You hear that clicking noise as your dog walks, and you realize it’s time to do that annoying pet chore again…cutting your dog’s nails.
Yikes! I’m sure that last sentence alone sent a shiver up your spine as you imagined long sessions of trimming your fussy dog’s nails. You’re probably afraid of doing it wrong, hurting them, or making them bleed. Maybe in the past your hand slipped once or twice, and now you’re nervous you’ll do it again. Yes, those are all legitimate concerns, but cutting your dog’s nails is so crucial to their muscle, joint, and foot health that it must be done!
Whether you’re new to the clipping game or have been cutting dog nails longer than you care to remember, it never hurts to learn a few new tips.
Cutting dog nails can be summed up in 4 simple steps:
- Get The Right Clippers
- Calm Your Nerves
- Calm Your Dogs Nerves
- Cut to Right Above The Quick
It’s as simple as that. Below is our detailed quick guide on how to successfully cut your dogs nails. From selecting the proper clippers to cleaning up after it’s all done.
4 Steps to Cutting Your Dogs Nails
Step 1: Getting The Right Clippers
First things first, you’re going to need the right kind of clippers for your dog’s build. There are three main kinds of clippers for cutting dog nails. The type of clipper you’ll want to get depends on the size of your dog.
Scissors – For Large Dogs
The American Kennel Club says that scissor style clippers are best for bigger dogs because the precision is better for dogs with thicker, bigger nails.
Grinders – For Dogs of All Sizes
These, as the name implies, gently grind or sand the nails down. These clippers are pretty foolproof, but they vibrate a lot, which can be annoying for you and/or your dog. The good news is they are great for dogs of all sizes.
Guillotines – For Medium to Small Dogs
Guillotine clippers are better for medium and small dogs because. The nails on large dogs might be too strong for most guillotine style clippers.
The rest of this guide will cover how to use scissor and guillotine style clippers. If you have a large dog, go with scissors. If you have a small to medium style dog, guillotines are great.
Step 2: Calm Your Nerves
This might sound silly, but it’s an important step! You’re not going to do a good job clipping your four-legged friend’s nails if you’re shaking with nerves. Try to remember that this is a necessary part of your dog’s health.
Many health and safety risks come with a dog having nails that are too long. Long nails can cause pain and discomfort whenever your dog walks on anything hard, such as wooden floors or sidewalks. This can lead to toes being pushed into awkward angles or even cause arthritis.
In addition, having long nails also forces your dog to lean forward as if they were on an incline. If their nails aren’t getting cut, they’ll be standing at that angle at all times. That type of posture isn’t natural for a dog to have 24/7 and will cause all sorts of muscle and joint problems over time.
So if you’re putting off cutting your dogs nails because you’re too nervous, just think of all the negative health risks that come along with letting the nails continue to grow. Each day you wait your dog is in more and more pain. Take a few deep breaths and calm your nerves. Even if you mess up, we have a solution (more on that at the end)
Step 3 – Calm your Dogs Nerves
A bad clipping session or two might have made your dog a bit wary of nail clipping because messing up a nail cutting session can be very painful for a dog, it’s essential to make sure they’re calm before you start.
If your dog already has a fear of getting their nails cut, don’t worry! This is a problem that can easily be solved in a few steps.
Get Your Dog Familiar With The Clippers
The first step to calming your dog is to make the clippers appear less scary. Pull out the clippers in front of your dog, and give them treats and smile while you’re handling them – do this before you even try to give your dog’s nails a trim. By being generous with the treats and making the clippers less intimidating, your dog won’t fear them as much; they’ll start to associate the clippers with a reward.
Accompany this trick with gentle paw and toe handling any time you two are sitting next to each other, almost like you’re giving them a massage. This means you’ll be holding the clippers in one hand while touching/massaging their paws with your other hand.
Bring Clippers Close To Their Paws – Try To Touch Their Nails
Massage and handle their paws with one hand while gently opening and closing the clippers with the other. Bring the clippers closer to them slowly but surely, putting them down occasionally. The main goal is to see if your dog will let you touch the clippers to their nails. See how your dog reacts, and don’t forget those treats! If your dog lets you touch the clippers to their nails, congrats! They’ve overcome their fear of nail clipping.
If you were able to successfully touch your dogs nails without them freaking out, you’re ready to start cutting.
This whole process of getting your dog familiar with the clippers can take a couple days. The key is to make sure you give your dog plenty of treats so they begin associating clippers as something that brings a reward, not something that causes pain.
For Those With Young Pups…
If you have a young pup, you will want to get them familiar with clippers as soon as possible, that way when it’s time to clip their nails they won’t have any fear. If you want until nail clipping time, there’s a good chance they’ll freak out. An excellent way to prevent nail clipping fears to get them used to having their paws touched by you while holding the clippers (just like we discussed above). Do this a couple times per week and they’ll have no issues with clippers when they’re older.
Step 4 – Cutting The Nails
Okay, the moment of truth. You’ve got the right set of clippers, you’re in the proper mindset, and your dog isn’t scared of the clippers. It’s go time!
Find A Comfy Place
First, find a comfy place to cut your dog’s nails. A couch or loveseat should be big and comfortable enough for you and your dog, but a bed or a carpeted floor are good alternatives. A trashcan right below your dog’s paw will catch the falling nails.
Clean The Paws and Nails
Next, before you start cutting, the ASPCA suggests that you clean your dog’s foot before cutting. This might seem obvious, but if you’re excited that you finally got your dog calm and ready to be manicured, you could be tempted to dive right in. Use a dry towel to clean the paws and a handful of Q-Tips to clean under the nails. If you don’t clean the paws and nails before cutting, you’re putting your dog at risk of infection.
After you’ve cleaned the nails, you’re ready to start cutting. You should cut at a diagonal angle, trying to follow the natural curve of your dog’s nail. Cut tiny pieces of the nail, and check the nail after every cut. As soon as you see a circle showing up on the nail, stop. That circle means you’re getting close to a very sensitive nerve in a dog’s toe called “the quick.”
Rinse and repeat with each nail, taking care to stop as soon as you get close to the quick. Don’t worry about not cutting enough; as long as your dog’s nails aren’t clacking when they’re walking on hard surfaces, they’re fine.
Clean Up The Mess
Cleaning up the nails is easy. Any nails that didn’t fall into the trash can easily be picked up with a hand-held vacuum. A broom and dustpan would be a better choice if you were trimming in a room with hardwood floors.
Once you’re done, reward your dog with a treat or two and let them run free! And treat yourself to a sweet for a job well done. You’ve earned it!
What If There’s Bleeding?
It’s heartbreaking to see our dogs in pain. It’s even more heartbreaking when you know you were the one that caused the pain. Unfortunately we all mess up from time to time when cutting dog nails. If we cut a nail too short, the nail will begin to bleed. This can be a scary sight at first, but you can easily stop the bleeding with styptic powder. In fact, it’s a good idea to have septic powder on hand before you even begin cutting. Hopefully you won’t make a mistake but you never know!
The good news is applying the powder is a very simple process. Just place a small amount of powder in the palm of your hand. Take the nail that is bleeding and press it gently into the powder in your hand. Hold it there for at least 1 minute. Lift the nail and see if there’s still bleeding. If there is then repeat this process with more powder. If the bleeding has stopped, you can move on and continue cutting the other nails. At this point your dog might be hesitant to let you continue. If that’s the case, treats are your best friend!
Cutting dogs nails is a simple process. The first time is always the scariest, so just calm your nerves and give it a shot. Remember to have styptic powder ready just in case. Remember that long nails cause dogs more pain than we realize. The sooner you can cut them the better.
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