Giving your dog a pawdicure? Here are some pointers to make it a breeze

Is it time for your dog’s pawdicure but you both seem to be dreading it? As someone who has owned dogs for pretty much her…

Is it time for your dog’s pawdicure but you both seem to be dreading it? As someone who has owned dogs for pretty much her entire life and loved them so much that I became a veterinarian, believe me, I know your pain.

Let’s talk about how to trim dogs nails and make the entire process go a little more smoothly

Nail trims are an essential part of your dog’s health care. Just like regular bathing, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing your dog should have his or her nails trimmed regularly. Most dogs require nail trims about once every 4-6 weeks which varies with the rate of individual growth.

Dogs use their nails for everything from digging (which is something you may not want them to do), grabbing items, holding things as they chew, and gaining traction. If their nails are too long it may cause issues in gait and inflict pain, especially if there is an ingrown nail.

Most owners take their dogs to the groomer to have their nails trimmed, which is the easiest route for pet parents. However, the fear that many times comes with not being with their pet parent while getting their nails trimmed causes anxiety in some dogs, and owners may have to do them at some.

How to trim your dog’s nails: The basics

Trimming your dog’s nails can be an easy or difficult job. The best thing to do is to have someone to help you while clipping your dog’s nails as you may need a restrainer and a clipper.

If your dog is chill enough that you can do it by yourself then holding them in your lap or getting on the floor with them may be your best options. Grab each paw and trim back the nails a little at a time until you get to the pink part of the nail or the quick. The quick is the blood supply to the nail and if you trim past that your dog will bleed. If your dog has black nails and you can’t see the quicks here are some pointers. After you have finished trimming you can file or Dremel the nails down to make them a bit more even if your dog will allow you to, here are some tips when filing or dremeling your dog’s nails.

But owners have many questions like how do you deal with a dog that hates nail trims? How do you know how far back to trim the nails? How often should you trim your dog’s nails? Let’s get some answers

What do I need for my dog’s nail trim?

  • An ice cube
  • A cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Styptic Powder or pencil (if you don’t have this, here are some alternatives)
  • Nail trimmers (if you have a puppy many times their nails are small enough to use human nail clippers)
  • Dremmel or Nail file

How often should I trim my dog’s nails

This all depends on how fast your dog’s nails grow. Most pet owners will have their dog’s nails trimmed every four to six weeks. If you want to be able to trim your dog’s nails shorter, which means you want the quicks to recede so you can clip them back further, you should trim a small amount of their nails every 2 weeks.

How far back should you clip the nail?

Optimally, you should trim a little beyond the quick or blood supply in the nail, if your dog has clear or white nails it is usually easy to see as it is the pink line in the middle of the nail. If your dog has black nails this may be a little more difficult, here are some pointers for trimming a dog’s nails if they are black.

How do you deal with a dog that hates nail trims?

Unfortunately, if you haven’t started trimming your dog’s nails when they were puppies or if you hit a quick while doing it and your dog is now not having it you may find yourself in a situation where your dog hates for you to even touch their paws or runs at the sight of nail clippers. Here are some pointers for making your nail trims go a little smoother

Here are 8 tips that will help make the process of clipping your dogs nails go a little smoother

1. Start your dog young

If you start your dog young when they are a puppy they may think of nail trims as just a normal event and nothing too traumatic, as long as you don’t cause them anxiety by hitting a quick. Start as young as possible so that your dog will be used to you clipping their nails.

2. Bribe them

You can always use long-lasting treats like frozen peanut butter, to distract your pup. This can be a special treat that s/he only gets during nail trims.

3. Play with their paws

Even when you aren’t trimming your dog’s nails make sure to hold and play with their paws a lot this way when you decide to trim it may not invoke anxiety. Start doing this as young as possible also, play with their paws as much as possible so that in the event you do have to take them to a groomer to have their nails done there won’t be an issue with trimming their nails

4. Use a Dremel or nail file

Some owners have more success with a nail grinder or nail file (if you have a small dog you can use one for humans). However, some dogs don’t like the sound of a nail grinder and this may cause as much anxiety as clipping the nails, and filing the nails take a lot longer than simply clipping the nails.

5. Have your dog in a comfortable spot

If your dog is comfortable on your lap you can start with him or her there and transfer to the floor if needed.

The floor is the best place to have your dog and not on a table, you will probably have to get on the floor with them unless you have a large dog like a Great Dane that you can comfortably clip their nails while sitting on a chair or couch

6. Have someone there to help you

If you arent able to safely and securely restrain your dog alone or if your dog won’t sit still you should always have someone available to help you gently restrain your pup

7. Know when to enlist a professional

If your dog is showing signs of severe anxiety such as drooling or panting excessively or being aggressive you should take a break or get them into a groomer or vet clinic to continue the nail trim

8. Refrain from clipping their quicks

I know, duh Captain Obvious right, but this is the primary reason dogs hate nail trims. So ensuring sure you can either see where the quick is or go slowly with your nail trims is important before starting.

Have you ever ripped a nail out of the nail bed or even a portion of it? It can be extremely painful, this is akin to what it’s like when you ‘quick’ a dog and clip their nails past the blood supply. This is a lot easier not to do if your dog’s nails are white or clear since you can readily see the quick or blood supply, which is pink. You can easily clip up to the quick and be done however if your dog has black nails that is another story. So, how do you clip a dog’s nails if they are black? Let’s talk about it.


Clipping black nails on a dog

clipping dog nails

The main difference with clipping a dog with black nails is that you can’t see the quick which makes it a little more difficult to determine where to stop clipping. I always say it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep the nails a little longer than you think you may need.

Here are some pointers when clipping dogs’ nails that are black

Clip a little bit at a time

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time of course and trimming a dog’s nails are no different. Trim a small amount of the nail back little by little until you feel that you have clipped enough back to where they won’t bother your dog

Trim more often

The more you trim the nail back the more the quicks will recede so if you trim a small amount off more often the quicks won’t be as long

Clip off the hooks

If your dog has a nail that tapers into a hook (many times puppies do) you can safely clip away that ‘hook or the part that tapers without worrying about ‘quicking’ your dog

Know when you are about to hit the quick

If you look straight on at the nail as you clip it back you may notice that there is a tiny black dot in the middle of the nail, this lets you know that you should stop trimming as you are about the reach the quick

Look underneath the nail

Sometimes you can see where the nail needs to be trimmed by looking underneath the nail. In some nails, it is concave up to a point and this is where you should trim

Pay attention to the quick

If you have already quicked your dog this can give you a marker as to where the other quicks may be on your dog’s nails. Let’s talk a little about what you should do if you do quick your dog.


What happens if I do clip my dog’s nail too far?

woman holding a dog

When you clip your dogs nails back so far that it bleeds (and sometimes you don’t have to cut off a lot for this to happen) there are some steps you should take

1. The best thing to get a nail to stop bleeding is styptic powder (also comes as a pencil). This should be your initial go-to. Follow the directions on the package you purchase, but most of the time you will either dip your dog’s affected nail in the powder or take some with your fingers and place it over the nail and hold it for a minute or two. If you are using a styptic pencil you will hold the pencil on the nail until it stops bleeding. Styptic powder does burn a little so be prepared for your dog to jump.

2. If you don’t have styptic powder the next best thing you can use is cornstarch. If you have any cornstarch available you can use this in lieu of styptic powder. Some owners mix the cornstarch with baking powder

3. If the bleeding isn’t severe you can also use a bar of scent-free soap and rub that over the affected nail to form a barrier

4. Wrap the paw in ice with your cloth or paper towel as ice helps decrease the blood flow

5. If your dog’s nail is still bleeding 30-40 minutes later they may have a clotting issue that needs vet attention

6. Try to keep your dog off of the leg for at least 30 minutes


How to keep your dog’s nails short without clipping them?

If you don’t want to clip your dog’s nails yourself but still want them to remain short in between clippings try filing them down or walking them on concrete to help grind their nails down in between professional visits


How to trim ingrown nails and nails that are overgrown

Many owners aren’t even aware that their dog’s nails have grown so long that they curled back into their paw pads, but it is seen often in vet clinics and groomers.

Ingrown nails occur because they aren’t trimmed often enough and many times it is the dew claw which is forgotten during nail trims at home.

When removing the nail, you want to apply the same techniques as when clipping nails regularly. The most important aspect of nail trimming is to ensure you don’t hit the quick and the same applies here.

If the nail has curled into the paw pad and made a sore, you should make sure to cover the paw when your dog goes outside to prevent contamination until the area has healed. If they are licking you should use an e-collar to discourage them from biting and chewing at the paw and your vet will give antibiotics (most likely a topical antibiotic) to apply to the wound until healed. If you notice signs of infection such as pus, swelling, or redness you should see your vet ASAP.


Best nail grinder for dogs?

According to the Wirecutter, the best nail grinder for dogs is the Dremel Paw Control 7760-PGK because it is affordable, quiet, and wireless

I hope you got a lot of useful information about how to trim dogs nails. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.

Want to know what are your dog’s nails telling you about their health? Read the next article to discover what your dog’s nails may be telling you about their health

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