Trimming your dog’s nails is an essential part of dog grooming. While this is a task you can leave to your groomer, you will need to cut your dog’s nails yourself unless you take your dog to be groomed every few weeks. Learning to cut dog nails isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may seem; here are a few tips for how to cut dog nails yourself.

black white and brown short coated dog on brown wooden floor

Start Them Young

Nail trimming can cause anxiety in many dogs, so start getting your dog used to having their feet handled as soon as you get them. This way, your dog or puppy gets used to having their feet handled and nails trimmed from a young age. 

How To Cut Dog Nails

There’s no shame in not knowing how to trim your dog’s nails; we all start somewhere. Here is a step-by-step guide for how to cut your dog’s nails.

  1. Pick up your dog’s paw gently but firmly. Place your thumb on the pad of a toe and your forefinger above the nail. Gently brush away any fur that might be in the way.
  2. Push your thumb up and back, pushing your forefinger forward. This extends the nail outward and makes it easier to trim.
  3. Clip the tip of the nail straight across. Repeat with each nail, including the dewclaws, which are located on the inner side of the paw.

Note: Your dog’s nails should be short enough that they do not come into contact with the floor when your dog is standing.

Tip: let your dog lick peanut butter off of a spoon while you cut their nails to distract them.

brown and black animal paw

Caution: Avoid the Quick

If your dog has light-colored nails, you will be able to see where the nail turns pink. This is the blood vessels of the quick. If you trim too close to the quick, you will cause your dog pain, and they will bleed. This makes it more difficult to trim your dog’s nails in the future. If your dog has dark nails, you probably won’t be able to see the quick, but avoid clipping past the curve in the nail. Some dogs with dark nails have a chalky white ring near their quick.

An Alternative To Cutting Dog Nails: Grinding

Whether it’s because they weren’t desensitized as puppies or have bad memories of having their quick cut, or some other reason, some dogs cannot handle getting their nails trimmed. Perhaps it’s none of these things, but that you are uncomfortable cutting your dog’s nails. That’s ok! If one of these scenarios describes you and your dog, there is an alternative to trimming nails with trimmers. Instead, you can use a nail grinder.

A nail grinder is sort of like a circular nail file rotating at a high speed. It gently and quickly grinds down your dog’s nails.

How To Grind Your Dog’s Nails

  • Support your dog’s toe firmly, but gently, in much the same manner you would if you were cutting them.
  • Grind across the bottom of the nail, moving your way up, then finish by smoothing any rough edges.
  • Keep your dog comfortable and note if they are reacting to the process or the grinder’s sound. Provide plenty of verbal and physical praise.

Note: If your dog has long hair, make sure that the grinder does not catch the hair and entangle it.

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Why Do We Trim Dog Nails?

We’ve talked about how we cut dog nails, but why do we cut dog nails? Maintaining your dog’s nails isn’t just for looks. We cut dog nails because nails that are too long can cause discomfort and even pain. Your dog’s nails should be short enough that they do not come into contact with the floor. If they do hit the floor, your dog will experience discomfort, and, in time, this can even cause irreparable damage to their feet and tendons. The quick runs through the core of the nail, supplying blood. Nerves run through the quick as well, which is why overly-long nails cause pain. Nails that are too long can even cause your dog to have splayed feet and cause reduced traction too. While some dogs do wear their nails down naturally, most will need regular trimming.

Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Cutting your dog’s nails can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice and some confidence, you can perform this grooming task easily on your own. If you aren’t comfortable with cutting dog nails, try investing in a high-quality grinder so you can keep your dog’s nails short that way. No matter what method you use, commit to keeping your dog’s nails, and therefore their quicks, short. Regular nail maintenance will keep your dog sound, healthy, and pain-free.

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