How to Cut A Dog’s Nails

Dog hiding behind his paws

One of the most important parts of being a good pet owner is taking care of your pet. This includes all sorts of things but one of the primary functions of caring for a pet involves proper grooming and maintenance. When it comes to dogs one of the most difficult parts of the grooming process is taking care of their nails. Since either nails are constantly growing they are something you will want to keep an eye on as a responsible pet owner. So if you are new to having a dog, or even if it's just your first time trimming your old dogs nails, check out the article below to find all the steps necessary to cut your dog’s nails in a safe and effective manner.

Why It’s Important to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Spoiler: Dog Nails are Just Like Human Fingernails

Since your dog's nails are just like your fingernails, they never stop growing. This means that trimming your dog's nails is something you will want to do on a routine basis. If you don’t their nails can get too long and not only cause an annoying clacking every time they walk on a tile or hardwood floor, but it can also be dangerous for your pet to leave their nails uncut

Since they never stop growing they can reach a length where they get too long and brittle and can easily snap or break. This can be quite painful for the dog and quite a problem for you as well. Because if their nail breaks off high enough they can end up tracking blood all over your house and floors. So as a loving and caring owner you will want to trim their nails on a regular basis to avoid any unnecessary injuries your dog might sustain, as well as to avoid getting some nasty blood stains all over your new carpets.

dog getting a reward for being good
Treats, clickers, and praise can help your dog learn that the sound and feel of nail clippers aren’t things they need to be afraid of.

Pro Tip: Teach Your Dog That Nail Clippers Are a Good Thing

Help Your Dog Form a Paw-sitive Association with Grooming Time

So if cutting their nails is so important how do you do it? Well there are a few different steps but one step that will make your life  a whole lot easier is taking the time to teach your dog that getting their nails cut is a good thing

Many dogs don’t like having their paws held onto and having a tool pressed onto their nails. So before you begin the process of cutting your dog's nails it's a good idea to take a couple days to get them used to the nail clippers. You can show them the clippers on the first day and reward them with a treat after they sniff them. Then the next day hold onto their paw and gently rest the nail clippers against their nail for a minute. Again after you are done reward them with a treat. Keep going with this process a couple times with their different paws and soon they will begin to associate the nail clippers with getting a treat as a reward. It’s even more helpful if you work the clippers next to their nail a couple of times before the treat so they get used to the sound of the clippers. After you  have completed this process with your dog a couple of times they will be much more comfortable with the clippers and when you begin to actually cut their nails they won’t be so afraid of them.

dog and human holding hands/paws
Cutting your dog’s nails may not go smoothly at first, but with a little patience and practice it will become just another part of your dog’s grooming routine.

How to Cut a Dog’s Nails

Tips + Techniques Every Dog Owner Should Know

So once you have your puppy or dog used to the sound and feel of the clippers how do you actually go about cutting their nails? Well you can accomplish it in a few easy steps. Pick up a paw and firmly, but gently, place your thumb on the pad of a toe and your forefinger on the top of the toe on the skin above the nail. Make sure none of your dog’s fur is in the way. 

Using your thumb you will want to push up and backwards on the pad of their foot. While at the same time using your index finger to push forward to extend their nail out. The next thing you’ll want to do is grab your clippers with the other hand and use them to clip the nail itself. You’ll want to be sure to cut straight across the nail at the tip. If you cut past the curved part of their nail you risk hitting a blood vessel. This is a pink area in the nail that you can see called the quick. If you cut too far down and injure the quick it is quite painful for the dog and will also result in the nail bleeding. 

If your dog happens to have dark nails you can see a white ring part in the nail and you’ll want to avoid that area as well. If you do hit this part of their nail, or are worried that you might, it is a good idea to keep some first aid supplies on hand for your dog. This includes things such as bandages, antibacterial creams or sprays, and a first aid spray as well. 

If you nick their nail too far down and they begin to bleed be sure to clean the nail off with some first aid spray before applying a bandage. The spray will keep the injury free from debris and infection and help the wound heal faster once you apply the bandage.

Follow this same process to trim all of the nails on your dogs paws. Be sure not to miss the dew claws that are located a little further back on their foot. However, if it is your dog's first time they may not sit for the entire length of time it will take to trim their nails. 

This isn’t an issue, so don’t try to force them to stay put if they are obviously distressed and uncomfortable otherwise you will reinforce the idea that getting their nails cut is a scenario they should avoid. If you can’t get them all done in the first sitting be sure to still reward the dog with a treat and finish up the rest of the nails later that day or the next. By allowing your dog to slowly get used to getting their nails cut and rewarding them with treats eventually they will associate the entire process with being rewarding and will begin to sit for longer and longer periods of having their nails trimmed.

Learning how to cut a dog’s nails the right way can save time in the future and help you keep your pup looking and feeling their best.

If you follow the steps in this article, not only will you be able to trim your dog's nails, but you will begin conditioning them to see getting their nails cut as a rewarding experience. This might sound trivial at first but once you try to cut your dog's nails and you find out they are afraid off the nail clippers, or get agitated or angry when you hold onto their paws for an extended length of time, you will wish you had taken just a couple of minutes to get them prepared for the experience first. 

It will end up saving you a lot of time and hassle in the long run if you take a few simple steps at the beginning. And remember, no matter how good you are at rimming their nails, or how well behaved your dog is, there is always the chance you might nick the blood vessel in their nail so make sure you keep some first aid supplies on hand whenever you go to clip your dog's nails. 

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