How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Nail trimming is something that many dogs (and dog owners) dislike. And although it’s an experience they may never come to love, it’s important to help your dog learn to tolerate nail trimmings as early as possible, to keep their paws healthy and pain-free. Check out our tips below to learn how to trim your dog’s nails, and to help your dog accept the process with no anxiety.

Why Do I Need to Trim My Dog’s Nails?

Trimming your dog’s nails is very important. Overgrown nails can become stuck in blankets and carpets, which may lead to the nail becoming caught and injured as your dog tries to free themselves.

Overgrown nails can also be uncomfortable for dogs as they cause deviation of the toes as the nails hit the floor. This also gives them less traction on wooden or tile floors, which can make dogs nervous.

Very long, curly nails can even turn on themselves and become embedded in the dog’s pad, which is extremely painful and will cause a nasty infection.

How Often Should I Trim My Dog’s Nails?

Ideally, nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks, however this can vary according to the surface your dog spends a lot of time walking on. If you walk your pet on soft surfaces, their nails will need to be trimmed more frequently compared to city dogs that spend a lot of time walking on concrete, which acts as a natural nail file.

What Equipment Do I Need to Trim My Dog’s Nails?

There are different types of nail trimmers you can try; your dog may prefer one type over another. The two main types are:

  • Nail clippers

  • Nail grinders

Nail grinders can be a great choice, as they create a soft edge on the nail and are less intimidating for owners concerned about trimming their pets nails too short. That being said, many dogs do not like the vibration of the grinder on the nail or the noise they can make.

Try to make nail trimming a positive experience, using high-value rewards, so your dog is more likely to accept the process with no anxiety.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Before you reach for the clippers, get your dog really comfortable with you touching their feet and nails. Try to make it a positive experience, using high-value rewards, so your dog is more likely to accept the process with no anxiety.

If your dog is particularly anxious, you may need to take things really slowly, first acclimating them to the clippers or grinder by simply bringing it out when they’re relaxed, letting them sniff it, and getting them used to the clipping/grinding sound without touching their paws.

Next, you might try tapping the clipper/grinder against their paws without actually trimming their nails, just to get them used to the fact that this instrument isn’t going to hurt them. Do this until they do not pull their paw away from you when touched.

When you’re ready to start trimming, look for a vein down the middle of your dog’s nail. If cut, the vein will cause bleeding and pain. If trimming white nails, the vein should be easily visible; simply avoid the tip of the pink vein by cutting or grinding lower than this.

Black nails can be a bit trickier as this vein is not visible. For these nails, we recommend trimming the hook or curved portion only (the skinny tip of the nail, not the thicker portion). Some dogs will not have this hook. In these cases, turn their paw over and look from the underside. You can often tell the part that is safe to trim (the portion that is slightly hollow) from the ‘meatier’ bulk of the nail.

When you start trimming, don’t feel like you have to trim all the nails at once. If you can only do 2 or 3 at a time before your pet loses patience, you can always go back another day. The trick is to keep the experience positive, both for your pet and you!

There are pet-nail-specific clotting powders that you can apply in the event that you trim a nail too short and see bleeding. You can also use flour or cornstarch in a pinch. If you do cut too short, don’t panic. Nails can bleed a lot, but your dog is not going to bleed to death! Contact your vet; they can take a look to see if your pet needs medical care.

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