How to trim your dog’s nails

How do I trim my dog’s nails? This is a common question that many new puppy owners face and the main concern is that they will inadvertently hurt their dog or make the nail bleed when they clip the nail. Nail trimming is easy and will not hurt your dog when done correctly.


When do I need to trim my dog’s nails?

A great general rule to follow is that the nails need trimming when they touch the ground. How often they will need trimming will depend on how often your dog walks around on concreted or paved surfaces as these surfaces will wear the nail down as the dog walks around. If you live on a rural property with few concreted areas or if you have a pampered pooch that is usually on carpet, floorboards or tiles, then you will have to trim their nails more often. Either way, you still need to trim their dewclaws if they have them. Dewclaws are the claw or nail that sits up higher on the inside lower leg of your dog that often don’t touch the ground and hence need to be trimmed.

What do I need to trim my dog’s nails?

It’s best to buy a set of dog specific nail clippers to trim your dog’s nails as these have been specifically designed to hold and cut the nail cleanly and with an even pressure to make for a more comfortable experience for you and your dog. When puppies are very young and still feeding from their mother, breeders often use a set of human nail clippers to cut off the little hook on the end of the nail to stop them from scratching Mum while they are in the frenzy of getting to Mum for a drink. This is important to do, as scratches on her teats can increase the chances of mastitis for mum. Also, Mum will find it much more pleasant to feed her puppies as well as feed them for a longer period if she is not being scratched by her pups during every feeding session.

How far to trim the nail?

You only want to go as far as about 2mm from the quick of the nail. The quick is the area of the nail that contains the nerves and blood vessels. It is the pink part of the nail if your dog has white or clear nails and is easy to see. If your dog has black nails such as black Puggles, the quick is a little more difficult to locate but the best way to avoid cutting the quick is to cut a small piece off the end of the nail bit by bit until you see a circle at the cut end of the nail. Stop at this point as the quick will be located just past this point. Your vet will be able to point this out for you the first time you try it if you are nervous about doing this yourself.

                                 How to trim a dog's nails

What do I do if I cut the quick?

If you do cut the quick, your dog will probably let you know with a yelp and struggle to get out of you grip. Use a piece of clean tissue paper to apply some pressure on the cut end of the nail to stop the bleeding. You may need to hold it there for a couple of minutes, but if you need to hold it for over 10 minutes you should consult your veterinarian. You can also use some antiseptic cream once the bleeding has stopped if you are concerned that the nail will become infected. End the nail clipping for the day and treat your dog to something fun to distract them from their nails.

How do I trim my dog’s nails if they are scared to have their nails trimmed?

Many dogs do not like having their feet handled and/or may have also had a bad experience having their nails trimmed. For these dogs you need to slowly ease them into the idea that having their feet handled is a good thing so build up to it in a positive way. This can be done by slowly touching their feet while giving them treats and then slowly introducing the clippers, then trimming only one nail that day. You can repeat this until they are at least ok with nail trimming even if they do not like it altogether! Be sure to have a bit of a play session after this as a reward.

I can’t get my puppy to stay still for me to cut his nails

If your puppy is too energetic to stay still long enough to have their nails trimmed there are 2 steps you need to take. Firstly make sure you have another adult there to help you. Secondly, just like toddlers who don’t stay still to let mum cut their nails, wait until they are too tired to put up much resistance! Give your puppy a long and tiring play session beforehand to make sure your puppy either sleeps through it or just lays there while you and a friend cut their nails.

If all else fails or you are still not comfortable trimming your dog’s nails a professional groomer or your vet will be happy to do it for you.

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