Helpful Tips

How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails


Trimming a dog’s nails can be a nightmare, especially if you’re dealing with a dog that has had a bad experience with having their nails trimmed. Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks that you can try, that can make this process much easier for both you and your pet. Most pet owners already know that dog nail care is an essential part of grooming. Neatly trimmed nails can prevent serious injuries and infections, but many pet owners are very squeamish about trimming nails, in fear of accidentally cutting the quick. But if you follow the right steps, use the right tool for the job, and practice patience, you can easily learn how to clip your dog’s nails and keep them neatly trimmed and looking great.

Training Your Pet to Tolerate Having Their Nails Cut

Teaching your dog commands, such as sit and stay can go a long way toward improving their behavior. Fortunately, it’s also possible to train your pet to sit still and tolerate having their nails trimmed. However, it can be a lengthy process, especially if you’re dealing with a hyper puppy or a dog that’s had a past bad experience having their nails done. But with the right technique, you can have your dog even looking forward to having their nails done once or twice a month. Keep in mind that this is a process. Your dog will not automatically enjoy having their nails done, especially if they don’t like their feet handled. Expect it to take at least one to two weeks before your dog adjusts to this treatment.

The Process

Before you get started, make sure you have plenty of treats on hand. It’s also a good idea to choose a time of day when you know your dog will be fairly tired. As an example, if they normally zoom around the house and want to play, early in the morning, then you’ll want to wait until they’ve burned that energy off. Usually, late afternoon or right before bedtime can be a great time to practice cutting their nails.

  • Day 1:  Begin by allowing your dog to sniff the nail clippers and praise them during this time.
  • Day 2:  The next day, you can gently touch the clippers to their paw, then praise them and give them a treat.
  • Day 3:  Touch the clippers to each paw, squeezing the clippers so that your dog hears the sound. Avoid trimming the nails at this time, but continue to praise your dog and give them a treat.
  • Day 4:  On the fourth day, you’ll repeat what you did on day three.
  • Day 5:  Try trimming a small portion of one nail. Avoid doing more than one nail. During this time, offer several treats and praise your dog.
  • Day 6:  Trim the tips off of two more nails, while offering praise and treats.
  • Day 7:  On the seventh day, you’ll continue to work on trimming more nails.

This will go on each day until you’ve clipped each nail and your dog seems to not mind. Make sure you’re very patient with your dog during this time. Practice cutting their nails, even if they don’t need a trim. You’re only clipping off a small portion on the very tip.

Cutting Black Nails

Dog nails

Even people who have experience trimming dog nails tend to hesitate when it comes to trimming black nails since they cannot easily see the quick, which can significantly increase the likelihood of accidentally cutting into it. For most pet owners, trimming black nails can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with a little nail anatomy knowledge, you’ll find that trimming black nails is fairly simple, especially if you have the right tools.

A dog’s toenails are made up of a couple of main parts. You have the nail itself, which refers to the hard outer shell. Then there’s the quick. The quick is the inner cuticle of nerves and blood vessels. The nail doesn’t have nerve endings, so a dog will not feel pain when you cut their nails, but if you cut the quick it can be very painful. If you learn how to avoid the quick when you’re trimming black nails, it can save you and your pet a lot of stress.

Nail clippers are easier to use than guillotine style trimmers since they offer a more precise cut and they feature a tougher design.

Once you’ve chosen the best dog clippers for black nails, make sure you keep some styptic powder on hand. This type of power is also available in pencil form and it works by causing the blood vessels to contract, which will significantly slow down any bleeding.

For black nails, you’ll want to go slowly. Take your dog’s paw and hold it gently but firmly. The clippers should be positioned to cut the nail from top to bottom. Avoiding cutting the nail side to side. Start by trimming a very small length of the nail at a time. After you’ve made the first clip, check the nail, looking at it head-on. If it appears whitish then you’re still trimming through the dead area, so it will be okay to make an additional cut. As you continue to make small cuts, check the nail each time. As you move closer to the quick, you’ll notice that the center of the nail starts to appear black or pink, which is a clear indication that you’re close to the quick.

The trick here is to trim very small bits of nail at a time and stop once it’s clear that you’re close to the quick. This is made apparent by the change in color from white to black or white to pink.

If You Hit the Quick

Even if you have experience trimming nails, an accident can happen. If you end up nicking a dog’s quick, make sure you use styptic powder to slow down the bleeding. If you don’t have any on hand, you can also use cornstarch or some flour. Very rarely does this type of injury require vet attention. Home treatment will be effective in slowing down the bleeding. Once this happens a dog can become fearful of nail trims, especially if you make a big deal about it and act alarmed. Try to remain calm and praise your dog during this time, while offering treats.

If after you’ve hit the quick, your dog is still acting normal and seems okay, continue clipping their nails. However, after the accident, if they seem fearful, in pain, or nervous, call it a day. You can always try the following day or give it a couple of days before you finish trimming.

If at any point after this accident your dog seems to be fearful each time you’ve attempted to cut their nails, speak with your vet. A vet can handle the job safely and quickly.

Tools of the Trade

There are many different types of trimmers to choose from including grinding tools, scissors, guillotine-style clippers, and standard clippers. Try using the tool that you feel the most comfortable with. The tool should also be equipped with the right type of blades. This means, if you have a larger breed dog, then you’ll need to ensure that you’re using a nail trimming tool that’s designed for larger breeds. If you have a small breed dog, then use a smaller pair that’s designed for their breed size. Using the wrong size of clippers can lead to a serious injury and can make it difficult for you to control the cut.

What Happens When You Don’t Clip a Dog’s Nails?

Just like brushing your dog’s teeth and following good hygiene practices, staying on top of nail care will be essential. Regular nail care is not about aesthetics. Long nails can cause pain, can lead to infections, and can even cause irreversible damage. Longer nails can turn a healthy paw into a splayed foot, can make it difficult for your dog to walk, and can even cause foot deformities or tendon injuries, over a period of weeks or months. When the nail hits the ground, the pressure will place force on the leg structure and foot. Some dogs are so active that their nails wear down naturally, so they won’t need frequent nail trims, while other, less active dogs are more prone to longer nails and will require trims once or twice a month.

Final Thoughts

There are many dogs that hate having their feet handled, so trimming or clipping can be very stressful for them. However, getting your dog used to this type of grooming ritual, when their young, can help them learn how to be more comfortable with the entire process. If you praise them and give them treats as you clip their nails, you’ll find that your dog will become more tolerant with each session. This guide on how to clip your dog’s nails can teach you how to safely clip your pet’s nails, keep them neatly trimmed, in order to prevent any foot or nail-related injuries, while also preventing serious health problems later down the line, especially if you have an older dog or one that has joint-related problems.