Trimming our dog’s nails is sort of like oil changes—it’s super important, and yet most of us don’t do it often enough. But it’s not that big of a deal, right? Well, no, it kind of is—regular nail trimmings are crucial to the health and well being of your canine. In fact, if you fail to keep your pup’s nails clipped, you can really cause them a lot of pain. Long toenails lead to joint pain which, if left untreated, can cause lifelong arthritic complications. So whether you do it or a professionals does it, you really need to trim your dog’s nails at least once a month (at least!). But don’t sweat it, with the following tips and some patience, you’ll be successfully clipping your dog’s nails in no time.
First thing’s first, figure out what you’re doing. The worst thing you can do is wing it: you could end up injuring your pup, traumatizing them to nail-trimming forever. The best way is to ask your vet for a quick tutorial, but at the very least watch an online instructional video or read a how-to guide (kind of like the one you’re reading right now 😉). Take your time, be patient, and you’ll master this nail-trimming thing in no time.
Start Early, Start Slow
The earlier you acclimate your canine to getting their nails trimmed, the less likely both you and your dog will dread it. Before clipping any nails, start slow and get your pup used to being around the clippers and having their feet and toes touched. Introduce the clippers daily for a few days leading up to their first clipping session. Use plenty of praise and treats in the process.
Get the Right Tools
OK, so you’ve got a plan, now it’s time to get the right tools for the job:
- Nail clippers. There are three main types: guillotine-style, scissors-style and pliers-style. Unless your dog is abnormally large, it’s best to go with a relatively small pair of clippers—they’re simply easier to control, and therefore safer for your dog. We suggest using one with a guide to help prevent accidentally cutting into the quick (the sensitive inner part of the nail which contains blood vessels and nerve endings).
- Treats. Rewarding your pup throughout the nail clipping experience will make your life significantly easier. The better the experience is for your dog, the better the experience will be for you. In general, reward after trimming each nail.
- Clotting powder. Styptic powder, or a natural alternative like baking soda or organic corn starch, will help clot your dog’s blood in the event you slip up and snag the quick. If you exercise caution, hopefully you’ll never encounter this issue, but just in case an accident occurs, it’s best to have some handy.
Cut at a 45 Degree Angle, a Little at a Time
There’s no rush, so cut just a little at a time. A few tricks to remember:
- Trim nails in a well lit room.
- Hold the paw firmly but gently, separate the toes using your fingers, but don’t squeeze them—that can be painful.
- Cut at a 45 degree angle.
- Avoid cutting the quick by stopping as soon as you see the white inner portion of the nail. If you’re clipping the nail and it begins to feel soft or spongy, stop! You’re cutting into the quick.
- Don’t forget to trim the dewclaws, too, if your pup has them. If you don’t clip them regularly, they can start to grow back towards your dog’s leg and pierce the skin—ouch!
Don’t Slack—Keep Up the Good Work
Trimming your own dog’s nails is no small feat—pat yourself on the back! Now that you’ve got the process down, get ready to do it all over again in 2-4 weeks. Regularly maintaining your dog’s nails is a matter of quality of life, so don’t let it slip.