dog nails being groomed with nail grinder.

How to cut or trim your dog’s nails

Are you wondering how to go about cutting or trimming your dog’s nails? If the thought of it is not entirely thrilling, or even seems daunting, there are two things to bear in mind. 

The first: keeping your dogs nails / claws healthy is important, and therefore,it is an essential grooming activity. The second: it is unlikely that your dog (or you) is going to be overjoyed at having their nails snipped.

In other words, it’s something that’s got to be done, even if it’s no fun. There are ways of making it stress-free though, so read on if you’re interested.

How often should I cut my dog’s nails

You may be wondering this question. The answer (like with so many others) is ‘it depends’ – on the breed. Therefore you can first try and play it by ear.   According to the Kennel Club, as soon as you hear clicking when moving around on ground, it’s time to get the trimmers! 

Having said that, you may not always be able to hear the clicking, so it is important to do regular checks.  If the nails exceed their paw pads, they need cutting. Once or twice a month is is a general rule for a good routine.

What to use to trim those claws

You’ll need to get the tools that are right for your dog. For small to medium-sized ones standard scissor-sized clippers will do fine. Guillotine style ones are better for larger dogs.

Close up of nail trimming using standard-sized clippers

Alternatively you could use a nail grinder is alternative (see header image), which allows more precision in getting nails to the right length.

You should also have some styptic powder ready, in case of bleeding (read on).

Avoid cutting to the living tissue

Living tissue exists inside dogs’ nails, which should never be cut, as it will bring pain.  This is known as the quick and is essentially a vein.

If you put the nail(s) up to the light you might be able to see that a part of it is a pinkish colour, which doesn’t go down to the tip.  Further down is a more yellowy colour.  Make sure that what you cut is the latter and not the pink (the living tissue).

Cutting Dogs Claws. Clipping a dogs long nails

However, some dogs have darker nails, which make seeing the pink / quick area more difficult. This is when it is better to go very carefully when trimming, and when using a nail grinder might be a better option.

Go particularly carefully with dark nails, as you might not be able to tell where the living tissue area begins

Link a positive association to the trimming tool(s)

Training your dog to feel more positive about the implement that you’ll use, can make these sessions easier.  In order to do this, you need to familiarise them by allowing them to smell, and associate with something nice. Give a treat, and repeat this over a period of time.  You’ll also need to make sure your dog is Ok with being touched on the legs, particularly in the feet region.

Create this positive stimulus a few days before you plan on your first nail-trimming session, and preferably while your dog is a puppy.

If your dog is particularly opposed to nail trimming…

…it is likely that a previous bad experience has made them like this. Therefore, it is also important to get your dog as relaxed as possible before hand. As mentioned, it can be a lot harder to see the living tissue part when dogs have darker or black nails. In worst cases a dog can become aggressive, and it might be necessary to get someone else to hold steady, or to use a muzzle.

What are the consequences of not cutting my dog’s nails?

It is important to keep a dog’s nails trimmed because too-long nails can result in them getting caught on household furniture, carpets or rugs. This could result in injury, and can be more drastic if caught on something when outside.

As with humans, long nails can also become ingrowing, or twist so they get meshed with the paws.

Remember the declaws

Many dogs have an additional claw called a declaw on the inside of their leg, down near the paw. If yours has them, then these also need to be trimmed. They touch the ground more often than the four others.

Finally, once the ordeal is over, make sure you have something lovely to treat your dog to.

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