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How to Cut Dog Nails

Woman in blue scrubs trimming a pugs nails

Grooming your pet is a necessity. Dogs depend on their human masters to take care of them. That care goes beyond giving them food and water. For your dog to be healthy, you need to keep them nice and groomed.

This grooming chore includes taking care of their nails. A dog’s nails continue to grow, just like a human, and you need to clip them from time to time. If you don’t your pet can suffer from different health issues that affect their walking.

Take a few minutes to see how you can take care of your treasured pet and make sure their nails are kept at the right length.

Want to know how to cut dog nail at home? Click here to learn more.

How to Cut Dog Nails

Train Your Dog for Paw Handling

Touch Your Dog’s Paws

This is an important step in nail trimming. Many dogs do not like their paws being touched and you have to spend time handling their paws until they get used to the interaction.

The first step is to wait for the right moment. If your pet is in a playful mood, wait till he or she settles down before starting this training. If you are going to trim your dog’s nails, getting them out to play will help tire them out.

Then it is easier to handle their paws and trim those nails and avoid any resistance. But the key is to get your pet used to having their paws handled by human hands.

Be Patient

Brown and white puppy looking over the shoulder of a person in a red and white striped shirt

Ease into this training so your dog adjusts correctly. You do not need to rush this training as it will take some time before your dog realizes it is a good activity.

The first step will be to touch their paws gently. If they do not pull away, then try to massage them. Don’t forget to push gently on their nails. Your pet needs to get used to that slight pressure as well.

Do this several days in advance of nail cutting as you will need to repeat this step several times to get your pet used to the treatment.

Lying Down on the Job

Person kneeling giving a shaggy dog laying in the grass a treat

This is a good trick to teach your pet. Having them lie down while you trim their nails helps them to relax. This position helps those dogs who have arthritis in their paws or have had a bad experience with nail trimming.

You want your pet to be as relaxed as possible when they go through this procedure. This helps make nail trimming go faster and easier for all involved. Also, make sure to talk soothingly and calmly to your pet as you do this step.

Have a dog who doesn’t want their nails clipped? Check out our post “How to Cut an Uncooperative Dog’s Nails” to learn more.

Examine Your Dog’s Paws

Jack Russell Terrier with its paw in a person's hand against a dusty purple background.

Before you start cutting, take a good look at your dog’s paws. This is a body part that is often overlooked when trying to find out if something is wrong with your pet.

You can do this step as you massage their paws but make sure you move the fur out of the way to get a close look. Often your dog’s fur will hide any health issues they may have contracted recently.

You will be looking for any cuts, abrasions, lumps, bumps, swelling, and infections. If you find any, take your pet to your vet to see what is wrong and what is needed to be done to cure your pet.

Cutting Your Dog’s Nails

Get the Right Nail Cutters

Dog nail clippers and a nail file with black and orange handles

This is important as some dog nail clippers will not work on all dogs. If you own a small dog, you do not want any nail clippers made for larger dogs. They just won’t work and the reverse is true as well.

There are plenty of top-rated dog nail clippers on the market made by some very good pet supply companies. Those nail clippers will come in different sizes so pick the one made for your size of the dog.

Also, these are not that expensive, so pick up an extra pair. That reserve pair will come in handy when the first pair you use goes dull.

Find the Quick

Illustration of the quick of a dog's nail

This is very important when trimming your dog’s nails. The quick is a very sensitive portion of your dog’s nails and you have to avoid cutting into it. If you do, then you will cause your dog some pain, they will bleed, and they may not be so patient the next time you go to cut those nails.

Avoid cutting the quick and if this means only taking a little portion off your dog’s nails so be it. As long as those nails get trimmed back, you will be fine. The drawback to this step is that the quick is not always easy to see.

If your dog has black nails, the quick will be harder to spot. So, take your time and make sure to find that sensitive area on your dog’s body. If you do happen to cut the quick, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

Learn How to Hold Your Dog

person in white gloves trimming a Dachshunds nails

This is another important step when your dog likes to resist grooming habits. Many dogs do not like to have their paws touched and they will resist when you reach for them and try to trim the nails.

Sometimes their resistance can get fairly physical so you need to learn different restraint techniques to hold your pet still. If your dog likes to resist, then use one of those techniques to hold them still.

Those techniques include rolling them up in a blanket or towel, placing your arms in front of their stomachs and over their backs, and more. The key is to be gentle but firm. You do not want to hurt your dog when you restrain them.

Can You File a Dog’s Nail with an Emery Board? Click here to learn more.

Start with the Rear Paws

Close up of a blue gloved hand holding a small dog's paw and trimming its nails

These nails are shorter and are supposed to be easier to trim. Make sure you are on a 45-degree angle and far from the quick and then press the handles together to snip those nails.

Your trimming should include the dew claws, those nails’ part way up your dog’s legs. After you do the rear paws, change your grip so you can handle the front paws. Be gentle and do not forget to talk calmly to your poet as you go through each step of this process.

Reward Your Pet

Kibble isolated on a white background

Once you are done, give your dog his or her favorite treat. When they see they will get a reward for enduring this process, it may help them act better the next time.

Being firm but gentle is an important aspect of trimming your dog’s nails. One tip you can follow is just before you start this chore, take your dog out for a good walk or some healthy play time.

When your pet is tired, they will resist less. When you are done trimming those nails, you can file them down if you want. It is not mandatory, but it helps keep those nails smooth and have no rough edges.

How to Clip Dog Nails

Hands trimming a chihuahua's nails

There is a process to get your dog used to the nail clippers or nail grinder. It will take a week approx., for you to train them to like those tools and nail cutting.

One tip you should use if your dog is a new puppy is to start touching their paws from the day you first brought them home. That way they will be used to having their paws touched and shouldn’t resist as much later on.

When you touch those paws, always be gentle and do it with a nice, happy attitude.

Is it Better to Cut or File Dog Nails? Click here to find out.

Getting Your Dog Used to Nail Clippers

Dog laying on a blanket with dog treats, dog nail clippers, and cotton swabs

This is a 7-day process, so you need to start it well in advance of your nail cutting time. After each step, reward your dog with a nice treat.

The First Day- Show your puppy the nail clippers or grinder. Let them sniff those tools.

The Second Day- Pick up the tools and gently touch each paw, make sure the touch is a light one.

The Third Day- Now touch their paws again with the clippers or grinder. Then either squeeze the handle or turn the grinder on. This helps your pet get used to the sounds those tools make. Do not cut those nails yet.

The Fourth Day- Repeat day three’s process and make sure your puppy feels the vibration from the grinder.

The Fifth Day- Do the same thing as day 4 but this time trim off a tiny portion of the nail. Just do one nail this time.

The Sixth Day- Do two nails this time.

The Seventh Day- Do all the nails following day 4’s process.

**You can take several days in between days 4 & 5, days 5 & 6, and days 6 & 7. It will depend on your dog and how much they let you do. Or until they are used to having their nails clipped

Hate to clip your dog’s nails? Click here to learn how to keep dog nails short without clipping them.

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

Use the Correct Tool

Person kneeling on the floor while grinding a dog's nails

There are many different types of nail clippers and grinders. You have to buy the one that you are comfortable with using as well as one that is made for your pet.

These cutting tools can be in the shape of a pair of scissors, a guillotine design, or a grinding tool. Then make sure you have styptic powder on hand as every cut is not always going to be perfect.

Pick Your Dog’s Paw Up

You do this gently but firmly. Your thumb should be on the pad of your dog’s paw and your forefinger on the skin of the toe on top. Make sure to move any fur out of the way.

Push Your Fingers

Yellow labrador laying in grass while getting its nails trims

Your thumb needs to go up and back while your forefinger is pushing forward. This helps extend the nail for easier cutting.

Clip The Nails

If your cutting tool is sharp enough, you should only have to squeeze the handle once. Do not cut past the curve of the nail. If you are using a grinder, do not grind past the curve of the nail.

Make sure to do the dew claws at this time as well. Cut straight across the tip.

Grinding Your Dog’s Nails

Close up of a person grinding a dog's nails

This is a little easier to do as the grinders are fast and you can control how much you take off easier. Make sure the grinder you use is safe for dogs and make sure to keep the fur out of the way of the grinding stone.

Take a Little Off Only

Go slow, you do not have to grind the nail all the way down to the quick in one go. Take a little off at a time so you avoid any issues and grinding into the quick.

Gentle But Firm Support

This is the type of pressure you need to place on your dog’s paws. You do not want to hurt them and you do not want them pulling their pulls out of your grasp.

Grind Along the Bottom of the Nail

White dog at the groomer getting its nails ground

Only take a little off at a time. Watch your progress to make sure you do not go too far. If you are not confident in trimming nails, you can always stop well short of the quick till you gain some confidence. Then trim further back the next time.

Have Good Control

The way to have the best control over the grinder is to hold it higher up on the handle. Your hand should be nearer the top than the bottom. This may take a little practice.

If you haven’t used a nail grinder before, make sure to practice on safe objects like matches, chopsticks, etc.

Keep Your Dog Comfortable

White dog laying on a bed

This is important as you should stop grinding if your dog is reacting in a negative fashion. Keep an eye on your poet to make sure they are okay and not being hurt when you do this step.

Having them lie down is a good position for your pet.

Watch Out for Long Fur

If your dog has long fur, it can get in the way of your grinding those nails. You can cut away that fur to make sure it stays out of the way. Or you can use your fingers to pull the fur back so it won’t get caught in the grinding stone.

The key is not to trap your dog’s fur or all your hard work getting him or her used to having their nails cut goes to waste.

Do We Have to Cut Dog Nails

Black and white dog paws on tile

Yes, you have to trim those dog nails. This is a mandatory part of dog care just like feeding them a healthy and nutritious diet and fresh water all the time. Taking care of your dog includes a well-thought-out grooming regime.

The reason cutting the nails is so important and mandatory is that if you don’t, you can cause your dog some health issues that may not be reversible. That will give your dog a lot of pain.

Some of those health issues include splayed feet, deformed paws, injured tendons, and more. Also, your dog may not walk naturally anymore which can place a lot of stress on their joints.

Why avoiding the quick is so important is because of its purpose. This is a soft pink area of your dog’s nail that supplies blood to the nails. It also has its share of nerves that cause pain, etc.

When you do regular nail cutting the quick will recede from the end of the nail. This is a good thing as a short quick is preferred when cutting those nails. Taking care of those nails cuts the stress and worry about cutting into the quick.

That makes your job a lot easier to do. Soon cutting your dog’s nails will be done without a second thought. It just takes some practice.

How to Safely Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Jack Russell Terrier getting its nails trimmed by a person in scrubs
  1. Go to A Quiet Area Where There Are No Distractions- This will help keep your dog still and you can concentrate on what you are doing. Make sure it is a place where your dog is comfortable.
  2. Hold Your Small Dog- This is what makes owning a small dog so great. You can hold them in your lap while you are cutting their nails. Large dogs will need a second person to hold them still.
  3. Be Gentle But Firm– All you need is your thumb and forefinger to hold each paw when cutting those nails.
  4. Keep Fur Out Of The Way– This is essential if you want your dog to enjoy this process. Also, push gently on the nail to fully extend it.
  5. Go Straight- This cutting angle should have you at a 45-degree angle with the rest of the nail. Cut straight and be quick. If it takes too long to cut the nail, your clippers may be dull.
  6. Reward Your Pet– This needs to be regulated by you. You do not want to short-change them on their good Behavior but you also do not want to overfeed them. You be the judge on how many treats you give as a reward for their cooperation.
  7. Make Sure the Clipper Blades Are Sharp– You do not want to use dull blades as that makes it harder for you to trim those nails. It may also upset your pet as well. The sharper the blade the better and easier the cut.
  8. Use A Heavy-Duty File- Especially if your dog is larger and has very strong nails. You want to file off any sharp edges. Make sure to spread the toes apart and do one nail at a time. You are looking to round off those edges, so they won’t catch on anything and hurt your dog.
  9. Cutting Black Nails- This can be tricky but if you can look for a chalk-white ring. This ring is at the beginning of the quick. You want to leave it in place when you go to cut those nails.

If you are too nervous about cutting your dog’s black nails, then it is okay to make an appointment with a professional groomer and let them handle the task.

Types of Dog Nail Cutters

Yellow dog nail trimmers isolated on a white background

There are different types of nail cutters you can use. The ones you pick should fit your hand comfortably. Here are the different styles of nail clippers you can buy:

  1. Guillotine-Style Clippers
  2. Spring-Loaded Scissor-Style
  3. Plier-Style Nail Clippers
  4. Grinders

Some of these tools come with a nail guard. That is a good thing as they protect you from cutting the quick. Then, you can use a human nail clipper son small dog but it is not always advisable to do so.

It is harder to see what you are doing with those types of clippers. It is best to stick to the tools designed to cut dog nails. Human clippers are not strong enough for large dogs. Their nails are too strong and thick.

How often you trim those nails will be up to you and your pet. If they are slow-growing nails, then you do not have to trim them so often. However, if they are fast-growing nails, then you may be going through this procedure once or twice each month.

There are nail clipping alternatives you can use. If you go with those alternatives, all you will need is a little training time to get your pet to trim their nails themselves.

These pads take the stress out of nail clipping time and your dog can use them at any time day or night. These may be best to use when your puppy is small.

Some Final Words

Human hands holding a dog paw and trimming its nails

When you want your dog to be healthy and happy, then make sure to trim those nails regularly. This is an important task and contributes to your pet’s overall health.

It also keeps them happier. You can use this time as a bonding process. How you handle this chore will determine what happens the next time you have to trim those nails.

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Please note: We are not veterinarians and you use our advice at your own discretion. We always recommend that you consult your veterinarian whenever you have health-related conditions your furbaby is facing. With that in mind, as pet parents ourselves, we wish nothing but the best for your pet and their healthy and happy lives.