How to Trim Your Dog's Nails: A Step-by-Step Guide + Tips
Just like brushing your dog’s teeth, trimming a dog’s nails can be a bit intimidating at first, especially if you have a pup that doesn’t want to cooperate. But trimming your dog’s nails at home is likely easier than you think! Below is a short guide to what you’ll need to keep their claws looking their best. Of course, if you’re still unsure, have any questions, or want a demonstration, call Cinco Ranch Vet today!
Why Trimming Your Dog’s Nails Is Necessary
You know that all dogs have claws, but did you know that properly maintaining them is important to your pup’s overall health? If growing claws are left unattended, they can eventually cause pain or even injuries to your dog’s paws and legs. Long nails can leave the paw splayed, making it difficult to walk and, in some cases, causing the foot to become deformed.
For this reason, your dog’s nails should be trimmed every 4 weeks, although digging in the dirt and walking on pavement can help keep them dull and filed. You should also clip them if they become broken or torn.
Materials You’ll Need
There aren’t many materials you need to trim your dog’s nails, but you’ll want to have everything on hand before you start, so the process is as smooth and stress-free—for your pooch—as possible.
- Nail clippers
- Clotting powder
- Grinder tools/emery board (optional, but recommended)
- Treats (suggested)
When it comes to nail clippers, there are quite a few choices available. Guillotine-style clippers are generally easiest to use, but this style also makes it pretty easy to pinch your dog’s toes. They are perfect for small dogs but may be more difficult to use on larger dogs.
Pliers-style and scissor-style nail clippers are great options for bigger breeds, as their nails are larger and tougher.
Maintain your clippers by ensuring they are sharp or using replacement blades.
Note: Never use human nail trimmers on your dog! Dog nail clippers are designed to meet the shape of a dog’s nails.
How to Use the Clippers
Guillotine clippers work very differently than pliers or scissor clippers, and it’s important to know how to use each one before beginning.
- Guillotine clippers – Slide your dog’s nail into the hole at the top, and squeeze. As the blade lowers, it will cut off the nail tip.
- Pliers and scissor clippers – Put your dog’s nails in between the pliers or scissors, and cut the nail through in one stroke.
Clotting powder is a must-have in case you accidentally trim your dog’s nails too short, and they start to bleed. Styptic powder is great to have on hand, but if you need to trim your dog’s nails and don’t have access to clotting powder, mix together:
- Baking soda
- Baking flour
A grinder tool is essentially an emery board that rotates. It’s great for smoothing out your dog’s nails after a trim, but it isn’t required to get trimming done. Pedipaws is a popular product.
Some dogs that are especially unhappy about having their nails trimmed may prefer a grinder, and many groomers like to use grinders because they cauterize the end of each nail.
As a dog owner, you know that treats make everything better!
Before You Start…
Before trimming your dog’s nails for the first time, you may want to have your groomer or vet show you how to do it.
The first step is to make sure your dog is comfortable, relaxed, and okay with its feet and claws being touched. This may take a few sessions. Once your pup is comfortable with you handling its paws, you can move on to trimming.
At the beginning, you may want to clip only a few nails at a time to reduce your dog’s stress. Have a few treats handy during the session to reward your pup for good behavior and make the situation more appealing. If your dog becomes uncomfortable—squirming or acting nervous—stop and try again later.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Trimming Your Dog’s Nails
Again, it’s recommended to watch a professional groomer or veterinarian trim your dog’s nails before trying it yourself.
Once you’re ready, your dog is comfortable, and you have all your supplies, it’s time to get started!
Step 1: Position your pup.
Have your dog lie down on its side. Some people find having the dog lie on a table is easier. Ensure your pup remains still throughout the process.
Step 2: Gain access to the nails.
Take your dog’s paw into your hand, and squeeze the pad softly. This will splay the foot and extend the nails.
Step 3: Look for the quick line.
The quick line supplies blood to the nail and contains nerves. Make sure to clip in front of it to avoid injuries.
Step 4: Trim.
Carefully trim each nail one at a time using the clippers.
Note: If you accidentally trim the quick, use the clotting powder right away to stop any bleeding. Hold the powder onto the nail until the bleeding stops, and continue to add more as needed. Consider trimming the remaining nails another day.
Step 5: Grind.
Once all the nails are trimmed, use the grinder tool to smooth them. Using the V of the tool, move in one direction until you reach the end of the V. If you decide to use the grinder tool for the entire process, note that it will take longer than trimming, and some dogs will require extra time to become accustomed to the sound and movement.
Step 6: Treats!
Once you’re all done, it’s time for treats! Although you should consider giving your dog treats—and definitely give it reassurance—throughout the entire session.
When to Take Your Dog to a Professional Groomer or Vet
If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails at home, schedule an appointment with your groomer or vet. This is also the case if your dog just cannot get comfortable with the process, even after several sessions.
Dogs with darker nails may require trips to a professional, as it is harder to see the quick and avoid injury. You may also want to take your pup to the vet if you don’t have clotting powder on hand and an injury occurred.
Trimming your dog’s nails is necessary to ensure its health and well-being. It can be done at home when your dog is relaxed but sometimes requires a professional’s assistance. If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails or would like to see how it’s done, give us a call at 281-693-7387!
The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital
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