How To Cut Your Dogs Nails

This post may contain affiliate links. Read privacy disclosure policy for info

Unfortunately, even the best intentioned dog owner may neglect caring for their dogs nails.

This could be because the nail is not readily visible, or they don't know how to cut dogs nails,  or people just don't realize that canine nails grow as fast, if not faster, than people nails.

Their composition is different than those of people nails.

black and white dog getting its nails trimmed

Also, because dogs evolved in an environment where their nails were meant for constant fighting, digging and walking, as a result they are much tougher and prone to curling around and under paws without breaking.

In fact, these nails resemble bone in their hardness, and will actually force toe bones into crippling positions if left untrimmed.

When dogs nails are allowed to grow so long that they begin to twist under the paws, forcing the dog to walk on them, then a surgical procedure will be necessary to return them to the shape in which they should be.

This is because a blood vessel connected to the nail grows along with the nail, necessitating its severance in addition to the nail itself, a procedure requiring the presence of a veterinarian surgeon in order to monitor blood loss stemming from the cut vessel.

Cutting Dogs Nails the Proper Way

diagram of dogs nails

Some dogs may allow you to trim their nails and other may have to be taken to a veterinarian.

If you want to try to trim your pet's nails, you will need either a scissors type nail clipper or a guillotine type nail clipper, which you can get at your local pet shop, or online at places like Amazon or your local pet store.

Both are acceptable devices to use to trim your dogs nails, so selecting one or the other depends on which style you feel more comfortable using.

Just make sure the size of the clippers is proportionate with the size of your dog--you won't accomplish much using Shih Tzu-size clippers on a Great Dane's nails.

An alternative to these kinds of clippers is a nail grinder, or an electric device which actually sands down those tough nails.

Although some owners feel more comfortable using this type of nail groomer rather than taking a chance on accidentally clipping that vessel located near the nail quick (a painful event for the dog), it does take longer to sand nails down.

In addition, some dogs may not be patient enough nor will they particularly like the sound of the grinder vibrating against their feet.

The instrument you choose to trim your dogs nails is simply between you and your dog.

Tips on Trimming Dogs Nails

Some things you might be able do to make nail trimming a less stressful event for you and your dog are:

  • Play with your dog before trimming his nails

Playing fetch with your Shih Tzu or taking him for a vigorous walk, can tire him out so that he is ready to lay down and be relaxed for awhile.  A mellow dog is much easier to work with.

  • Assemble everything you need ahead of time

Getting everything together before the actual nail cutting will help get the deed over quickly.

Having clippers, grinders, treats for your dog (just because he has to endure the procedure) and styptic powder in case you accidentally hit that blood vessel should all be in reach.

  • Talk to your dog

Talking to your dog the whole time you are trimming his nail will assure him that it will be over soon and he will be back outside romping and playing in no time

  • Use a flashlight for darker nails

This may sound a bit bizarre at first, but if your dog has dark colored nails, this can make it a lot harder to know where the quick is.

Shine a flashlight under the darkened nail, and you will be able to make out the quick. 

  • Don't cut to the quick

The quick is visible through the nail and looks like a second nail inside the toe nail.

The quick contains blood vessel and nerves so if you clip the quick it will hurt your dog, and will likely bleed.

Your dog will remember what caused him pain or causes anxiety in you, and will probably not be so cooperative with you the next time his nails need clipping. 

By cutting just a little before the quick tip you can avoid any damage and your dog won't be as nervous the next time you need to cut his nails. (see diagram above for the cut line)

  • Cut the nail level with the ground and his foot pad

Ideally the nail should be cut so that it is level with the ground and his foot pad.  If you hear their nails loudly clicking on the floor you may have to clip it back further.

  • Use toe nail clippers on puppies

For puppies you can probably just use a regular toe nail clipper.  Their nails haven't hardened into their adult nails yet, and it is easier to just use regular toe or even nail clippers on them

  • Have your Vet show you first

If you have never clipped a dogs nails before and are understandably as little nervous about doing it, I would highly recommend having your Veterinarian show you at least a couple times instead of trying to wing it.

Many veterinarians will include a complimentary nail clipping when you bring your dog in for a health check, but you may have to ask them to do it.

But even if they don't it isn't all that expensive to have it done by a professional in between their regular grooming.

What Is Styptic Powder and How To Use It?

Styptic powder is an antiseptic and clotting substance which is used during pet grooming to stop bleeding.

Similar to the styptic pencil people use, this alum-based powder halts bleeding by causing vessels to contract and does not sting or burn when applied to a cut.

Only a small amount is required to stop the bleeding.

Some dogs are extremely frightened of having their nails clipped and will begin trembling, whining or even growling and nipping as soon as they see the clippers.

They could have had a bad experience with nail clipping in their past, someone may have stepped on their toes and it hurts, or they have really sensitive toes. 

If you have tried everything but nothing works to calm your dog, you may want to visit an animal behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer to work with your dog and help him overcome his fear. 

Or it may be best to seek out your Vets advice as they are the experts in knowing how to cut a dogs nails.

You might like these