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How to cut dogs nails - step-by-step

close up of dog's nails advice
© Unsplash

Hearing a clatter as your dog walks on hard surfaces? Their nails probably need a cut! If you’re a novice when it comes to cutting dog’s nails, we’ve got you covered - here’s how to cut dogs nails!

By Alice Lang

Click, click, click… that’s your dog’s nails tapping away on the floor! Truthfully, most dogs hate having their paws handled - so having their nails clipped is probably their worst nightmare!

Although cutting dog’s nails isn’t the most enjoyable process for all involved, it’s simply got to be done. Unless your pooch is a super active dog, their nails will probably need to be trimmed every 2-4 weeks.

So, armed with some treats, a good old cuddle and a belly rub, they’ll forgive you before you know it. So, let’s talk all about cutting dog’s nails!

Cutting dog’s nails: is it necessary?

cutting dog's nails Dog's don't like having their paws touched! ©Pixabay
 

Cutting dog’s nails isn’t just for cosmetic reasons. When your dog’s nails grow too long, it could lead to uncomfortable pain, postural defects, lameness and even injuries. The pain happens when hard surfaces push the nail towards the nail bed, putting pressure on the toe joints or disfiguring the toe to one side.

If you notice your dog’s nails are touching the floor, are protruding over the pad or are clicking as they toddle around the house, they need a cut - pronto!

Cutting dogs nails: what you’ll need

Nail clippers. Guillotine-style clippers are good for small breeds, whilst plier-style may work better for larger breeds.

Treats. This won’t be a great experience for your pooch, so it’s important to have some tasty treats on hand to reward them.

Styptic powder or cornstarch. In case your dog’s nails bleed, these powders will stop the bleeding.

Cutting dog’s nails - Avoid the quick!

“A dog’s toenail is made up of the nail and the quick. The quick is the pink (when it’s visible) part of your dog’s toenails; it’s similar to the pink part of your own fingernails and toenails. It provides the blood supply to the nail.”

explains Margaret H. Bonham in Dog Grooming For Dummies.

“When trimming your dog’s nails, you must avoid cutting the quick, because it bleeds quite a bit and is quite sensitive. If your dog has white nails, you’ll be able to see the quick. However, many dogs have black or dark-coloured nails, and no matter what tricks you’ve heard about, seeing the quick in them is impossible. You have to snip carefully and look at the nail. If the nail feels spongy, stop immediately! If you accidentally cut the quick, pack the nail with the styptic powder as soon as you can. Quicking hurts dogs a great deal, so be as careful as you possibly can - if you’re not confident, it’s probably best to have your vet demonstrate.

Cutting dog’s nails - preparation

To make cutting dog’s nails for both you and your pooch a good experience, it’s best to do a little bit of prep before you begin.

Get your pooch used to the sensation by simply picking up each paw and holding it. No tools involved here - this is purely to help your dog feel comfortable with their paws being held. Continue doing this over the course of a few days and reward them with a treat every time.

Then, introduce your pup to your chosen trimming tool. Put it on the floor next to them and allow them to sniff it. Again, give them a treat and lots of praise. Doing this for a further few days will help to make your pooch feel at ease and relaxed before you go in for the dreaded trim.

How to cut dog’s nails - step-by-step

cutting dog's nails Before you clip dog's nails, get them used to their paws being touched ©Diana Di on Unsplash
 
  1. Find a comfortable spot where your dog is comfortable, give them a pat and ensure they’re relaxed.

  2. Hold your pup’s foot firmly yet gently.

  3. Place the clippers at a 45-degree angle from the nail.

  4. Trim or clip a very small amount off the end of each toenail. By taking smaller amounts off, you’re less likely to accidentally trim too far and end up cutting the quick.

  5. Reward your pup with a treat after every cut.

  6. Continue cutting very small pieces off the end of the nail. Keep checking for a faint black dot towards the centre of the nail when looking at it head-on. As soon as you see this, don’t cut anymore off - this is the start of the quick.

  7. Carry on through the nails, providing plenty of praise and treats.

Cutting dog’s nails - tips and tricks

Trim one paw at a time

As soon as you begin clipping, you’ll probably notice that your pooch isn’t having a great time! They may become nervous, stressed and unsettled. In this case, remember that you don’t need to do both paws in one session. Trim the nails of one paw, reward and praise your dog, and come back at a later time to finish the job.

Trim more often

Yes, this might seem like a silly advice if your pup doesn’t enjoy having their nails cut. However, cutting a very small amount off weekly and getting your dog used to the process is much easier than waiting until their nails are much too long. Dog’s like routine - and this will become a part of theirs.

Ask your vet

If you’re unconfident cutting dog’s nails or your pup just won’t comply, it’s best to head to the vet or a professional groomer and ask for their advice. They can either demonstrate the best way to cut your dog’s nails or simply do it for you.

Cutting dog's nails isn't something you or your dog will look forward to. But with careful preparation, lots of treats and love and a regular routine, it's sure to become a breeze. good luck!