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Before we talk about how to safely trim your dog’s nails, I want to point out that if both you and your dog are as relaxed as possible when starting, chances are much greater of a successful nail trimming session.  My Beagle does not like anything about nail trimming and tends to bring a lot of drama with her when she sees the nail trimmer. When trimming her nails recently, I let her apprehension take over and spill onto me.  I accidentally cut a nail too short and she was bleeding. There was blood everywhere and she was on a mission to find and clean up every drop. Meanwhile, I am trying to stop the bleeding with a styptic pencil, which she was trying to lick off of the injured nail. It was quite comical to watch but finally, I got her to calm down enough so that I was able to apply the styptic pencil and wrap her paw in an ace bandage so she could not lick her wound. In the morning, she was no longer bleeding and I had to hunt to locate the ace bandage!

 

Your dog may or may not be comfortable getting their nails trimmed.  For my dogs, it is a 2 person job, one to clip and one to hold the dog. Getting your dog used to have their nails trimmed as early as possible can go a long way in making this part of grooming non-stressful.  If a dog’s nails are allowed to grow too long, they can become ingrown and that can be very painful for your dog. How to trim a dog’s nails is something all dog owners need to know.

 

 

 

If your dog regularly travels on hard surfaces,  this will help keep the nails short. Otherwise, you should trim his or her nails about once every 2 weeks or so.  If you can hear your dog’s nails on the floor as they walk, it is time to trim them.  It makes the most sense to trim your dog’s nails when they are relaxed. After a walk would probably be a good time for nail trimming.  Remember to have special treats and lots of praise close at hand to reward your dog with!

 


 

A dogs nail is made up of the nail itself and what is called the “quick”. Though it is not always visible, the quick is the pink part of the nail that provides a supply of blood to the nail. You want to stay clear of the quick since it can bleed a lot and it is very sensitive when accidentally cut. The tip of your dog’s nail is hard while the quick feels softer. If you begin to feel that softness when cutting,  it is very important to stop so you don’t cut the quick. You also want to cut the nail tip on a 45-degree angle as shown :

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It is always recommended that you watch your vet or groomer trim your dog’s nails before attempting to do it yourself.

 

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It is best to start out by conditioning your dog to the handling of his paws.  Holding the paws and gently pressing on them can go a long way in making your dog accustomed to having his paws handled. Trim a small section of the nail at a time, being careful to avoid the quick. If your dog will not allow you to trim all of the nails at once, that it ok. Let your dog know what a great job they have done and reward them with a treat and praise for such a good job!  Do this after every nail and you can trim more the next time. It is always best to get your dog slowly used to nail trimming since it will be done often and it can feel frightening and painful to some dogs.

 

Steps For Nail Trimming

  • Find the best position for your dog, either lying on its side or placing your upper body over your dog to hold him in place. I find that it works best to have 2 people available for nail trimming. Pay attention to your dog’s body language. You don’t want to frighten the dog or have them become aggressive.

 

  • Using a sharp instrument, clip just the tip of the nail at an angle, just before the point where the nail begins to curl

 

  • After cutting the nails, it is a good idea to use an emery board to file away any rough edges.

 

  • Don’t forget the dew claw, if your dog has them. They would not be worn down by walking and they can become quite long if not trimmed.

 

Tools For

Nail Trimming

There are 2 types of nail trimmers for dogs nails:

Scissors-type

Guillotine

There is also an option to use a grinder instead of a trimmer.  This tool will both trim and file the nails.

Lastly, in the event that the quick is accidentally cut, you will want to have some styptic powder available to stop the bleeding. The powder can be applied with a cotton swab.

Now you know how to trim a dog’s nails. You know the tools to use and how to do it safely. Please feel free to share any tips that you have discovered in trimming your dog’s nails by commenting below. Questions or concerns are always welcome.

10 comments on “How To Trim A Dog’s Nails – Is Your Dog Safe?

  • Thank you for this Sofie,
    Up until now I have been letting my groomer handle the nail clipping but I will be moving away from this area and will have less access to the groomer so will have to start to handle a few more things myself.
    Nail clipping and possibly trimming inside the ears of my smaller dog…oh, and also checking anal glands unfortunately as both dogs seem to get blocked anal glands from time to time.
    I have book marked your site as it seems like it will be a big help as we adjust following the move.
    Best regards,

    Alison

    • Hi Alison, glad to hear that you are planning ahead for your move. Many small grooming tasks that a groomer does, you can do yourself and I am glad to help you get the information you need. Also glad that you bookmarked my site as I am always trying to post about relevant issues for our fur babies!

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • Aloha! Awesome website. I have a dog, along with 3 other roommates and he absolutely hates cutting his nails. The first time i think we cut it too short and he couldn’t keep still. But once we finally did it the proper way, he’s okay now. We also have a a small puppy and never cut her nails yet so can’t wait to see how that goes lol.

    • Hey Lorenz,

      Just be sure to follow the tips and video on my post and you are sure to trim the nails on the puppy just fine. Remember to start trimming them when they are young so they are easy to handle and don’t become afraid of getting their nails trimmed.

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • Hi Erin,
    Trimming your pet’s nails is not as easy as some people think. I put my poor Shi Tzu, ChiChi through some bad pain and suffering once, and only once. There is a right way as you mention, and a wrong way which I did. Poor baby. ChiChi’s nail bled so bad that we took him in to see the vet. From that day on I take him in and have our Groomer, Cathy trim his nails. He loves being pampered by her. Thanks for your information.
    Jerome

    • Hi Jerome,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with trimming ChiChi’s nails. As you know, there is a right and a wrong way and, as you learned, the wrong way will cause pain and suffering for your dog. I too had an experience like yours and it looked like a crime scene as my poor Abby bled a lot! Though I don’t like to admit it, I will continue to have my dog’s nails trimmed at our vet’s office – it is much safer for the dogs.

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • Great article on trimming a dog’s nails. My dog never wanted me to trim his nails. I tried it a few times & managed to trim a couple nails on each paw. After half hour passed I just let him be. My solution was the vet. For some reason he trusted the vet more.

    I don’t know about you but I had a hard time finding the “quick” on some of the nails. The nail color look the same all the way through. Is there a way to make this easier?.

    You’re right about cutting to short & nail bleeds. Using the septic pencil makes sense. You’re right about using the right tools for nail clipping.

    Clipping a dog’s nails is definitely not easy but you offer great insight on this topic. Thank for sharing it.

    • Hi Daniel, thanks for stopping by and reading my post about trimming your dog’s nails. I know what you mean about finding the quick, it can be very difficult on some dogs. My Boston Terrier was really a challenge as the nails on her back feet were black and the nails on the front paws would show the blood supply all the way to the tip of her nail! I would have my vet trim both of my girls nails and then I would try to duplicate the same length while keeping in mind the 45 degree angle. Good luck with your dog!

      Cheers,

      Erin

  • I have to laugh at your poor beagle running around trying to clean up after herself. I had a beagle as a child and she was the most entertaining lady. Now returning to nail clipping – this is a very informative post on trimming the dogs nails. I must admit I don’t even try with my dog as she is so excitable and strong it would probably end in disaster. We probably should have got her accustomed at a much younger age. Although she does go running on footpaths with my daughter so they aren’t often long. However, some really great tips should I ever get another puppy!

    • Hi Megan,

      Glad that my Abby could make you laugh! She was almost manic in her cleaning efforts and was fun to watch. I think trimming a dog’s nails is similar to brushing a dog’s teeth – the younger that you get them used to it, the better off you will both be:-)

      Cheers,

      Erin

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