Is your dog making annoying clicking noises everywhere he walks? Does it seem like he is having pain when walking? It may be time to take your dog to a pet groomer, or cut your dog's nails by yourself. Not sure how to do it? Here's everything you need to know about cutting dog's nails at home safely, and how to go through the process without too much hassle.
The easiest way is to pay others to do this for you. When you bring your dog to a groomer, nail cutting is part of the whole grooming procedure. Some vets will cut your dog's nails as well. Owners looking to save money or those who cannot do regular grooming sessions at the studio will benefit from learning how to clip dog's nails themselves.
The first few times may be difficult. You will get better with practice. If you feel nervous about cutting dog's nails, know that the process is quick and easy once you know every step of the way, and understand how to calm down your dog and have him enjoy the grooming process.
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For the completely inexperience owners we have a video on how to start grooming your dog at home, where you'll learn all the basics of general dog grooming and your pet's needs. Those who never cut their dog's nails should watch this video as well.
When you get a hang of cutting dog's nails, you'll see that it's simple. However, there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. This article discusses the safety of cutting dog's nails at home. Because most dogs do not like getting their nails trimmed, you'll need to know what to expect from your pooch, and how to keep your dog still, comfortable, stress-free and stable to prevent injury to the dog, and keep yourself cool.
THE RIGHT TOOLS: Comparing the Best Pet Nail Clippers for Dogs
6 Safety Tips for Cutting Dog's Nails
There are many ways to trim your dog’s nails. The way you decide which works best for you is going by your budget first, as well as your dog’s behavior, breed, personality and your experience and ability at cutting dog's nails.
There are a variety of dog grooming tools that you can use to cut dog's nails, including:
- Dog nail clippers – Make sure you get pet nail clippers that are designed for dogs specifically. You can’t cut your canine's nails with clippers for people or even those for cats. All dog nail clippers come in different sizes, styles, and prices, and are great for dogs who don’t like the sounds of electric devices.
- Nail file pads – This item sits on the floor and dogs can use it themselves. It works like a scratching post for cats. They take more time at first, as you need to train your pet to use it. Once your pup gets the hang of it, these file pads will save time because you won't need to clip the nails anymore, but most find them ineffective.
- Dog nail grinders (e.g. Dremel) – If you have ever had a professional manicure, you have probably seen these. They simply grind the nail down with a file that spins automatically. Make sure you use a safety grinder specifically for dogs. Grinders can make cutting dog's nails easier and prevent the issue of cutting into the quick.
- Blood clotting agent – No matter how careful you are, you may hit the quick at one time or another. This happens to every owner trying to cut dog's nails now and again. Blood clotting agents made of styptic powder should always be close by.
The above four make up the basic tools you need to have at home for cutting dog's nails, and you're usually set with just one dog nail clipper (whichever works best) and a styptic powder/blood clotting agent, once you get a hang of it.
A few more things before we move on:
Pick the right tool. Choosing the right type of dog nail clipper is important for several reasons. Here's a guide and video on how to pick the right nail clippers, and what you must pay attention to. You'll need to choose between three different types of dog nail clippers, make the selection based on your dog's breed, size, personality as well as how comfortable each tool feels in your hand.
Need more options? For more ideas of what tools to use, take a look at this list of cheap dog grooming tools that most DIY home groomers and professional pet groomers use now and again, depending on the needs of a dog.
What if the paw bleeds? It's possible that you may accidentally cut into your dog's quick and cause his paw to bleed. This often happens with first time groomers. The important part is not to panic, and know exactly what to do to stop the bleeding. So if you're afraid of cutting your dog's nail quick and bleeding, watch/read this guide first.
With the above out of the way, you now have the right tools for the job. But before you start cutting dog's nails, you'll need to familiarize yourself with your pet's paws.
2 Know the Anatomy of Your Dog’s Paws
You need to know how your dog's paws and feet are designed if you want to learn about cutting dog's nails safely. Some parts of dog's feet are more sensitive or prone to injury, so it's necessary to keep in mind what you can and cannot do.
Here's a brief rundown of the four most important parts of the canine paw:
- Dew claws – These are smaller claws farther up on the dog’s leg. They do not touch the floor. According to some experts, dogs have these because they are a throwback to ancient canine species. Many dog owners will just have these removed, but it is not necessary unless your pet becomes obsessed with chewing on them.
- The quick – If you are a nail biter, you already know what this is. You also know that if you cut the nail into the quick, it's painful and it bleeds. You can see where the quick starts in a dogs nail by looking on the underneath of the nail. If the dog has dark colored nails, you cannot see the quick. It is recommended to cut the nail using several small clips to avoid hitting the quick.
- The nail – This is the dead tissue that you want to cut off. When you look at the underside of a dog’s nail, the dead part of the nail will have a lighter color. Where the quick starts, it will get darker. This is harder to see in a canine with dark nails, which is why you have to be especially careful with them.
- Pads – The pads of the dog's foot are the soft fleshy part on the bottom of your dog’s feet. They are usually dark color, but not always. Canines have one pad for each claw, and then a big one under the toe joints.
Understanding all of the four major parts of the dog's paws and nails helps an owner to distinguish between the areas that are allowed to be groomed and those that are not.
3 Start Your Dog Young
Getting your dog involved young applies to many things when it comes to dog care and particularly grooming dogs, like bathing a puppy.
Just like human kids, when young puppies grow and form, they will adjust and accept things you teach them and put them through as something that's part of life. Grooming an older dog that hasn't adjusted to this will be much more difficult.
The same applies to general grooming, not just cutting dog's nails. Many experts advise for owners of newly adopted puppies to start touching the dogs in the places where they would groom them – play with the dog's ears, nose, etc. This way the dog gets used to being touched there, and won't be as anxious during grooming or nail cutting sessions. As an example, watch this video on how to keep a dog calm during grooming and bathing sessions for more tips on how to keep your pooch stress-free.
4 Use a Regular or Dog Grooming Table
Most pet owners start cutting dog's nails on the floor, but it's not the most efficient way to go about this. It's particularly not a great idea if you're just starting out and feel anxious about cutting your dog's nails, and doing it wrong.
You will need to stabilize yourself, and your dog, which will also keep him calmer and less anxious. If you can afford it, get a dog grooming table. There are some cheap and small ones designed specifically for home groomers. If not, you can use a your regular table at home; it will still make the task much easier than doing that on the floor.
By using a table for cutting dog's nails, you can simply stand behind him as he lays on his side. This is how professional dog groomers do it as it's the most effective way. It's also the best way to keep dogs less anxious during grooming sessions.
Using a table for cutting dog's nails makes it easier to get to the nail itself, but you can also lay over the dog using your body weight to keep him still during the process. Try and see what makes it more comfortable for your dog first where he's going to stay still.
5 Go for Walks on Specific Surface
You'll be happy to find out that cutting dog's nails at home by yourself isn't the only way to keep them trim. Going for regular walks on specific terrain can actually help the process, although it will not remove all of the dead nail on your dog.
Nevertheless, it's still worth it, because this means you won't have to cut your dog's nails as often as you normally would. And if you refuse to do this by yourself, and because professional dog grooming prices can be expensive, taking your dog to walk on specific surface may be the easiest and cheapest way.
Concrete and asphalt in particular help to keep most canine’s nails worn down and shorter. The more your dog walks on these types of surfaces, the less you will need to trim the nails with tools. However, dog nail grooming is still needed (just not as often).
RELATED: How Often Should You Groom Your Dog?
6 Ask Your Vet or Local Groomer
Our vet had no problem letting us watch him cut dog’s nails when we brought him in. The veterinarian did it in a shape easy for us to maintain afterwards.
After that, when we started clipping our dog's nails ourselves at home, we were more confident because we had some training from our vet.
The same applies to professional pet groomers. If you have one locally, they will usually be very helpful and happy in assisting you and showing you how to do something dog grooming related yourself. There are probably some who won't due to potential loss of business, but it never hurts to ask.
READ NEXT: 48 Ways to Save Money on Dog Grooming