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How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Scared to trim your dog’s nails? There is a right way to do it so that you don’t hurt your pet. Aside from having the right clippers and the know-how, you’ll also need confidence and your dog’s cooperation. Here’s your guide on how to expertly clip those sharp claws. 

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Making Your Dog Comfortable

Some dogs do not need regular nail-clipping when they’re active enough or taken for regular walks or runs, especially on hard surfaces, so that their nails get filed down naturally. If your dog frequently scratches the floor, ground, or pavement, or likes to go on digging expeditions in your yard, his nails will always be trimmed to the right length. 

Other dogs, however, do need regular nail-clipping. It’s best to start trimming your best bud’s nails while he’s still a pup so he’ll get used to the routine and you’ll have an easier time doing it as he gets bigger. And then there are dogs that get fidgety or do not like having their claws clipped at all. 

Whenever you have to trim your dog’s nails, you must make sure that he’s comfortable and, if necessary, also properly restrained. This will help ease your worry of hurting him and help you complete the task more quickly and efficiently, and without causing pain. 

A good way to position your dog is either on top of a table while lying on his side or stomach. Stand on the side of the table where you can gently drape your arms over his body, with him facing away from you. Lightly place your left forearm over his neck to prevent him from lifting his head. Gently nudge him down with your upper body if Fido tries to get up. You can then start clipping his nails by reaching over and grasping his paws, one at a time. 

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Different Types of Nail Trimmers

There are two basic types of nail trimmers: the guillotine and the scissors. 

The guillotine is easier to use and is ideal for nails that have not grown too long that they have curved toward or into the toe pad. The guillotine type of nail trimmer has a ring at the end, where the nail is inserted, and a cutting blade that slides up to clip the nail as you squeeze the handles. 

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The scissors-type is best used for nails that have curved into the toe pad, as well as for the dew claw, or the claw that grows on the inner side of the paw. Because of its position, the dew claw does not touch the ground when the dog walks, runs, scratches, or digs so that it does not get worn down and typically grows too long. However, if you can pull the dew claw away from the paw without hurting your dog, then you should be able to fit the guillotine trimmer around it. 

To use the scissors trimmer, place the blades at a right angle over and below the nail and then squeeze the handles. 

How to Safely Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The color of your dog’s nails depends on the color of the skin and hair on his paws. Brown- to black-haired dogs usually have black claws, while lighter colored dogs have a mixture of black and white claws. 

What you need to watch out for when trimming your dog’s nails is the quick - or the area of the claw where the blood vessels and nerves terminate. If you accidentally cut through the quick, his nail will bleed. Although it’s not a serious injury, it will still cause Fido pain and might make him averse to nail trimming. 

The quick is easy to spot on white-colored claws and practically invisible on dark-colored claws. When trimming white claws, cut approximately 2 millimeters from the quick. When trimming dark claws, you will have to make several small cuts to avoid cutting into the quick. Keep checking the nail for a homogenous grayish or pinkish oval in the middle - this is where the area of the quick begins. If this area becomes visible, you can stop trimming the claw. 

If you’re using a guillotine trimmer, make sure that the blade is either positioned below or on top of the nail so that the nail is sliced either upward or downward. Never position the blade so that it slices the nail from the side as this often causes a splintered nail. Additionally, the cutting blade should be facing you. To know if you’re holding the trimmer correctly, look for the screws that attach the handles to the guillotine ring; the screws should be facing your dog. With the blade facing you, it’ll be cutting farther away from the quick than if it is facing your dog. This will minimize the chance that you’ll accidentally cut into the quick and cause pain and bleeding. 

Make sure your trimmers are properly sharpened so you can always make clean cuts. Scissor type trimmers can be sharpened the traditional way; the blade on the guillotine trimmer can be replaced. 

You can use a nail file/emery board to smoothen the surface of the cut nails. 

If you do cut into the quick, the bleeding should stop within 5 minutes. You can administer first aid, such as benadryl, but the injury is usually not serious. 

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails - Final Thoughts

You always have the option of bringing Fido to a pet salon to have his nails trimmed on a regular basis, but buying your own dog nail trimmer is more practical. You can ask your vet to show you how to properly trim your dog’s nails so you can feel more confident about the task. 

Make sure to invest in good quality nail trimmers; the guillotine type is easier to use, but you should also have the scissors-type handy in case Fido’s nails become too long to safely cut with the guillotine. You can also reduce the need for nail-cutting by taking your dog on regular walks or runs. Physical activities help wear down a dog’s claws; if you’re lucky, you may not even have to trim them.