Trimming your dog's nails is a very important part of his regular grooming regiment. If you're unsure of how to use dog nail clippers, it's best to take things slow. Take your pup to a professional groomer to see how it's done. Once you're feeling more confident, you can follow these steps to clip your pet's nails at home.
The first thing must to do, of course, is gather the tools that you'll need. You'll either need to use traditional dog nail clippers or a nail grinder. You may also want to have styptic powder on hand, just in case you accidentally cut the quick. I'll talk more about this later.
As you'll see in my video guide, I prefer to use traditional dog nail clippers. They're faster and easier to use, in my opinion. If you prefer a nail grinder, that's fine. You'll just need to give your pup a little bit of time to get used to the sound.
Once you have the supplies, you'll need to understand how to use dog nail clippers properly. Once you get used to it and your dog has some time to warm up to the idea, you'll be able to clip your pet's nails in just a few minutes. It'll save you time and money if you can do it at home.
How To Use Dog Nail Clippers
It's a gradual process
The best thing that you can do is begin clipping your dog's nails when he's young. Even if you only need to sheer off a small slice, it will get your dog used to having his paws held and his nails clipped. If you don't have this opportunity, it may take a little while to ease your dog into the idea of letting you clip his nails.
If you adopt an adult dog that is not used to having his nails clipped, it's certainly possible to get him comfortable with the practice, but it will take more time and patience. Begin simply by getting Fido used to having his paws touched.
In the photo above, notice the way that I'm holding Saddie's paw. Just hold your dog's paw like this and practice separating his toes. Once your dog gets used to you touching his paws and separating his toes, try pinching the ends of his nails gently to get him used to the feeling of having his nails clipped.
Now, it's time to bring out the nail clippers. Show the clippers to your pup, and allow him to sniff them until he doesn't seem interested in them anymore. Then you can move the clippers around his nails. Rest the clippers on his nails, but don't actually clip the nail just yet.
How to use dog nail clippers
DO NOT be nervous when cutting your dog's nails. If you're nervous, he will sense that and it will make him nervous too. Just relax and have faith in yourself.
If you trim your dog's nails too short, you may cause him a bit of pain. It's not the best scenario, but certainly not the worst thing in the world. Your dog will certainly forgive you!
To get started, hold your dog's paw firmly and separate the toe that you'll be working with. If your dog has white or light-colored nails, you should be able to easily see through to the quick. Clip off the end of the nail that sticks out past the quick.
If your dog has dark nails and you can't see the quick, I recommend just trimming off the pointed end of the nail. As you continue to clip your dog's nails on a regular basis, the quick will recede.
If you clip just the tip now, you can cut your pet's nails again in 5-7 days and take off a little bit more. Continue with this pattern until the nails are short enough. This is a more safe approach with dark colored nails on dogs.
How short should you cut the nail?
I often get the question, “how short should I cut my dog's nails?” My advice is that you should not hear your dog's nails clicking when he's walking on a hard surface. If you still hear clicking after you've trimmed the nails, wait about a week and cut a little more off the end of each nail.
As the quick recedes, you'll be able to continue cutting your dog's nails shorter and shorter. It may take time, but you'll get there. It's always better to take off too little than too much.
What to do if you cut the quick
The nail's quick is very sensitive. It contains blood vessels and nerves. If you happen to clip the quick by accident, it will be painful for your dog and it will bleed. Clipping the quick is comparable to cutting one of your finger nails too short. The pain isn't unbearable, but it's still uncomfortable and sore for a few days.
This is a diagram of a dog's nail to help you judge how much to cut off the end:
No matter how experienced you are, you're going to cut the quick at some point. This is why it's important that every pet owner know what to do in this situation. I've made a video guide that shows you how to stop dog nail bleeding if you do make this mistake.
It's pretty simple to stop the bleeding. If you happen to have styptic powder on hand, just dab a small amount on the end of the nail. It is formulated to help the blood clot and stop the bleeding quickly. If you don't have styptic powder, you can use corn starch or flour to get by in a pinch.
As I mentioned, if you are too nervous or just don't trust yourself to cut your dog's nails on your own, contact a local groomer or speak to your vet. They may be willing to help walk you through the process until you're comfortable enough to do it on your own.