How to Trim a Dog's Nails 

May 13, 2021

Nervous about trimming your dog's nails? Here are some helpful tips and tricks!

Nail clipping can be daunting sometimes, especially if you have a dog with black nails. We’re here to help with some tips and tricks to clipping a dog's nails and how to stop bleeding if you do accidentally cause them to bleed.

Step 1. Choose your tool

There are a number of nail clippers on the market. They can range in size for large versus small dogs. There are also handheld and automated trimmers. Selection is usually based on what is most comfortable for you to use and also what your dog is most comfortable with. Check out The Spruce Pets for a list of the best nail clippers in 2021.

Doctor veterinarian is trimming dog nails Unrecognizable woman doctor veterinarian is trimming dog dachshund nails dog nail clippers stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Step 2. Desensitize your dog

The majority of dogs do not enjoy getting their nails trimmed. It can be a scary experience for them, causing them to fidget, move, vocalize and sometimes even react aggressively. This is why it is important to desensitize them to the clippers even before you begin clipping. 

Using positive reinforcement like a treat or toy, begin by letting your dog see and sniff the clippers. If they do not react or react positively, reward them. Then move on to simply touching the clippers to your dog’s feet and nails. Follow up with a treat, toy or praise to create a positive experience for the dog. Eventually your dog will begin to associate the clippers with a reward and view them in a positive light. This helps to reduce stress and fear during nail trims.

Man Feeding his Dog a Biscuit Treat Dog, Eating, Food, Puppy, Dog Biscuit dog treat stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Step 3. Trimming

Many owners are nervous when it comes to trimming especially if their dog’s nails are too dark to see the quick or vein in the nail. Here are some pro tips to follow for nail trims:

  1. Maneuver your dog’s foot in a way that they feel comfortable but so that you also have a good grip on their foot and you can also see the nails clearly. According to the AKC, the most common way to hold the foot is by picking up a paw and firmly, but gently, placing your thumb on the pad of a toe and your forefinger on the top of the toe on the skin above the nail. To extend the nail, push your thumb slightly up and backward on the pad, while pushing your forefinger forward. 
  2. Always cut in a slightly angled line, parallel to the nail. If you can see the dog’s quick, cut approximately 2mm from the vein. If you cannot see the quick due to the darkness of the nail, cut in the place where the nail begins to thin slightly from the base. See below for the optimal placement of the cut.
  1. Continue with remaining nails and always remember to reward your dog after each clip! 
  2. Don’t forget the dew claws! Many owners forget that dogs have a little toe part way up their leg. Since this toe does not touch the ground, it doesn’t get worn down as readily as the rest of the nails. As a result, the nail can easily become overgrown and even grow back into the dog's leg which is very painful for them. Note: Some breeders opt to remove the dew claws for safety reasons, so do not be alarmed if you find that your dog doesn’t have any.
Clipping a Dog's Claws (Toenails)

What happens if I accidentally clip the quick and they bleed?

Don’t panic, it happens to all of us and your dog will forgive you. If you happen to clip a little to far, there are a few options to stop the bleeding:

  1. Styptic powder or stick. This is probably the most efficient way to curb nail bleeding. Styptic powder contains benzocaine which works as an anesthetic to ease pain and ferrous subsulfate to stop bleeding. Used by veterinarians and groomers, styptic powder can be found at some pet stores and veterinary clinics for purchase.
  2. Cornstarch
  3. Flour
  4. Baking soda
  5. Bar of soap

How often should I clip my dog's nails?

This answer may vary from dog to dog. There are many different factors that contribute to the rate of nail growth and ware, such as nutrition, activity and age. Typically, dog’s need their nails trimmed every 3-4 weeks.

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