For many, one of the most nerve-racking parts of dog ownership is chipping nails.

We can certainly take our pets to the groomer and have a trained professional clean and groom our pets for us. But that costs money! By grooming and trimming your dog’s nails, you can save yourself some serious money while also bonding with your dog more closely.

Read below to learn more about how to properly trim your dog’s nails.

Why We Trim Our Dog’s Nails

The very first reason why it’s important to cut your dog’s nails is to prevent pain.

Have you ever worn shoes that were too tight? Have you had shoes push down on your toenails? After a full day of this, your toes become almost unbearably sore. The same happens to your dog.

After walking around all day with long nails, your dog’s feet are going to hurt. If the nail is long, it pushes up on your dog’s nail bed as they walk. This puts pressure on their toe joints and can cause pain, or at worst it can even cause your dog’s toes to twist.

Leaving your dog’s nails too long can even cause a dog’s feet to become arthritic. This would make any touch sore and painful, so cutting nails or even handling toes will become painful.

Keeping your dog’s nails overly long can also affect their posture as well. Dogs use their nails as they run for feedback. Dogs thousands of years ago would cover large distances, so their nails would naturally be ground down.

Our dogs today usually don’t have to work that hard, so their nails don’t naturally get ground down. But the important thing is that they get a lot of feedback through their paws and nails. If their nails are too long, a dog can feel like they are running uphill even if they are on flat ground. The feeling makes a dog balance their weight differently and can cause them to overuse their muscles and joints. Over time, this will lead to pain and soreness.

Now that we know why we should be trimming our dogs’ nails, let’s take a closer look at the nail itself.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Nail

Before we start cutting parts off your dog’s nails, let’s stop and think about the structure of your dog’s nails.

You can think of your dog’s nails very much like our own nails. People have the part of the nail that grows out, that’s the part that humans trim. We also have an under-nail section with connecting tissues.

While dogs don’t have the exact structure, the internal structure of their nail is very much the same.

A dog’s nail has a hard, outer structure just like ours, then they have a kind of tunnel that runs from the nail to their paw. This tunnel, referred to as a quick, has blood and nerves. You’ll want to avoid cutting that.

If your dog has light colored nails, you could even take a flashlight to the nail to see the quick. If your dog has dark nails, you won’t be able to see the quick, but there are markers to know how far to trim.

How to Cut a Dog’s Nails

Cutting a dog’s nails doesn’t have to be a whole ordeal. It can be done very quickly once you get the hang of it and build your own confidence.

Prepare your workspace. Get all your tools ready for the task at hand. You’ll want to have your trimmers, some treats and some cornstarch or a styptic pencil. If your dog grows longer fur between their toes, you should also get a pair of children’s scissors to prevent cutting your dog accidently.

If your dog does have long fur between their toes, start there. Clear their fur so you can clearly see what you’re doing. If you wear glasses for reading, consider wearing them now too.

Firmly but gently grasp your dog’s paw. You’ll want to take just small cuts off the tip of the nails at a 45-degree angle. Check the nail after each trim. If your dog has dark nails, it’s usually easy to see while in their nail with a small black dot in the center. Once you see white, you know that you are finished with that nail and you can move on to the next.

Even if you are unsure if you have cut far enough, it’s better to be cautious and move on. If you haven’t had your dog’s nails trimmed lately, the quick begins to grow farther than it should. Once you cut the nail though, the quick starts to die back. This means that the first time you cut their nails; you won’t be able to take much off. But if you come back in a few days or a week you will be able to cut the nails shorter than before.

If your dog has light nails, you want to make certain you are only trimming the white tips of their nails. If you go too far you will cut the pinkish part of their nails and will certainly cause some bleeding.

Tips and Tricks When Cutting Dog’s Nails

Here are some things to keep in mind when cutting your dog’s nails:

  • Be sure to handle your dog’s paws often. If your dog is used to you holding their paws, they will be less likely to get nervous when you start handling them for trimming.
  • Keep treats around for your dog. Make sure you reward them for doing a good job.
  • If your dog is having a hard time, come back to it later. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break so your nervous dog can have a moment to relax.
  • The best way to cut your dog’s nails is with a sharp trimmer! Many people may have bought a trimmer and put it away in a drawer after becoming too nervous to cut their dog’s nails. An old trimmer can become rusty or dull. So, make sure your trimmer is freshly sharpened or new.
  • Many people feel that the “guillotine” style trimmers are more prone to crushing a nail rather than slicing it. Therefore, many people suggest using scissor type nail trimmers.
  • A smaller trimmer will give you better control. Really, it’s better to take small cuts off your dog’s nails rather than big chunks.
  • After cutting your dog’s nails, feel free to smooth them out You can use a file, an emery board, or even a rotary tool specially made for dog’s nails to help prevent sharp edges.
  • If you do cut the quick and your dog is bleeding, use a small container of tightly packed cornstarch to staunch the blood. With shallow cuts, you shouldn’t have an issue though.

If you follow these instructions and tips, you’ll be a master trimmer in no time!


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