Nail trimming is one grooming activity that most dog parents don't look forward to and often avoid. The simple task can quickly turn into a frightening experience for your pup and a stressful one for you. However, overgrown nails are not good for anyone. Sharp dog claws can damage furniture and accidentally hurt you or your dog. Plus, overgrown nails can cause an assortment of health issues in your best friend.
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.
Table of Contents
- Why Is Nail Trimming Important
- How Often Should You Trim Your Dog's Nails?
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Trim Your Dog's Nails
- What To Do If You Cut the Quick?
Why Is Nail Trimming Important?
Before we reveal the best way 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If you take your dogs on walks or let them play outside a lot, rough terrain like pavement or rocks will naturally shorten their claws.
However, sticking to a regular nail trimming routine is a wise plan of action to keep their nails healthy and comfortable. We suggest trimming your dog's nails every three to four weeks. This schedule can be more frequent if your dog breed has a faster nail growth rate or they don't spend much time outside. Pay attention to the following signs to know when to trim their nails:
- Nails protruding past the pads
- Clacking sounds on hard surfaces
- A long, slender curve in the nails
- Nails extending past the quick
A Step-By-Step Guide to Trim Your Dog Nails
Consider the following steps to safely and efficiently cut your dog's nails.
1. Select Your Tool
Canines have completely different nails to humans and cats, so they need specialized nail trimming tools. The two most common tools you can use to cut your dog's nails are nail clippers and nail grinders. There's no right or wrong answer since both tools have their advantages and disadvantages that work for different people and dogs.
- Nail Clipper: Clippers give a quick, precise cut, but using one can be difficult if your dog has thick claws. They come in many variations, such as the guillotine, scissor and plier configurations, requiring skill and experience to use correctly. 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: Grinding tools use a sandpaper-like material and a motor to shave down nails smoothly. They slowly grind the nail down to a smooth finish, allowing you to stop and check that you're not cutting too far. Using a dog nail grinder is typically more straightforward, so it can be a safer option for inexperienced dog parents.
2. Get Your Dog Comfortable Before Beginning
Nail cutting can be scary for many pups, so getting them used to the process beforehand is always a good idea. Let them sniff the tool, watch its motion and listen to the sounds it makes, rewarding them with delicious treats for their bravery. You can do this over a few days to get them comfortable.
It can also be helpful to clip nails in moments when your dog is relaxed and sleepy. This could be after a long walk or a lively play session when your dog is calm, tired and unlikely to become anxious. It can also be beneficial to prep the area, creating a quiet and distraction-free environment on the floor or sofa or in your lap. In addition to actions you take to get them comfy, you may need an extra pair of hands to keep them still.
3. Soak and Clean the Nails Before Trimming
A little nail prep beforehand can make the process a lot easier. Cleaning your dog's nails will remove any dirt or grime and put the quick on display so you know what to avoid. Soaking the paw in warm water for a few minutes will soften the nails and make them easier to clip. You can even massage your pup during their soak to put them at ease.
4. Trim to the Correct Length
You want to cut your dog's nails as short as possible without cutting the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain. The quick is the bundle of nerves and blood vessels inside the part of the nail closest to the paw. The visible nail tip above the quick is known as the claw, which is made of keratin that doesn't contain nerves and allows you to trim without discomfort.
While it's often easy to identify the pink quick on dogs with light-colored nails, dark nails make it more difficult to find the quick and cut nails to the right length. Some dog breeds have naturally black nails linked to their genetics and coat color. If your dog has dark nails, you'll want to go slow and repeatedly check for signs of the quick until the nails are short enough.
The following tips may help when cutting dark nails:
- Look on the underside of the nail.
- Shine a bright light through the claw toward your face.
- Stop cutting when you see a black spot called the pulp.
5. Use the Right Technique
Whether you use a clipper or grinder, handling your dog's paws correctly will avoid creating any negative associations with having their nails clipped. Regardless of the tool you choose, you'll want to 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 up and then backward to extend the nail. If your dog has long tufts of hair between the toes, push them away from the tool, so they don't get caught. Don't forget to trim the dewclaw, which is located higher up on your pup's leg.
6. 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 favorite 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 your dog's nails with your favorite treat, too!
What Should You 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, compress the nail for around two minutes with a cloth or paper towel. You can even add some ice to lessen the blood flow. You should also 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.
Keep Your Dog's Nails Trimmed
Trimming your dog's nails can seem scary and overwhelming at first. However, you and your pet will soon realize 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.
Last Updated on July 31, 2023 at 9:30 AM