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Easy Ways to Trim and Clip your Dog’s Nails

close-up of a dog getting their nails trimmed

Most dog owners have to eventually face the music by either trim their dog's nails themselves or pay a groomer to do it for them. It's an unpleasant thing to do, but doesn't have to be a complete nightmare every time. If your dog gets a lot of miles on hard surfaces, you may not need to groom their nails. Otherwise, you're definitely going to need to at some point.

You might be asking yourself, why do we trim our dog's nails? When a dog's nail strikes a surface followed by the dog puts pressure on it, it can cause undue strain or pressure on the toe. This can lead to other complications such as arthritis in the toes.

Lets trim our dog's nails ourselves!

Firstly, I suppose we need to decide if you're going to be tackling the problem yourself or if you're going to get a professional groomer to do it. We will be talking about doing it ourselves, so I'll assume that's the option you've picked. I'll touch briefly on the other option at the very end of this article.

What sort of prep work should I do prior to attempting to groom my dog's nails?

Firstly, you should get your dog accustomed to you handling their paws, their ears, and around their eyes and snout. This process should start when they're puppies but can be started at any time when they are comfortable with you. It doesn't have to be rough, just sometimes clean out the gunk out of their eyes, check their ears for ticks, gently move their toes around playing with them and handling them. Most dogs do not like for you to handle their ears, eyes, mouth, or toes, so it takes some time to warm them up to doing this.

Secondly, you should know what the quick is in a dog's nail. If your dog has clear nails, it may be possible for you to see the quick underneath the nails (the pink part). Otherwise know that it usually stops not too far from the very end of the nail. Quicking, or cutting into the meat of the nail, is quite painful, tends to bleed a lot, and makes the experience traumatic for your dog.

What tools should I have in order to cut my dog's nails?

The most obvious thing that you'll need is something to actually do the cuttingh. There's a lot of tools out there for this purpose, so you may need to explore a little and see what you and your dog are comfortable with. For instance, you may opt for a scissor design such as Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer By Boshel which also have a guard to help prevent over cutting. Or, you may opt for a Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Pet Nail Grooming Tool in order to grind rather than cut. You should also have some Kwik Stop Styptic Powder with Benzocaine 42 GM on hand in order to stop any bleeding in case you do cut too far. A wet rag can be used to wipe up any blood or powder, and q-tips are excellent for applying the powder.

How should I position myself and my dog for the grooming?

I would make sure that you're in a room where the floor can be easily cleaned in case of accidents, such as the kitchen — getting blood out of carpet is a pain in the butt. There's a lot of ways that you can position yourself and your dog in order to do this in the safest manner possible. The biggest thing is finding a position where you can get at their feet while not causing them extra distress.

For my dogs, I have to sit on the floor and put my dog into my lap with one arm wrapped around their body. This way I can keep them still while I'm trimming so that they don't get hurt and they feel comforted. I've done it enough with my dogs to the point that they are fairly well used to or at least monthly nail trims. If your dog will sit nicely and not try to fight you too much, you can also position them sitting in front of you so that their paw is in your lap. Either way, the objective is to make your dog comfortable and in a position where you can do this safely.

How much should I cut or grind off?

Though we discussed quicking briefly, I wanted to come back to this. In a dog's nail, there is what is essentially a nerve and blood vessel ending which is what provides blood flow to the nail nerve responses. This is the quick and it is similar to the meat under your own fingernails.

Remember the smaller the dog, the less "free" nail you have to work with. You should only take a little bit off at the time while making sure to gradually move towards the toe. For most dogs, it's no more than about an ⅛ of an inch that you need to take off. Some dogs have a little bit more which can be tempting to take extra off so you don't have to do it as often, you can cause unwarranted pain to your pet. The goal here isn't to remove the nail, it is to prevent it from hitting the ground when they walk. If it feels spongy when you go to cut, STOP IMMEDIATELY. You've cut into the quick!

Make sure to get all the toes and the dew claw if they have one. You can take breaks if you need to with activity in between.

I can't cut my dog's nail myself, what about a groomer?

Dogs are kinda like kids in that a lot of the time they're much better behaved for strangers than ourselves. If you've decided that you can't bring yourself to trim your dog's nails, a professional groomer should have the tools and experience to do it safely. Your vet may also do this as a service for their customers either for free or a small fee as well.

Regardless of whether you or someone else does it, clipping should be done safely to prevent harm to your dog. If you feel you can't do so safely, do your pet a favor and take them to a groomer.