How to trim a dog's nails

Tips on how to trim a dog's nails and handling some common issues that the procedure involves

When the time comes for you to trim your dog’s nails you may have some reservations about the best way of doing it. It’s just as important to keep our furry friends well-groomed as it is ourselves and that means clipping back those long nails every once in a while. If you’re a first time dog owner or you usually take your pet to a professional groomer then this guide will show you how to clip dog nails, with tips and tricks on some of the problems you might face along the way.

How often should you trim dog nails?

There are some lucky pups out there that will go their entire life without ever needing their nails trimmed, and there are those whose nails seem to grow back every week. Most dogs will usually fall somewhere in between these extremes and will need their nails cutting every 2-3 weeks.

There are a lot of factors that can affect the speed at which your dog’s nails grow and how often they need cutting. The amount of time they spend outside can impact how fast their nails grow. If your dog tends to spend most of its time in doors then they will usually need their nails cutting more regularly. If they’re outside a lot, running on pavements or rough surfaces then their nails will be naturally blunted and require less maintenance.

There’s no set rule when it comes to trimming your dog’s nails because the amount of time between trims will differ depending on the dog. It’s best to keep an eye on how quickly your their nails grow and work out a schedule around that. It might help to start off by checking every two or three weeks and if you find that they aren’t growing that quick you can leave it a little longer, or vice versa.

Signs that it’s time for a trim

It’s easy to lose track of time and sometimes a nail trim can slip your mind. There are a few things to look out for though, if you’re trying to figure out when’s the right time to get the clipper out.

  • A good indication that your dog’s nails are getting a little too long is the sound they make when you take them for a walk. If you can hear them clicking on the pavement or hard floor then it probably means their nails are getting too long. Keep an ear out then next time you take your dog for a walk and if you hear clicking then you may have left it a little too long since your last trim.
  • If you have a lovable pup who enjoys cuddles and jumping around on your lap then you’re a lucky person. But if you’ve started to notice that their paws are doing a little more damage than usual, it may be a sign that their nails need clipping. If you notice scratches on your hard floor or furniture then it’s definitely time to get out the clippers.
  • Having a quick check every once in a while to measure the length of your dog’s nails and that will give you a good idea of whether or not they need cutting. That doesn’t mean you need to get a ruler out because you can judge it by eye. The nails shouldn’t protrude over the pad of their feet, so if they do then it’s probably time for a trim.

Reasons to trim your dog’s nails

There’s more to trimming your pet’s nails than just making them look nice and clean for their canine friends. There are all sorts of benefits to clipping back those long nails and not just for your four-legged friend.

  • Keeping your dog’s nails properly trimmed will reduce the risk of harm when scratching or cleaning themselves. If they get something in their eye or contract an irritating infection such as pink eye , they may cause more damage to themselves if they have long, sharp nails.
  • Dogs are naturally friendly and they love interacting with people and other dogs. It’s important not to let their nails get too long otherwise they might unintentionally scratch someone. This is particularly important if you have young children in the house.
  • Some dogs can have a really bad habit of scratching and chewing furniture, but even if they are well behaved there’s still a chance they could tear something if they have sharp nails.
  • Comfort is important for your little furry friend and so it’s good to carry out regular nail trims so they don’t feel any discomfort when they’re walking and running around.
  • Longer nails are more likely to get caught on something as your dog is walking along outside. This can cause a lot of pain and can cause their nails to break.


 How to cut your dog’s nails

After realising that your dog’s nails are about ready for a trim, it’s time to get down to business. There are a lot of different ways to approach the task and a lot of people will have different techniques depending on the type of dog they have. Some dogs will sit there happily and let you trim away but others will make it a bit more of a challenge. These tips should help make it easier no matter your situation.

  • The first thing to focus on is the tools you’ll be using. They type of clippers you use are important when grooming your canine friend and can have an effect on how you cut their nails. There are a lot of different clippers and cutters to choose from so be sure to do a bit of research and shop around to find the best ones for you. Which specific clippers you need will depend on the type of dog you have and personal preference but the key thing to remember is that they’re an investment so it’s worth spending a little extra on some that will last longer.
  • When cutting your dog’s nails it’s all about the approach. If you have a lively dog who is prone to jumping around then it may be a good idea to try and calm them down or distract them. Grab their favourite chew toy and let them focus on that while you take hold of their paw, or get a friend or family to calm them down and keep them still while you do your thing. If you have a more chilled out pooch then it shouldn’t be too hard to take hold of their paw and give them their much need manicure.
  • When it comes to actually clipping the nails it can be a little nerve-racking for first timers that are worried about potentially hurting their furry friend. You don’t need to worry as long as you take your time and treat them with care. The most important thing to know about when actually trimming your dog’s nail is the quick. The quick is the part of the paw where the nail ends and the flesh begins, it’s essentially your dog’s finger. It’s important that you don’t cut into this because it will cause your pooch a lot of pain.
  • Depending on the type of dog you have it can be difficult to figure out where the quick begins. If your canine buddy has white nails then it’s usually pretty easy to see the quick, so it’s a simple case of working your way up with the clippers and leaving a little bit of excess nail. If your dog has dark nails then it can be a little trickier because it’s a lot harder to see where the quick ends.
  • The best technique is to work your way up the nail slowly and not take a big chunk out straight away. Start at the bottom by clipping little bit away and keep repeating that all the way up the nail. What you’re looking for is firm nail that isn’t dry. The further away from the quick you are the dryer and flakier the nail will be, so clip a tiny bit at a time until you feel like you’re getting too close to the quick.

What if you cut the quick?

Unfortunately sometimes accidents happen and despite your best efforts you might unintentionally cut into your dog’s quick. This can be painful for your four-legged friend so don’t be surprised if they yelp and jump up. They will also bleed quite a lot so it’s important that you calm them down in order to help clean the cut and stop the bleeding.

There are products you can buy that are designed to help stop the bleeding, such styptic powder. Regular household flour will also do the job so it’s always a good idea to have either of these on hand before you start trimming your dog’s nails. The bleeding will usually subside after about five minutes so try to keep your friend calm and maybe give them a treat or two to say sorry.

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