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Young Border Collie puppy sitting in a lap getting its nails cut.
Courtesy of olgamazina / stock.adobe.com

Nail trimming is an essential part of dog grooming, and trim nails are one clear sign of your dog’s good health and hygiene. Professional groomers will perform the task for squeamish owners, but dog nail trimming is a simple procedure if done correctly.

Since nail trimming can be an anxiety-laden experience for many dogs, start handling your puppy’s feet and trimming their nails when they’re young, so they become accustomed to the process. Some dogs will sit in your lap or on a table while you clip their nails, while others may need some form of restraint.

Tip: You can make the process more fun for your dog by letting them lick peanut butter off a spoon while you handle the nails.

Getting Your Dog Comfortable

In as little as one week, you can have one of those rare dogs who doesn’t mind nail trimming one bit. But, if it takes your pup a little longer to get used to it, don’t despair. Be patient, keep a gentle and positive attitude, and continue to offer praise and treats.

Tip: It helps if you frequently touch and hold your puppy’s paws (gently and cheerfully) right from the first day, so they won’t become sensitive to having their feet handled.

  • Day 1: Let your puppy sniff the nail clipper or grinder. Give a treat and praise.
  • Day 2: Touch the nail clipper or grinder lightly to each paw. Give a treat and praise.
  • Day 3: Touch the nail clipper to each paw and squeeze the clipper so the puppy hears the sound, or turn the grinder on and let the puppy feel the vibration. Don’t actually trim a nail. Give a treat and praise.
  • Day 4: Touch the nail clipper or grinder to your puppy’s feet again. Give a treat and praise.
  • Day 5: Try trimming off just the very tiniest tip from one front paw nail. Only do one nail. Offer lots of happy praise and a treat if your puppy lets you.  Even if he lets you, just do one. Repeat every day until he lets you do this and doesn’t seem to mind.
  • Day 6: Try trimming just the tip off of just two nails.
  • Day 7: Keep working your way up, trimming additional nails each day, until you’ve got them all and your puppy doesn’t mind. Practice even when you don’t need to clip a nail. Even pretending you are clipping and going through the motions help your pup get used to the whole process.

Clipping Your Dog’s Nails:

There are several types of dog nail trimmers, including scissors, grinder tools specifically designed for dogs, and guillotine types. You can use whatever type you are most comfortable with, or whatever works best for your dog. It’s a good idea to have some styptic powder or other clotting powder on hand to stop bleeding in case you cut a nail too short.

“If you’ve never clipped a dog’s nails before, you may want to have your veterinarian or vet tech give you a lesson on how to do it,” suggests Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC’s chief veterinary officer.

Here are the steps to follow to properly trim your dogs nails:

  1. 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.
  2. Push your thumb slightly up and backward on the pad, while pushing your forefinger forward. This extends the nail.
  3. Clip only the tip of the nail, straight across. Include the dewclaws, located on the inner side of the paw.
  4. Avoid clipping past the curve of the nail or you risk hitting what is called the quick (the pink area of the nail that contains the blood vessels). A nick there is painful and will bleed. For dogs with dark nails, watch for a chalky white ring.

Failing to Cut Your Dogs Nails

Regular nail maintenance is more than cosmetic. Unhealthy nails can cause pain, and, in rare instances, trigger irreversible damage to the dog.

A dog’s nail consists of the living pink quick and the hard outer material called the shell. The quick supplies blood to the nail and runs through the core of it. Nerves in the quick cause bleeding and discomfort when cut. Regular nail trimming will cause the quick to recede from the end. Short quicks are the preferred length for the dog’s well-being and easy maintenance.

Long nails can turn a sound paw into a splayed foot and reduce traction, and they can cause deformed feet and injure the tendons over an extended period. As the long nail hits the ground, the pressure puts force on the foot and leg structure. Some dogs wear their nails down and won’t need to have them clipped as often.

Dog Nail Grooming Essentials

Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Pet Nail Grooming Tool

Trimming your pup’s nails is never easy but with this cordless nail grinder, both you and your dog will be comfortable and safe. It features 2 speeds and allows for a gentle trim with less fuss. Price: $30

Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer

Easy to use and safe, these nail clippers are professionally recommended and have a strong enough blade for a clean cut. With an ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip, you’ll never have to worry about mistakes from an awkward grip. Price: $13

Styptic Powder for Dogs

Styptic Powder for Dogs

Take a sigh of relief when cutting your dog’s nails because this styptic powder will stop any blood in its tracks. Safe for dogs and manufactured in the USA, this powder is ideal for anyone nervous about hurting their dog while cutting his nails. Price: $5

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