How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

dog holding nail clippers in its mouth

Cutting your dog’s nails is an important task that should be a regular part of your grooming routine. Making sure their nails are cared for helps keep your dog comfortable and healthy. Although it is a necessary part of grooming, care, and maintenance, cutting your dog’s nails is sometimes overlooked – it shouldn’t be. Here’s what you need to know about how to cut your dog’s nails:

How Often Should a Dog’s Nails be Clipped?

In general, clipping or trimming your dog’s nails on a monthly basis is sufficient to keep them from getting too long. Some dogs’ nails will grow quicker than others and some times of the year, like winter or times of decreased activity, can cause your dog’s nails to wear down slower than normal, which will require more frequent clippings.

Unless you know what’s normal for your dog or have gotten a tip from a groomer, start by aiming at nail trimming every 3-4 weeks. Then, keep an ear out in between trimmings. If you hear your dog’s nails clicking as they walk across the floor between monthly trimmings, they are too long and it’s time for a trim.

Why It’s Important to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The biggest reason to cut your dog’s nails is to keep them from getting too long. Nails that are too long are more prone to cracking, splitting, and breaking. They can also make it uncomfortable or difficult for your dog to move around. Long nails are also more likely to get snagged or caught on things, which is painful by itself and can lead to more damage or injury.

If left unchecked, nails, especially dewclaws, will continue to grow and curl back around on themselves. This can lead to slow, agonizing pain through paw pad or leg punctures! By keeping your dog’s nails trimmed, you help keep your dog safe and comfortable.

Regularly clipping your dog’s nails also makes future nail trimming sessions easier. The quick, which is the vein that grows into your dog’s nail, will continue to grow with the nail. If nails are kept trimmed, it will recede over time. But, if your dog’s nails are permitted to grow too long, the quick could be close to the tip of the nail, which will limit how short you will be able to clip them initially. Regular nail trims help to keep the quick in check, which allows you to keep your dog’s nails at the proper length.

How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Cutting your dog’s nails can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you know how to do it safely and correctly, you can take care of it at home. If you’re still uncomfortable handling it yourself, it’s okay to rely on a professional instead. Just make sure you keep your appointments and make sure to get your dog’s nails trimmed on time.

1. Get the Right Supplies

Having the right supplies can make all the difference. When it comes to trimming your dog’s nails, you’ll want to have canine nail clippers or a grinder on hand as well as some Styptic powder.

It’s important to get clippers made for dogs and not to use human nail clippers. Human nail clippers are made for human nails, which are flat and thin. Dogs’ nails are thick and cylindrical, so they require different tools. If you’ve never cut a dog’s nails before, part of getting the right supplies should include a visit to your vet, so you can learn how to do it properly and safely.

2. Introduce and Familiarize Your Dog with the Process

Some dogs handle nail trimming well and some dogs hate having their paws touched. By introducing your dog to the nail trimming process and rewarding them, you can help keep the nail trimming process easy and stress-free for you both. It’s best to get your dog used to these grooming tasks as a puppy as it will help make grooming them a much easier process throughout their life.

Start by gently petting or holding their paw to help them feel secure. Get them used to having their paws handled and with you gently squeezing their paw and playing with their nails. Once they’re not pulling their paw away from you, you can try trimming or grinding the nail down. It may take a lot of time and treats to get your dog used to nail trims, but it will be well worth the effort.

Depending on the size of your dog and how they handle this process, you may want to enlist another pair of hands to help you comfort and secure your dog. However, it’s important not to forcefully hold your dog down to clip their nails as this makes it a fear-inducing experience instead of a positive one.

3. Know What to Cut and What to Avoid

Dogs have a vein that runs into their nail called the “quick”. You want to make sure that you do not cut into this vein as you are trimming or grinding your dog’s nails. In general, you want to only clip off a tiny bit of the nail at a time and stop before you reach the quick. In a dog with light-colored nails, the quick will be easy to see.

In dogs with darker-colored nails, the quick can be hard to see, so you may have to stop after each clip and check to the nail for a small oval in the center. If you see a small oval in the center of your dog’s nail when looking at it head-on, that’s the quick and you should stop clipping. If you’re still not sure about it, you can take your dog to a professional groomer for a trim or to your vet where they can show you the best approach for your dog.

What to do if You Hit the Quick

Hitting the quick can happen, it will hurt your dog momentarily, and it will also look worse than it is as it will bleed. First and foremost, stay calm. It will be tempting to freak out, especially because your dog may flinch or yelp when it happens, but staying calm will help keep your pup calm too.

Soothe your pup and apply some of the Styptic powder to the end of the dog’s nail. This will quickly help stop the bleeding. Stop clipping your dog’s nails for the day and begin again the next day with reconditioning them to think of nail trimming as a positive experience. After that, keep your dog’s paw clean and then keep an eye on things for a day or two to make sure there are no signs of an infection.

Trimming your dog’s nails doesn’t have to be a difficult process, but it may require some socialization and conditioning at first for your dog to accept it. With these tips on how to cut your dog’s nails, you can help this standard grooming task become a much easier and enjoyable process.