How to Trim a Dogs Nails: A Complete Guide

How to Trim a Dogs Nails

Why Should I shorten them?

Active dogs can scratch people when they are innocently hoping to get their attention.  They can also damage floors and furniture, but cutting dogs nails is not only for human benefit.  It helps the dog stay healthy and happy too.  Ingrown nails, split nails, and paw and joint problems are all possible side effects of failure to trim a dogs nails.  

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How to Trim a Dogs Nails: Frequency

The recommended frequency is once per week.  An easy way to tell when it’s time to cut a dogs nails is when you hear clicking and tapping on the floor when they walk.  Then you know it’s time for a trim. 

What tools do I need to trim their claws?

You can use guillotine or scissors type clippers to trim your pet’s nails.  You can also use a nail grinder such as a dremel to file them down.  There’s also a FURminator nail grinder for dogs.  These tools are all appropriate as long as you know how to use them.

How to prepare a dog for grooming.

  1. Find a room with lots of natural light if possible.  If not, just make sure you can see very well because you’ll need to locate the vein in the nail to avoid cutting it.  
  2. Get your pet into a happy, calm mood by playing with them a bit and bonding.  
  3. Gather your tools, something to stop bleeding if worst comes to worst, and some towels.
  4. Gently lift the dogs paws with your hands and bring the clipper close to them to test their response.  If they are fidgety, praise them, offer some treats and, if all else fails, try an ear massage to warm them to you and relax them.
  5. When the pet is relaxed, get on the animals level by getting on the floor or coax them onto a table or counter.  Careful not to pull their leg in unnatural directions because this can cause joint issues.

Check out the AKC’s 7 day process to acclimating your pet to trimming.

Here is a great video on how to cut them!

How to trim a dogs nails using clippers.

Here are the steps to clipping your pets claws:

  1. Lift the paw carefully in its natural direction.  Don’t pull it to the side.
  2. Try to locate the blood vessel so you can avoid cutting it.
  3. Pull the hair away from the claws so they don’t get caught.
  4. Position the clipper at a 45 degree angle. 
  5. Trim a little bit at a time, starting at the tip and working inwards.

How to trim a dogs nails with a grinder.

A common mistake when using a grinder like a dremel or a FURminator is that individuals accidentally catch the dogs fur (or their own hair!) in the dremel, causing severe pain and possibly ripping their hair out.  You’ll Definitely need to pull the hair all the way back away from the nail. 

You can do this with your hands if you feel confident, or you can use stockings and push the claws through them so the hair is fully protected.  This takes more time but it can give you peace of mind when you’re grinding.  Also, for ladies with long hair, always keep your hair tied back or wear a bonnet to protect it.  

How to grind your dogs claws step-by-step process

  1. Pull the hair back with stockings or your fingers
  2. Locate the quick
  3. Turn the dremel or FURminator on
  4. Apply the tool to the claws
  5. Pressure them inwards until you reach just near the blood vessel and stop before you get too close.

What is the quick and how can I avoid cutting it and causing bleeding while trimming?

The quick is a blood vessel and nerve that furnishes the nail with blood.  Finding it is an important part of learning how to trim a dogs nails. If it is cut, it can severely alarm the dog and cause them extreme pain.  It’s important to avoid cutting it to prevent trauma on your pet.  When a pet has light colored nails, it’s much easier to see the pink part that represents the vessel. 

However, on a dog with darker nails, sometimes the vessel can be invisible beneath.  If you feel that the claw is spongy as you are cutting into it, stop cutting because you have gone too far.  You want it to feel firm and hard not spongy.  If you don’t feel confident, it’s always possible to take your pet to a professional or have them come to you if your pet is sensitive to the chaos of salon environments.

What should I do if I cut the quick?

If you do happen to have an accident, there are methods of dealing with the problem.  It’s important to remain calm so that your pet doesn’t panic or become even more distressed.  A common method is using a product such as quick stop, benzocaine or stypic powder.  Additionally, you can use a nail cauterizer to prevent further bleeding.  Other natural methods include applying cornstarch, sugar or even baking soda to absorb the moisture and then a damp wash cloth for cleaning the area.  

When should I get professional help?

If your dog has very dark or black nails, and you can’t see the vessel at all or if you just aren’t confident that you can cut them safely, you might need a professional grooming services.  Consider your dogs emotional sensitivity and state of mind.  They might require a mobile service if they are not tough enough for a salon environment.  

If your pet has severe anxiety, mobile services might reduce that. Read more about mobile dog grooming services here.