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Can You Cut Dog Nails with Scissors?

Different types of scissors

My Gramps lived through the United States depression and he taught me to never waste anything. If you have something that’s still good then you find a use for it. He even wore ropes around his waist to hold up his shorts in the summer!

He also taught me that you use the right tool for the job. You get better results that way. That’s why you NEVER want to cut dog nails with scissors. They are the wrong tool for the job.

Here’s why:

  1. Dog nails are thicker, tougher and rounder than yours. 
  2. Normal scissors may apply too much pressure to the nail without cutting it, which might move them down the length of the blade causing them to be crushed, cracked or splintered all the way down to the quick. If that happens than you have another problem on your hands that may require a very expensive trip to the vet. 
  3. Therefore, it is imperative that you either go to the pet store or order a pair online. Here are few that normally cost less than a $10.00 on Amazon that work great.

Either one of these clippers is a great choice to replace scissors:

1.     Safari Pro – great nail trimmers for all sizes. Click here to see the current price on Amazon.

2.     Epica Pro – great nail trimmers for all sizes. Click here to see the current price on Amazon.

How to Cut Dog Nails Without a lot of Fuss.  

A tired dog is more manageable, therefore, give them a good run and lots of playtime before you attempt to cut their nails. There are several approaches you can take. 

Grab the clippers, plop down on the floor, yank up a paw and start clipping away. Chop, chop, chop. If you do this then the next time you pick up the clippers, he’ll run away, so let’s not do that.

Instead here are a few ways that work better.

Method 1 – The Slow, Soothing Approach 

  1. Take a seat near your dog and rub him gently. Assure him things are okay with a soothing voice, not a nervous one. 
  2. Place the clippers on the ground in front of him. If he is like most dogs, he will give them a sniff and then lose interest. (You’ve just familiarized him with the object.)
  3. Provide a small treat while talking reassuringly and gently ease into the process of clipping the nails. A step by step instruction can be found after Method 2. 

Method 2 – Treats Anyone?  

You will need to pick up MannersMinder (available on Amazon) which is an automated kibble-dispensing machine used for dog training and costs $111.55. This is a great little machine that will hold your dog’s attention because kibble comes out, which should allow you to cut his nails easier.  

  1. Train your dog to lay down in front of the kibble-dispenser.  
  2. Once he knows that kibble will be coming out in single bites, he will patiently wait for the kibble to come out.  
  3. Gently pick up one paw and hold it firmly. Spread the toes so that you can clearly see the nail. Be sure to find the quick. We don’t want to cut into that. 
  4. Wait for the machine to issue a treat and once the dog gets it and rests back down, clip the nail.
  5. Be sure that you never clip it before the kibble is given. We don’t want him jerking out of your grip when you cut. A step by step instruction on how to clip your dog’s nail can be found below.  

If you would like to see it in action, please check out the link below. This owner’s lab had a damaged nail and needed to keep the lab’s attention away from a painful process. Anyone who has ever had a young lab like myself, knows they are very rambunctious dogs. The owner was able to cut the nail without any fuss at all, so I consider this a great way.  

Did you know that it is a good idea to prepare your dogs for clipping when they are puppies? According to THE DOG PEOPLE, it’s a great idea to touch the base of the ankles and toes of pups so as to accustom them to you cutting their nails later on. It is less invasive for them and makes it easier for both of you. 

How to Cut Dog Nails at Home with Clippers 

Now that we know how to change your dog’s attention or soothe him into letting you cut his nails, let’s talk about the actual cutting process.  

  1. If your dog has hairy paws, it might be a good idea to cut the hair around the paw so you can see the nail better. 
  2. After removing unwanted hair, hold the paw firmly.  
  3. Slowly and gently pick up a paw. He might pull it away, so try again and offer reassuring words as you do and spread the toes apart gently.
  4. If there is any hair around the nails that may obstruct your view of the nail, give them a clipping so you can see better. 
  5. Find the quick. 
  6. Dogs with white nails will have a pink or red center which will be clearly visible from the outside.
  7. Dogs with black or chocolate nails do not have a visible quick from the outside, so you will have to find out after you clip the tip of the nail off. 
  8. Start by placing the very tip of the nail into the guillotine or clippers and snip it. 
  9. Okay, now take a look at the remaining nail. Can you see pink or black underneath the white part? If so, that is the pulp which comes right before the quick. There should be a lot of white there as well from the cut that you just did. 
  10. Now, place a little of the nail back into the device and squeeze just a tad. If it feels spongy, soft or your dog tries to jerk his paw away, that is the quick. If not, then go ahead and snip it. 
  11. Check out the nail. Most likely you are going to see more pink or black in the nail, surrounded by a lot of white. If so, you are probably safe to take a little more off. But only a little. 
  12. Now, you are going to come to a time where you will see a pink or completely black center with a small white circle around it. Stop, you will pass the pulp and be cutting into the quick if you go any further. 
  13. After clipping all the nails, it’s a good idea to file them off smoothly so as to make sure the nails do not snag on anything.  

Looking for tricks to cutting dog’s nails? Check out our post 6 Easy Tricks to Cut Dog Nails.

How to Cut Dog Nails with a Dremel  

Yellow rotary tool with cord on white background

Using a Dremel is a pretty safe way to cut nails and so much faster than filing them down by hand.

Warning: Please be sure that you do not hold the Dremel on the nail for very long. It could get hot and that would not be comfortable for your dog, so after a few seconds, take the Dremel off the bottom of the nail and start again.

There are several advantages to using one.  

  1. You have more control than you do with clippers.  
  2. They are not going to cut into the quick like clippers can do. 
  3. They are great for rounding off the nail so that the nails do not catch onto anything or scratch the floor.  

There are a few disadvantages to using a Dremel.  

  • They are noisy and vibrate, so generally dogs don’t like them.  
  • They are more expensive than clippers. 
  • If you are a samurai clipper, then the Dremel WILL take longer.  
  • They get hot. So, it is important to pull them away every few seconds.
  • Even though they are not going to take too much off the toenail and dive deep into the quick, it is more difficult to find the quick, due to the lack of cutting through the nail, so if you are not a very experienced dog groomer, it might be a good idea to hire one until you know how far deep you can go into the nail. 

Important Note: If your dog has a lot of hair around the toes, DuAnn Chambers recommends clearing away the hair so that it will not get caught in the Dremel as you are shaving down the nail. She also recommends that you start at the dewclaw when you use the dremel. See the video below.

  • Now, that you have the dewclaw insight, lightly touch the nail with the Dremel at the tip and let it grind some of the nail down, but not too much. 
  • Once you have worn down some of the nail, make sure that the sides are done as well so that you can create a nice smooth nail all the the way around the tip.
  • From there, pick up another paw, separate the toes and repeat the process on the other toes. 

Here are a couple of very good Dremels you can pick up on Amazon. 

Dremel 7300-PTClick here for the current price on Amazon.

Dremel Pawcontrol 7760-PGK Cordless Pet Nail Grinder. Click here for the current price from Amazon.

Conclusion – Should You Use Scissors on Dog’s Nails?

shaggy dog laying on table next to scissors

No. Don’t ever do this. It can damage their nails and hurt them. Instead use a clippers or a Dremel – you can also file a dog’s nails with an emery board.

A Dremel might work better if you are worried about cutting into the quick. But if you are a master samurai nail cutter, than a good pair of guillotine clippers might work best for you. Whichever, you use, obviously you need to be careful and a good indicator is your dog’s reactions when clipping their nails. I cannot stress this enough. Make it comfortable and a pleasant experience for them, and they will mind it a lot less as well. 

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