How To Cut A Dog's Nails

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Clipping a dog’s nails doesn’t have to be difficult, although it will probably be tough at the start. Having been cutting my dog’s nails for years, they are much calmer when I do it. It’s almost at the point where there is not struggle! Today I want to talk about how to ease a dog into getting its nails clipped. To do this, I’ll go over some quick things you should know. After that, I’ll talk about the tools you should use, as well as alternatives. Finally, I’ll discuss the actual process.

Things You Should Know:
-The Quick. If you have never cut a dog’s nails before, you have probably heard this term before, but didn’t know what it was. In a dog’s nail, there is a nerve and a blood vessel where it attaches to the paw. If your dog has clear nails, take a look at it and you will see something that is red or dark red. That is the quick. Be careful when cutting your dog’s nails as it can cause a lot of pain if you cut through there!

Q: How do you cut a dog’s nails that are black?
A: So this is a bit tougher since you can’t see the quick exactly and so you don’t know always when to stop. My first recommendation: Cut in short segments where possible. You can’t undo a large cut that might be very painful. Although it will be a long process, I recommend looking at the dark nails from the front. As you trim them, you will begin to see a small circle in the middle of the nail. Stop there, as that is the quick.

Tools To Have On Hand
-Styptic Powder. You 100% need to have this on hand when trimming a dog’s nails. If you ever accidentally clip a dog’s quick, it will begin to bleed. There are only 2 real ways to stop it: Applying pressure to the tip of the nail or putting on styptic powder. Styptic powder is a substance that stops bleeding due to its chemical properties. It’s also much more safe than using pressure.

-Dog Trimmer. There are three different types:
-Scissor Clippers. These are basically smaller scissors with a special cutting type. Use these on larger dogs, but can also be used on smaller dogs whose nails are starting to curl
-Guillotine Clippers. These work by putting the nail in the hole, and then you squeeze the handle and a blade clips the nail. These are better for smaller dogs.
-Dremels/Grinders. These trimmers grind down the nail instead of clipping them. Personally, I recommend using a Dremel as it can also act as a nail file, making it so that the trimmed nails aren’t so sharp after being finished. It is also a lot less stressful for the dog.

-Treats. I know I always talk about Pavlov, but it’s because he was so spot-on! Giving your dog treats during and after the nail clipping process will make it much more likely to go through the whole ordeal.

-Patience. If you’re new at this, trust me, you will need it.

The Process
Get your dog in a comfortable place. I recommend by first acquainting your dog with the clippers or dremel by touching its nails with your device of choice, and then giving it a treat. Again, we are conditioning the dog to view the tool as a good experience.

Once your dog is in position, hold your dog’s paw so that it can move it, but only a little bit. Most dogs don’t react well to having a paw held forcefully. Be careful here.

Once you have the dog’s paw, begin by clipping one nail. You must be very patient and calm while trimming the dog’s nails, as your dogs can pick up on your emotions. If you’re getting angry and stressed, your dog is not going to react well! Always be sure to have styptic powder on hand just in case you hit the quick.

I recommend clipping your dog’s nails about once a month. You might need to clip them more often if you don’t go on frequent walks with it. 


Q. How do I clip a dog's nails that are overgrown or are too long?

A: In this case, you will need to use a scissors type since they are most likely curled. Then, finish with the dremel.


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