How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails – Here’s Our Comprehensive Guide

Trimming your dog’s nails is an essential task for any dog owner, and regardless of whether you do it yourself or hire a grooming professional to do the job for you, it’s certainly something you can’t neglect.

But while some dogs are happy to let you trim their nails, others find it far more challenging, and a surprising number of owners find it a very troublesome task to perform.

In this guide, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know when it comes to trimming your dog’s nails, so you’ll soon discover that it doesn’t have to be too difficult at all. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.

Get Your Supplies Ready

To begin with, you’ll need to ensure you have a quality set of dog nail clippers on hand and ready to use. When it comes to purchasing these clippers, it’s always best to go with a quality, reliable product because this will ultimately make your life much easier when it comes to trimming your dog’s nails efficiently and safely.

Additionally, it’s often a good idea to do this after bathing your dog if possible, as dogs nails tend to be softer and easier to trim after they have been soaked in warm water for a little while.

Once you’ve gained more experience with trimming your dog’s nails, you may decide that you have a personal preference in regards to which type of clippers you use. Some owners prefer to use a guillotine nail clipper, while others prefer the scissor type. Further still, many people find that the motorized nail grinders tend to be the best solution for them and their dog. Ultimately, experimenting with a few of these different solutions will quickly help you to find your favorites.

What Happens If I Don’t Trim My Dog’s Nails?

It’s safe to say that many dogs do not enjoy having their feet and paws touched, nor do they always enjoy having their nails trimmed. However, it’s still an important thing to do for your dog, because if they are left to grow too long, it can eventually lead to a range of paw-related problems.

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At first, it may simply become a little uncomfortable for your dog to walk on hard surfaces, but if they are left too long, they will become even more uncomfortable and could even become arthritic over time.

In nature, a dog’s activity levels would usually keep their nails shorter, but few modern pets are exposed to enough activity to allow this to happen, so it becomes the owner’s responsibility to keep their nails in good shape.

Checking Where To Trim

The first thing to understand when you’re trimming your dog’s nails is the fact that the nail is made up of two parts – the pink part and the nail. Now, your main aim is to avoid trimming the nail too short, because if you cut the pink part of your dog’s nail, it will bleed and be painful for your dog.

Fortunately, dogs with light-colored nails are usually easier to trim because you can clearly see the pink part. But if your dog has darker nails, then this can be somewhat more challenging to do visually.

One technique that can help when trimming dark nails is to start very gradually and pay attention to the inside of your dog’s nails, so when you start to see a white or grey circle forming in the middle you’ll know that you’re getting closer to your dogs “quick”.

It can also be useful to use a nail grinder rather than a standard clipper when you’re dealing with dark nails, as this gives you much more control over the process, allowing you to stop well short of the quick.

Another useful trick that sometimes works is using a bright light to shine on the nail because this can sometimes help you to see where the quick lies.

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The first step when trimming is to make sure your dog’s paws are held nice and steady, but without too much force that may cause them to pull away. In some cases, it can be easier to have somebody who can help to steady your dog’s body, too.

Next, simply cut a small piece of the nail away with your clippers once you’re confident about the location, and if you aren’t sure how close you are to the quick, remember that it’s better to take away less rather than more and make another attempt if needed.

It’s also important to remember that if you do hit the pink part, this will be quite painful for your dog, and it may quickly build a real fear of having their nails trimmed in the future. The term used for accidentally trimming the pink part is known as “quicking”, and it’s often a big reason behind why many owners are understandably worried about trimming their dog’s nails.

Alternatively, some owners prefer to use a nail grinder, and this allows you to grind away the nail slowly and carefully while giving you better control over the process, although it can be more time-consuming and some dogs can be scared of the noise at first.

You will also need to trim your dog’s dew claws. In fact, this can be another common problem area when they start to curl around, so it’s always best to trim them before they get to a difficult stage. Take your time when doing trimming the dew claw, and remember that you can always take very small pieces at a time without needing to be in a hurry about it.

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What Do I Do If I Trim The Quick?

If you have trimmed your dog’s quick, then you will need to staunch the bleeding. One of the best ways to do this is with a product known as styptic powder, which not only works to dry up any blood, but it will also help the wound to clot, and using this powder is the chosen method for most professional groomers.

If you do not have this at hand, then using cornstarch or baking soda can also serve as an impromptu solution. You’ll simply need to mix it with water to form a paste that can be applied to your dog’s toe.

Of course, if you are concerned about trimming your dog’s quick (or you have a dark nailed dog), then it’s always nice to have a small tub of styptic powder on hand, just in case. It’s also important to remain calm if you do happen to “quick” your dog, because if you panic too much, this will only add further stress to your dog.

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How Often Should I Trim My Dog’s Nails?

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is an important part of owning a dog, and they will need to be trimmed fairly regularly depending on how long it takes your dog’s nails to grow. While there’s no set time for when you should cut your dog’s nails, you definitely need to do so when they are getting too long.

Most owners find that trimming their dog’s nails after a bath is the best thing to do, so it’s always worth inspecting their nails after each bath time to see whether they are due for a trim.

If your dog is frequently walking on concrete or asphalt, then you may find that they do not require nail trimming so often, but if your dog spends a lot of time indoors, then there’s a good chance the nails will need trimming on a more regular basis. Furthermore, you’ll want to clip their nails before they start touching the ground.

My Dog Is Scared Of Having Their Nails Trimmed

It’s surprisingly common for dogs to feel unsure or reluctant when they are having their nails trimmed, because they often do not know what to expect, and many dogs simply don’t enjoy having their feet touched and moved around in this way.

Additionally, if the dog has had a bad experience with nail trimming in the past, then this can further increase their anxiety.

The best way to trim the nails of a fearful dog is to make sure they are as tired as possible before you undertake the task, so taking them out for a long walk can be useful, as well as giving them a bath which will soften up the nails and make the process easier still.

When your dog is fully worn out, you should find they have less anxiety when you trim their nails, but if it’s still a difficult task, then it’s worth taking them to professional dog groomer or vet who’s likely to have a great deal of experience when it comes to fearful pets, so they’ll be able to get the job done safely with a minimum of stress for your dog.

You can also help your dog to overcome their fear by gradually exposing them to having their feet touched. For example, if they will learn to accept your finger touching the end of each toenail with your own finger, then they may learn to be more relaxed with having other objects closer to the nail as well, such as clippers.

If your dog becomes stressed simply by you holding their paw, then it’s well worth teaching them just to accept your hand on their paws and touching their nails at first, rather than trying to rush the process and trimming the nails when they are in a highly stressed state (which can obviously increase the risk of mistakes).

If you have a dog who’s happy to let you trim a few nails at a time but then eventually grows restless and agitated, then there’s no harm in canceling the session for now and picking it up again a few days later and finishing the rest off.

Another alternative is to use a dog nail grinder, so you can just gradually wear down your dog’s nails to keep them in shape. In fact, some owners find this to be a less stressful way to alleviate their anxiety about trimming the quick, and some dogs may prefer this technique to the usual guillotine-style clipper as well.

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What Should I Do If I Can’t Trim My Dog’s Nails?

If you truly cannot cut your dog’s nails, then it’s important not to simply forget about it, because it will still need to be done sooner or later. Ultimately, if you’re still having a great deal of trouble with the task, then there’s no shame in seeking out a professional dog groomer or veterinarian who can either teach you a technique that works for you or simply schedule a time for them to the job.

If possible, it’s a good idea to have your vet teach you how to do it, as these extra coaching sessions can help to increase your confidence with the task and this will also make the experience better for both you and your dog.