HEALTH & CARE

How to Trim Dog Nails: The Right Methods + Vet Advices

Dog nails trimming
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dogs’ nails grow continuously and must be cut regularly, just as peoples’ nails. If you don’t take care of this aspect properly, a dog’s nails will continue to grow and create discomfort. Ultimately, their length can lead to pain because they sag and hurt a pup’s paws. The secret to completing this process successfully is to make it a positive experience for your dog. Even if a dog doesn’t know it, it will be much better off without overgrown nails. Pain and infections are not something a canine specimen likes, so avoiding them would be ideal.

In addition, it is not pleasant for a pup to cling its nails in the carpet or in other types of textiles that you have around the house. A pooch’s nails should not touch the ground when it walks. If you hear its nails making a noise when it walks, then it is time for you to take the matter in your own hands and learn how a dog’s pedicure must be done.

When researching about how to trim dog nails, you will also learn that dogs don’t like to have their nails trimmed. However, in some cases, this is an easy process because the need of cutting dog nails often is not necessary. Their nails tend to shorten when they walk on pavements.

Cutting a dogs nails

In case your dog has spurs, then they cannot reach the sidewalk and should be trimmed individually. The process of clipping dog nails may lead to accidents in case you cut too deep or your dog is agitated.  Even so, you should not skip this step because it is as important as the weekly bath or the daily walk. Most dogs can be trained in order to tolerate this routine, so the idea of doing this should not worry you.

Choosing the right trimming utensils

In order to find out how to clip dog nails, you should know what options you have in terms of utensils too. It is highly important for you to not use your own utensils because they are made especially for flat and thin nails, not for cylindrical and thick nails like dogs have. These would squash, split and break any dog’s nails.

There are special utensils made for dogs, which can be found in pet shops or online, on different websites. The staff from any pet shop should be able to provide useful information about their offer. The utensils used for cutting dog nails are diversified, so you should also know how to use them and which would be easier to handle by a beginner.

Types of nail clipping utensils

The guillotine utensil is a type of nail clipper that has an internal blade and a cutting hole that aligns with the types of nails dogs have. When the handle of this nail clipper is pressed, the blade comes out to cut the claw. It is called this way because it looks like a horizontal guillotine. Many beginners find this nail clipper very easy to use.

However, it is important to be held in the right position in order to work properly. Thus, its handle should be placed under a dog’s paw with the said hole pointing up. The screws from the clipper should point towards the dog and its nail should be inside the hole. The internal blade from this utensil can be replaced when it becomes dull. This type of utensil is recommended for short and medium claws and less recommended for really short or really long nails.

Nail tools

The scissor type nail clipper designed for every canine specimen works as a scissor, but it presents a few modifications compared with the normal one. Instead of having a flat cutting surface, it has a curved blade meant to trim a claw in a round shape.

It is simple to use. All you need to do is to properly align the blade on the nail and cut. This type is used for short claws because they are not strong enough for longer and thicker claws. They are among the cheapest utensils for trimming dog nails. However, the blades become dull over time and must be replaced. Also, the hinge can weaken and break.

Dog Nail Clippers for Small to Medium Dogs

The clamp style dog nail clipper is often chosen by professionals. This type works in a manner similar to the scissor type, but it is stronger. It is based on a mechanism that resembles the one used for gardening tools. It comes in different sizes, depending on the dogs they are used on.

However, the largest size is usually functional for short dog nails as well, but not for the really short ones. This type is also easy to use and it tends to stay sharp for a longer period of time. Unlike the guillotine type, the blades are not replaceable for this type, so the entire utensil has to be replaced.

If you want to make the choice easier for yourself, you should definitely take a look at the best dog clippers the market has to offer.

Accessories for dogs’ pedicure

There are two main accessories needed for a dog’s pedicure. However, none of them is mandatory because the first one comes in handy in case of accidents and the other one is optional and it is seen more like a caprice by some dog owners. Even so, the second object is useful and recommended for people who have patient and trained dogs, and who are also patient and want to give their dogs a flawless pedicure.

The first accessory you might need is the styptic powder. If you cut a nail too short, it will bleed. Regardless of how hard you try to avoid this situation, it might become inevitable because your dog might move its paw when you least expect it or you might estimate the cutting distance wrong. However, the bleeding will stop if you apply styptic powder, pressure and a bandage. Before you start clipping your dog’s claws, prepare the styptic powder and some paper towels in case this happens.

Gold Medal Pets Stop Bleeding Styptic Powder

The second accessory is an electric nail grinder. If your dog tolerates this, you can use it in order to smooth your dog’s nails. In addition, there are dog owners who prefer to skip the whole nail clipping process and just use a machine.This is not a more or less pleasant option for your dog.

Oster Gentle Paws Premium Nail Grinder for Dogs

It vibrates and it has an annoying sound, so it would still have to be gradually introduced to a dog, allowing it to get used with it and what it does to its nails. The accommodation process may take days or weeks, so patience is required in this case as well.

Choosing the right time for a pedicure

How soon should you start cutting your dog’s nails? The answer is, right away! You should start the accommodation process of nails cutting as soon as you bring a pup home. It is very important for a puppy to get used with the feeling of having its paws touched and to associate that with a positive experience such as attention, toys or rewards. You should take your pup’s paws in your hands and play with them several times a day.

This process should be perceived as a game for it, so play with it, smile, praise it and reward it too with treats if its response is good. As soon as it becomes familiar with this process, you can begin to start cutting a little of its nails. Associating this moment with positive experiences will teach your dog that there is nothing to be afraid of and will make the cutting routine easier in the future. Before you even try to see if your pooch would cooperate, you should purchase the right nail clipper for it.

Right time

How often should you cut your dog’s nails? The answer to this question depends on a few factors, such as their growth pace and their natural rate of wear. If you are wondering when to cut them, you can find out by looking to see if your dog’s nails touch the floor when it stands or not. In general, most dogs require pedicure sessions once a month, or even once every two months.

The nails from the front grow faster than the ones from the back. Therefore, you might have to cut less or more, depending on which limbs you’re working on. By observing your dog, you will be able to schedule pedicure sessions for its individual needs.

It would be ideal for your pooch’s nails not to grow over its paws and, as said, not to touch the ground when it walks. You must know that if your dog’s nails are not cut regularly, the soft, pink tissue from inside its nails will continue to grow. This means that you will never be able to cut its nails short because you would hurt it. Regular nail shortening makes the pink tissue withdraw towards the end of the nail, therefore there’s more of the nail that can be clipped. Although you might not be thrilled about doing this, try not to ignore the real need of cutting your dog’s claws.

Cutting dog nails step by step

The process of cutting dog nails is quite simple and it usually lasts twenty to thirty minutes, depending on each dog. If your dog has light colored nails or white nails, this process becomes a lot easier. This is because its nails must be cut to the point where you can see thin pink fibers. If your dog has dark colored nails, you should listen to your instincts. In case your dog is small sized, you can hold it with one hand and cut its nails with the other hand.

However, if you have a large sized dog, you might need help from someone else. Before you begin, you should make sure your dog cannot twist suddenly or even bite you. Be careful how you position your dog, because this is stressful for it and it might have an unpredictable reaction. The presence of another person who can pet it and talk to it could be useful.

You can’t do this to your dog if you haven’t previously touched its paws and showed it the chosen nail clipper. Any dog should be gradually accustomed with these steps. Just as any other new experience, this one needs time in order to become a tolerated routine. Rushing has no place in this process. Your dog can get scared and could refuse to stay still while you touch its paws or want to cut its claws. Thus, since it is a puppy, you should train it to accept having its foot immobilized.

You can make it all look like a game, rewarding it every time it does something right. Also, you can let it smell and touch the utensil you have prepared for its nails. After that, you may try to cut just one nail in a very playful way. If it stays still, you should give it a treat. The importance of getting treats is priceless.

Even if you have read multiple explanations about this process, you can still watch a video of a veterinarian that shows people how it’s done. There are various mistakes that you can avoid by doing this. In addition, your dog should be tired and out of energy before you start doing its pedicure. After a walk, run or a long play time, a dog tends to be less agitated even in such a stressful situation like clipping nails. Applying too much pressure on its paws is definitely not recommended because they are sensitive. If it is not opposing, let it loose. These tips are beyond useful and can contribute to avoiding dangerous situations.

Cutting dogs nails

The only danger in trimming your pooch’s nails is that you could injure its neurovascular package, which looks like a pink fiber and it is located inside its nail. This one can be seen if your dog has light colored nails. For dogs with dark colored nails, the cutting should be done little by little until the pink fiber starts showing up. Damaging that pink tissue leads to pain and bleeding, so it should be avoided at all costs.

Approach your pup’s nail from the top to the place where it starts to bend. Keep the nail clipper at an angle of 45 degrees from the nail and cut it firmly. If you can’t do a clean cut, don’t worry. You can smooth it afterwards. Don’t forget to treat your dog with a snack for every nail you successfully cut.

In case accidents happen, don’t panic because your dog will panic too. Apply the powder mentioned above and a bandage on the wound. Pressure is also needed in order to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have a styptic powder, then apply the bandage only. The bandage should not be removed immediately because the blood needs to coagulate.

Meanwhile, you can continue the process, as if nothing has happened. At the end, you can carefully remove the bandage and check if the bleeding has stopped completely. In case of heavy bleeding, you should go to see a veterinarian right away. Don’t ignore the bleeding and do not force your dog to stay put.

Some final advices

When you decide to trim your pup’s nails, you should take your time and avoid getting angry or agitated. You will only be able to finish what you started if you are calm. Conversely, your pooch will become as agitated and as inpatient as you are and it will tend to leave.

In addition, try to find the best nail clipper and the best method to convince your dog that what you do can be fun, especially because it gets treats every time you get a nail done. Regardless of your choices, remember that your dog’s claws must be cut regularly. There are unwanted side effects for not doing so, which turn up to be harmful for your canine pet, not for yourself.

Electric triming

If this whole operation of dog claw clipping makes you go through moments of terror just by thinking of it, then your other option is to take your beloved pet to the vet or to a beautification salons opened especially for canine specimens. There is no shame in not being able to do it yourself.

The specialists do this all day long and they are confident, as well as fast and effective. They would put less stress on your pooch. You might make this process look more difficult than it really is, so try to be realistic about this. If thinking of blood coming out of your pup’s nail scares you and makes you sick, you should definitely have someone else do its pedicure instead of you.

And if you’d like to dress up your dog a little bit, you should definitely check out this article on dog nail polish. After all, your pooch deserves to be spoiled a little every once in a while too.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Jemma Mayer

    Okay, this is a very satisfying read because I learned a lot. I legitimately did not know that a dog’s nails should be regularly trimmed and that there’s a very specific way of going about it! My brother, who usually does the nail cutting of our dogs, makes it sound so very simplistic. I guess I should have known better. Now I do, anyway!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Thanks for your comment, Jemma. We really aim to educate pet parents who often end up learning the basic pet parenting facts the hard way. You can let him know about this article because it really lets you learn a lot.

  • Sarah Johnson

    I believe using nail grinders/dremels aren’t advisable for first-time trimmers. Sure it is convenient, but without proper desensitization then your dog may well run at the first sign of those noisy things. Regular, scissor type nail trimmers prove to be less anxiety-inducing for the dog, though they may take getting used to when it comes to technique. Anyways, it’s a good idea to always have styptic powders around!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      There are nail grinders that have ultra-low noise and vibration, but they cost a little bit more. Scissor-type nail trimmers prove to be a bit difficult to wield, and they can actually harm the nail matrix if not properly used. Styptic powder helps a lot, especially in preventing potential infection.

  • Betsy Johnson

    My daughter feels that trimming her dog’s nails are the least enjoyable activity. Well, it is daunting and would like to ask if you do the trimming yourselves? Any tips that can help us without going to the groomers? Thanks.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      It is one of the challenging tasks for starting pet parents because trimming the nails can agitate the dog and even cause injury if the trim went too close to the nail beds. I really recommend these two: to invest in a good nail clipper (or an automatic nail file), and don’t trip nails too short.

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