Dog owner trimming his dog's nails with Wahl clippers

Nail Trimming & Care

Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick, resulting in dog nail bleeding. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, pet nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog. 

Dogs who do not spend plenty of time running around outdoors or wearing their nails down on hard surfaces will need to have their nails trimmed at least once a month. Smaller dogs who don’t get as much outside activity may need more often clipping.  Long nails can become ingrown or snag as your dog walks.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and praise as you being to clip his nails. Offer him treats if he tolerates the process or if he demonstrates discomfort to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Make sure to never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidentally quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

Trimming too close to the quick is similar to ripping off a human hangnail. It’s quite painful for the dog, and it’s an experience you should try to avoid by learning proper nail clipping techniques, but it won’t do any permanent damage to your dog’s paws.  The nail will bleed profusely at first. You can stop the bleeding with styptic powder to coagulate the blood and stop the bleeding.

If your dog growls, that might be his way of letting you know he’s becoming uncomfortable. Stop and check to see if you’re coming close to the base of the nail. You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

Make sure to listen to your dog’s signals and help him stay comfortable and happy. Reward his patience with treats and praise to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience. Practicing nail clipping when your dog is a puppy will help prevent his nails from growing dangerously long and help him become accustomed to having his paws touched without apprehension. Wahl has all of the tools you’ll need to make it successful and stress-free.

Nail trimming step by step

  • 1

    Wait until your dog is relaxed and calm. A walk before the session will help.

  • 2

    Spread dog’s feet to inspect for dirt and debris

  • 3

    Hold your dog in place by putting your arms and upper body over him while you clip nails. While clipping front nails, hold your forearm over the dog’s neck to prevent him from lifting his head. If dog remains anxious or jumpy, try laying him on his side and gently holding him down.

  • 4

    Using sharp clippers, cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curl

  • 5

    Take care to avoid the quick, which is the vein that runs into the nail. If you accidentally cut into the quick, causing bleeding, apply some styptic powder to stop bleeding.

  • 6

    After nails have been cut, use an emery board or file to smooth out edges

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