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How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

Posted by Dr. Jessica on

how to trim your dog's nails

It can be easy to let a dog’s nails get too long—but this can cause problems. Unruly nails can make it hard for a pet, dog or cat, to walk and can even start growing into the skin and paw pads. To avoid any discomfort, it is best to make trimming the dog’s nails a part of their regular grooming routine. 


How to Trim a Dog’s Nails

New pet parents often wonder how to trim dog's nails, here is a simple guide to keeping a dog’s paws neat and tidy.


Find the Quick

How parents trim their dog’s nails will be determined by whether the pet has clear or colored nails. If the pet has clear nails, find the nail quick—a pink spot in the nail—before getting started. If the dog has dark or colored nails, trim in smaller, thinner clips until a dark spot is visible on the end of the nail, indicating the beginning of the nail quick. 


The quick contains a blood vessel that supplies blood to the dog’s growing nails. As a pet parent trims, it is important to stop before reaching the quick otherwise the dog may experience pain or some temporary bleeding.


Introduce Your Dog to Trimming

If this is the first time trimming a dog’s nails, know that it’s important to make this a fun and positive experience for the pup. 

Plan the dog’s manicure during a quiet part of the day. While offering treats, hold their paw and allow them to get accustomed to the feeling of the clipper against their nail or the sound of the nail buffer.


With a Clipper

Once the pet parent has chosen a great pair of dog nail trimmers for their pet, get the treats ready and follow these steps:


  • Sit on the ground or low seat, next to or behind the dog. Gently hold their foot in hand while allowing them to sniff or adjust to the clippers. 
  • Close the nail clippers around the tip of the nail and trim—always in tiny clips. 
  • Pay attention to the sound and feel of the trimming. The nail should come away with a distinct clipping sound. Be careful not to twist the wrist before the clip is complete. Pet parents should aim for one gentle, smooth and calm clip.
  • If a pet parent happens to trim too close to the quick, the pet’s nail may bleed. Use Kwik-Stop—a powdered designed to stop bleeding—to cover the quick and quell the bleeding. In a pinch, household flour or cornstarch can also be used or gently dabbing with a damp cloth can also help..
  • Reward the dog with treats between clips or between paws and praise them for sitting calmly during their manicure. The goal is to patiently and calmly reinforce positive behavior. Over time this practice should become routine.

With a Nail Buffer

Many pet parents prefer to use a nail buffer, particularly if their pets have dark or thick, harder to clip nails. These power tools are a quick and safe alternative to trimming or filing by hand. To use a nail buffer: 


  • Be ready to start slow—many pups are ticklish or may be sensitive to the noise.
  • While seated on the floor or low seat, calmly hold the dog’s paw. 
  • Gently hold the dog’s nail against the spinning grinder.
  • Nail buffers generate heat, so only grind the nail for 10 to 15 seconds at a time or in shorter increments until the nail is a healthier length.
  • Be patient. Pet parents may have to come back to each nail a few times.
  • Always reward the dog for calm, positive nail trimming behavior. Having their favorite treat on hand will be very useful.

Make It a Positive Experience

Whether a pet parent trims their dog’s nails with a clipper or buffer, they should make every effort to keep it a fun and rewarding experience. Underscore the positivity of the situation by staying calm, using plenty of treats, and following each manicure session with a fun game, walk, or cuddles. 

Lifestyle Puppy & Kitten Training & Behavior Wellness Care