Trimming your dog’s nails isn’t so straightforward, particularly at the beginning, but at times, it is necessary. Here you have you a step by step explanation of how to do it properly, without hurting him. First of all, it’s important to understand that a part of your dog’s nails is living tissue, and you need to avoid cutting ‘the quick’ so that you don’t hurt him, or cause bleeding. This is easy to see if your dog’s nails are white, as it’s a pinkish colour, but if his nails are darker, then it can be more difficult to make out. If you’re not sure, then it’s best to get his nails trimmed by the vet.
When you should trim your dog's nails?
It’s not always necessary to trim your dog’s nails, as he may run around on surfaces that help to keep them short. But if he’s a small breed, doesn’t get much exercise or is an older dog, then it’s very likely that this won’t be the case, and that you will need to trim them yourself.
Your dog’s nails shouldn’t protrude over the pads on his paws, or touch the ground when he’s standing (if they clack as he walks, this means that they’re too long). The dewclaw never touches the ground, so you’ll need to keep an eye on its growth.
This is a very important part of caring for your dog, as if his nails are too long this can cause injuries, such as the nail curling inwards (rather like an ingrowing toenail in humans) or breaking, and could even lead to articulation problems in the toes.
When should you start to trim your dog's nails?
It’s best to get him used to it from when he’s a puppy, making him see it as something positive, by rewarding him and making a fuss of him at the same time. In this way you’ll make things easier for both of you in the future.
If your dog is already an adult, and you need to trim his nails for the first time, it can be more difficult, but not impossible. If he won’t let you, our recommendation is to bring the nail clipper up close to his pads without yet making any attempt to trim his nails, and then reward him, to build up a positive association. Afterwards, take things slowly and start off by cutting just one or two of his nails each day, giving him a reward every time.
Things to take into account when cutting your dog's nails
Our advice is to use nail clippers specifically designed for dogs, because these are adapted to the shape of a dog’s nails, and you can choose from different sizes and types.
- Scissor nail clippers. These are shaped rather like pliers, and are the most common type. They’re very easy to use: you simply position the nail between the two blades to trim it.
- Guillotine nail clippers. These have a hole into which you insert the nail, and then lower the blade to trim it.
Whichever of the two types you choose, these tips will help you with the task of cutting your dog’s nails:
- It’s always best to do it when he’s calm and relaxed, or after a walk when he might be tired and so less likely to fight against you.
- Your dog can be standing up, or sitting or lying down, whatever is most comfortable for both of you. You might need to hold him against your body, or wrap your arm around his neck. Then you need to take hold of the paw you want to begin with.
- Start trimming little by little until you get the hang of it, straight across and avoiding the pink part (this is very important), or at an angle of 45º to the edge of the nail.
- If his nails are black, and you don’t have any experience of trimming dogs’ nails, we recommend you leave it in the hands of the vet to be on the safe side. If you do decide to do it yourself, start trimming little by little until you see a black mark in the centre – this is the first sign that you’re close to the part of the nail that mustn’t be cut, and you need to stop here.
- If you cut too much and the nail bleeds, you can ether use astringent nail powder or a bit of hydrogen peroxide on a piece of gauze, pressing gently for a couple of minutes.
- Reward him when you’re done. That way it’ll be easier next time.
As you can see, the theory behind nail trimming is pretty straightforward, but actually doing it can have its complications. If your dog won’t let you, or is very nervous, don’t hesitate to take him to the vet, they’ll be able to trim his nails without hurting him.