easier to use a nail grinder to file the nail down rather than risk cutting too close to the quick, but certain dogs tend to dislike the buzzing sound of the tool.
Whatever instrument you select, make sure it’s made specifically for dog nails and is sharp enough to prevent nail breaks and damage.
3. Be Ready for Accidents
The most important thing when cutting your dog’s nails is only trimming off the outer layer of the nail to avoid cutting into the quick.
But accidents still happen despite our best intentions.
That’s why it’s important to have styptic powder and cotton balls handy when trimming your dog’s nails to help stop any bleeding in case you do happen to cut into the quick.
4. Get Your Dog Used to You Handling Its Paws
Some dogs don’t seem to mind having their paws handled and nails trimmed, but others absolutely abhor it.
It’s best to get your dog used to the sensation before starting the trimming process, and it’s recommended you start as young as possible to get your pup comfortable having their paws handled.
Offer your dog lots of praise and a tasty treat for letting your handle its paws to build a positive association.
5. Breathe Deep and Relax
The last thing to do before starting is to take a few cleansing breaths and gather your confidence. You’re now ready with the right knowledge and tools to get the job done without a hitch. Bringing calm energy into the process will also reassure your dog.
How to Trim Dog Nails: Step-by-Step Guides
Now that you’re mentally ready to take on the task of of trimming your dog’s nails, the following step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
Trimming Your Dog’s Nails Using Clippers
- Start with the trimming tool of your choice in your dominant hand.
- Hold on to your dog’s paw firmly with your other hand, placing your thumb on the foot pad, and your fingers on top of the paw near the nails.
- Start cutting from the tip of the nail – this is especially important if your dog has dark nails.
- Trim about 1-2 mm per cut, slowly making your way toward the quick.
- Take a look at your dog’s nail each time you make a cut, and stop cutting when you notice a tan-colored oval appear in the cross section – this means you’re getting near the quick.
- Use a nail file to smooth any rough edges.
Here’s an example of a nail clipper:
Trimming Your Dog’s Nails Using a Grinder
- Start by holding the tool in your dominant hand.
- Hold your dog’s paw in your other hand.
- Only touch the grinder to your dog’s nail for two counts.
- Stop and give your dog plenty of praise.
- Repeat the process until you notice a tan oval appear on the cross section of your dog’s nail. This means you’re getting close to the quick and it’s time to stop.
Here’s an example of a nail grinder:
Finishing Up the Process
Once you are done, offer your dog plenty of praise, a treat or hugs for making it through.
If at any point during the trimming process you notice your dog getting panicked or uncomfortable, stop immediately and offer treats and praise. You can get back to the task later and pick up where you left off – some even find it easier to complete the process one paw at a time.
The important thing is to end each trimming session on a positive note. So go ahead and offer those tummy rubs and lots of vocal praise as well. This solidifies nail trimming as a positive experience for both of you.
Final Thoughts on How to Cut Dog Nails
Learning how to trim dog nails doesn’t have to be a scary process. With a bit of planning and the right equipment, your pup may even start to enjoy the manicure/pedicure treatment.
Of course, if your furry friend is adamantly against the nail trimming process, you can also opt for a professional grooming service and take the stress off of your plate entirely.
With consistent practice, however, you may be surprised at how comfortable you and your dog get with the occasional nail trimming session.