How to cut dog's nails

by Black Hawk Pet Care. Published 2 July 2020

Nailed it!

Trimming your dog’s claws can seem like a daunting task, but it is an essential part of your pooch’s grooming routine.

Did you know?

Overlong nails can chip, break or become embedded in the paw.

Unless your pet is running around on rough surfaces most days, it’s unlikely that the nails will wear down naturally – leading to overlong talons that can chip, break, or even curl around and become embedded in the paw.

How often you should be trimming depends on the dog, as the growth rate of nails varies, but the average is every 1 to 2 months. You might find that you may not need to do it as often in summer as they’re likely to be wearing down their nails more. If you can hear your pooch’s talons clicking on the floor, it’s most likely time for a trim!

How-to

You can visit a professional groomer to get your dog’s nails trimmed, but if you’d like to do it yourself, you’ll need some kind of dog-specific nail clipper (usually available in scissor or guillotine form), and lots of patience.

It’s easiest to turn the dog around so that you’re facing the tail, then lift the foot and look at the paw from the sole. In many nails, you can see where the quick stops and the hard shell grows up and around it. Trim off this shell, leaving a small gap between it and the quick.

In some dogs, the outside shell grows all the way around the quick like a tube, so that you can’t directly see it. In this instance you can often see the quick through the outside of the nail as a pinker area on the side – leave a gap and trim below it. However, if the nails are black, there is no way to see the quick, and these nails are the most likely to cause issues.

Try trimming off very small pieces of nail at a time – if you’re only trimming a little and doing it frequently, you’re less likely to hit the quick.

With these dogs, it’s a good idea to have the nails trimmed professionally, at least for the first time.

Getting started

It’s best to start trimming as soon as you can, from about eight weeks of age: the key is little and often. Start by getting the dog used to being handled by using a command, like ‘feet’, and giving them a treat when they stop pulling the limb away. Once they’re comfortable with that, try using the command and lots of treats, and trim the nails on one foot. Do one foot each day to minimise the time and stress. Try to do this every two weeks to keep the training up.
If you have an older, reluctant dog, you’ll need to take more time to get it used to the sensation.

Slowly desensitise the dog by building up to the trimming – touch the foot, with the clippers nearby, or rub the clippers over the foot while giving treats. Once the dog is okay with this, trim one nail and immediately reward. You might only ever be able to trim one nail per day. It’s often a two-person job – one to hold the dog and give treats while the other person does the trimming. Do this somewhere quiet where the dog feels safe. If you haven’t trained the dog to sit still and give you its foot, do not attempt to trim its nails.

If all goes wrong

If you accidentally cut the quick, stay calm. It’s actually best to do nothing at all – messing with the toe will be painful and cause more stress. Give lots of love, but leave the toe alone, as the bleeding will stop on its own. Put the dog on linoleum or somewhere it won’t wreck the flooring until the bleeding stops.
If something goes badly wrong and you accidentally take a large chunk off the nail, the dog is crying or the toe is bleeding heavily, then wrap the foot in a towel and take the dog to the vet.

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