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How To Trim Dog Nails: Tips For A Hassle-free Trim

dog nail trimming

Nail trimming is one grooming activity that most dog parents don’t look forward to. The simple task can quickly turn into a frightening experience for your pup and a stressful one for you. As a result, it’s not uncommon for dog guardians to avoid trimming their dog’s nails altogether.


However, overgrown nails are not good for anyone. If your dog’s claws are sharp, they could damage the furniture or, worse; your pup could accidentally hurt you or themselves. And then there are the health issues that overgrown nails can cause.


Perhaps you’ve had a traumatic experience trimming your dog’s nails in the past, or maybe you’ve been too scared to try. Despite how challenging you’ve previously found it, we promise that it can become an easy and stress-free experience with some education and practice. So, as part of our dog grooming guide, we’re sharing our top tips on how to trim dog nails safely and effortlessly.


Why Is Nail Trimming Important?

Before we reveal how to trim a dog’s nails, let’s look at the benefits you, your canine, and the rest of the household will get from regular dog nail clipping.


  1. It keeps your dog comfortable and mobile – When a dog’s nails continuously hit the floor, there is excess pressure on the nail bed that causes discomfort. As a result, your dog will have to distribute their weight differently, affecting its mobility and the toe and paw joint alignment. This discomfort is comparable to a human wearing too-small shoes for a long time.
  2. It reduces the chance of self-injury – When your dog’s claws are too long, they are at risk of catching or snagging their claws on soft furnishings such as rugs and carpets. If this happens, the nails could tear off, causing intense pain. 
  3. It prevents ingrown nails – If you’ve ever had an ingrown nail yourself, you’ll know how painful the sensation is. If your dog’s nails get too long, they could start to curl around and cut into the skin. Without immediate care, it could quickly lead to an infection and a costly trip to the vet. 
  4. It protects humans from injury – Aside from keeping your pet healthy, regularly trimming their nails will protect you and the rest of your household from harm. When dogs play, they can accidentally scratch someone if their claws are sharp, which is especially concerning if there are children in the home. 
  5. It prevents furniture damage – If you’ve just bought a new expensive sofa or installed hardwood floors, you certainly won’t want your pet’s nails to get too long. The sharper their claws, the more damage they can do to your furniture. So an easy way to protect your home interior is to keep your pup’s nails short.

How often should you trim your dog’s nails?

How often you should clip or grind your dog’s nails depends on several things, such as their level of activity and how much time they spend outdoors. For example, dogs naturally shorten their claws when walking on rough terrains outside. However, even if your dog goes for two walks a day, it’s still best to create a regular nail trimming routine.

We suggest trimming your dog’s nails every three to four weeks. But, if you hear your pup’s claws tapping on hard floors after two weeks, increase the frequency. You should also note that some dog breeds have a faster nail growth rate than others, so it’s always best to observe your pup to learn how often they need nail trimming.


How To Trim Dog Nails | Step-by-step

1. Get your dog comfortable before beginning

Most dogs don’t like to be restrained and putting them in a steady position to clip their nails may be enough to cause them distress, which is not the way to start. You can reduce the likelihood of this by choosing a moment when your dog is relaxed and sleepy. One way to ensure they are tired is to take them on a long walk beforehand or engage them in an extended play session.


Ensure the environment is quiet and distraction-free, with no people or other pets walking in and out of the room. You can sit next to your dog on the floor or sofa or place them on your lap. Depending on how wriggly and strong your canine is, you may need someone to help hold them still while you focus on trimming.

2. Select your tool

The two most common tools to cut your dog’s claws are a nail clipper or a nail grinder. Whichever one you choose, make sure it is specifically for a dog. Canines have completely different nails to humans and cats, so they need specialized nail trimming tools.


Nail clipper

In general, using a clipper is quicker than a grinder, but it requires more skill. So, if you have some nail clipping experience and know your pup is particularly anxious and won’t stay still, a clipper might be best. 


Clippers give a quick, precise cut but using one can be difficult if your dog has thick claws. With larger dogs, you’ll need to apply more pressure, and there’s more chance that you won’t get a smooth cut. However, for small dogs, clippers usually do an adequate job.


Nail grinder

Using a dog nail grinder is typically more straightforward than clippers. So, it can be a safer option for inexperienced dog parents. Rather than producing one quick cut, it slowly grinds the nail down to a smooth finish, allowing you to stop and check that you’re not cutting too far. 


However, dog nail grinding does take longer than clipping, so if your pup is a wriggler, it may not be the best option. What’s more, some dogs find the vibration of the grinder scary, while others find it relaxing. 

So which is better, a clipper or a grinder? There is no right or wrong; it entirely depends on you and your dog’s preference. Check out our article, which covers the advantages and disadvantages of both tools.

3. Familiarise them with the tool

Once you’ve got your chosen tool, start to get your dog used to it. Hold it out to your pup and let them sniff it. If you’re using a clipper, show your dog the motion it makes. If you’re using a grinder, turn it on and allow them to get used to the vibrating sound. 


You can do this a few times in the lead up to the first nail trimming. After each occasion, give your pup a treat so they begin associating the tool with something pleasant.

4. Soak and clean the nails before trimming

Before you go in for the cut, it’s worth soaking and cleaning the nails first. Cleaning them will remove any dirt getting in the way and make it easier for you to see the pink quick (the part you want to avoid cutting). 


Soaking the paw in warm water for a few minutes will soften the nails, making them easier to clip. While doing this, you can massage them to help relax your pup further.

5. Trim to the correct length

Knowing some basic dog nail anatomy will prevent you from accidentally clipping too far and causing your beloved pup any pain. For example, if you cut your dog’s nail and it starts to bleed, you’ve hit the quick. The quick is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels inside the part of the nail closest to the paw. 


The nail tip above the quick (where you should cut) does not contain nerves; therefore, it does not cause any pain or discomfort to trim this part. However, if you clip the quick, it can cause pain and bleeding for a short time. It will likely also result in your dog associating the process of nail trimming with something negative, making it harder to do in the future. 


You can identify the quick on a light-colored dog nail as it will be pink, compared to the rest of the nail that is white. So, when trimming, don’t cut or grind anywhere near that pink section.


What to do if you cut the quick?

No one is perfect, so it’s not uncommon to accidentally cut the quick when learning how to clip dog nails. Of course, it doesn’t help if your dog is trying their best not to stay still, either! 


If you see one of your dog’s nails bleeding, don’t panic. Instead, have some styptic powder on hand, as applying a small amount will stop the bleeding. Cornstarch or flour can also help if you don’t have styptic powder. The good news is that the pain will ease quickly, and it rarely causes any lasting damage.


How to cut black dog nails?

Not all canines have white-colored nails that show the quick. Some dog breeds have naturally black nails linked to their genetics and coat colour. So if your pup has a black coat, it will most likely have black nails, which unfortunately makes it difficult to see where the quick is. 


So to trim black dog nails, you should first cut a minimal amount (about 1.5mm), not going past the curve. Then check the colour of the tip. You can trim a tiny bit more if it’s white, then check again. Once it starts to turn a pinkish hue, you’re reaching the quick, so stop here.

6. Find the right technique

Now your dog is comfortable and familiar with the tool and you’re feeling confident of where to trim, it’s time to perfect the technique. How you will go about trimming the nails will depend on whether you’re using a clipper or grinder.


How to clip dog nails?

Hold your dog’s paw in a firm yet gentle position with your thumb on the pad and your index finger on the top of the foot. Press your thumb slightly in and up to extend the nail. Using the clipper in your other hand, steadily cut the tip of each nail, including the dewclaw on the inner side.


How to grind dog nails?

Hold your dog’s paw in the same position described above. Then, gently grind the nail with the tool in your other hand, starting from the top to the bottom. Smooth out any rough edges you see, but be cautious not to over-grind and hit the quick. If your dog has long tufts of hair between the toes, push them away from the tool, so they don’t get caught.

7. Reward them for their effort

If you’ve successfully trimmed all nails on your dog’s front feet, they deserve a reward for their hard work. So give them lots of fuss and praise, telling them they’ve done an excellent job, and offer them their favourite treat.


Giving treats after every nail trimming will make future sessions much more pleasant as your pup will remember the treats and think of it as a good experience. Don’t forget to reward yourself for mastering how to trim dog nails with your favourite treat, too!

Final Thoughts

At first, trimming your dog’s nails can seem scary and overwhelming. However, you and your pet will soon realise that dog nail trimming can be easy and stress-free with some knowledge and practice. Plus, as there are many benefits to keeping your pup’s nails short, there’s no reason not to make it part of your dog paw care routine.

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