There’s more to trimming dog nails than you’d think. Dog owners need to understand that dog nails are different from ours and need to be trimmed in a proper manner. And unlike us, you cannot choose between mani or pedi – they have a package of all four paws that you need to attend to.

dog paws

Photo by Engin Akyurt

You have to trim dog nails unless your dog runs around on hard surfaces (which keeps the nails short as they are being ‘wasted’ while walking). So, if trimming is in the cards for you, you will have to do it often – from once a week to twice a month, depending on how fast they grow out.

To begin, a dog’s nail is made up of the nail itself and the quick, the pink (when it’s visible) part that provides the blood supply to the nail, call it a vein or a nerve. Avoid cutting into the quick because it bleeds quite a bit and it’s quite sensitive.

How often should you clip dog nails

The more often you trim them the easier it becomes. Then again, if your dog gets sufficient exercise, walking will do most (if not all ) of the work for you. If you hear them clicking on a hard surface, it’s time for a trim. Basically, when your dog is on its four paws, the nails shouldn’t be touching the ground.

Dog nail clipping, if necessary at all, should preferably be carried out once a week, but at least twice a month depending on your dog’s needs and how often the dog is active outside. It’s better to take off small amounts more often than to remove large portions once you finally decide to get to it.

What tools do you need

Scissors or the guillotine type clippers are among the essential items you need to have in your household.

Professional dog nail clippers scissors type

Dog clippers – scissors style
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The choice between the two is all up to you. Simply choose what you feel more confident using.

Professional dog nail clippers guillotine type

Dog nail clippers – guillotine style
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How to trim dog nails

  • Hold the paw firm, steady but as gentle as you can – the last thing you want is to traumatize your dog.
  • Cut a small bit first, then repeat if necessary so you don’t risk clipping it too much and causing it to bleed
  • If the nail feels too soft, up to the point of being spongy, STOP – this is the nerve you’re getting at, so-called the ‘quick’.
  • If your dog is having a hard time being steady, just do one paw at the time. Rest in between, make sure to give your dog a treat after each clipping and praise with ‘good dog’. Also, don’t forget that getting your dog used to this ritual at an early stage is essential to keep the resistance as minimal as possible.
proper nail grooming

Photo by AnimalWised

White dog nails

When it comes to dog nails, they can be white (easy) or black (the tricky ones!). For white ones, basically, you can cut all the way to the pink part. Just to be safe, leave a little bit of space as that pink thing is a nerve filled with blood vessels that will bleed easily if you overdo it.

Black dog nails

Black dog nails are perfectly normal, they are just tricky to trim as you cannot see where the “vein” ends. Your vet can help you decide how much is safe to trim. It’s very easy to accidentally damage the ‘quick’ or soft part of the nail so it’s good to have an expert for guidance. Trimming bit by bit is definitely the strategy – just do it in slivers! You also have a lot of helpful videos on YouTube.

Zack Dowdy

Photo by Zack Dowdy

Don’t forget dew nails

These are like ‘thumbs’ and are harder to see. When ingrown, they cause the same problem as ingrown nails do to us so you definitely want to avoid that. Dew nails are found only on front paws. So: you have 5 nails on each of the front paws, and 4 on the back ones, which makes it 18 total to trim.

dog dew claw

Dog dew claw

What if they bleed

Rule number one: don’t panic! This can happen to all of us. And the quick bleeds a great deal so it will look scary, but your dog won’t bleed to death. But you don’t want your dog to remember this traumatic experience so stay calm. Just calmly apply silver nitrate or styptic powder and press it with a cotton wool ball to stop the bleeding. You can even use fragrance-free soap by dipping the nail as much as you can and wait a few minutes for the blood to clot. Also, press the paw pad below the nail to stop the bleeding and hold it still for several minutes. Once the bleeding has stopped, try to make your dog rest for 30 minutes or so, otherwise, it can bleed again.

A stress-free way to trim dog nails

Use a regular nail file to file the soft toenails of puppies or older dogs. Unlike other clipping tools, it is much less likely to cause pain or bleeding. It will take more time, but it’s stress-free for both of you :) So if you’re hesitant to use a nail clipper, a simple nail file will be your best friend.

Don’t forget to take care of your dog’s paws

Do you like your cosmetician to use a scrub and moisturizer during your mani-pedi visit for your skin to be all silky and smooth? Well, dogs like it too! During summer, hot asphalt can damage your dog’s paws. Not only can it dry them out but also cause them to break and even cause a burn. And during winter, salt can also irritate them. So it’s always good to have a paw balm nearby. You can use it in a preventive manner every day and if your dog’s paws are irritated, apply it 3x a day until the skin is healed.

Dog Paw and Nose Balm

Dog Paw and Nose Balm
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Dog SPA – Professional Grooming Salons!

Trimming your dog’s nails is not an easy task so don’t feel bad if you’re not up to the task. This is what groomers are here for, and they know the secret to your dog’s good looks :). In fact, before going at it alone, ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to trim your pup’s toenails to the right length so at least you have an idea before you’re up to the challenge.

Let’s face it, this will never be your dog’s favorite activity, but there’a lot you can do so it’s least disliked by your dog. And by no means does it have to be a traumatic experience, that you can definitely avoid! Happy trimming :)