How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails

A dog's nails being clipped

Just as you clip your own nails on a regular basis, your dog's nails need to be trimmed as well. Long nails can create health problems and just be uncomfortable for your dog. In the wild, your dog's nails would naturally wear down and stay short, but this doesn't happen in comfortable domestic life. It's normal to be nervous when you first learn how to cut dogs' nails, but with these best practices, you can make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Tips on How to Cut Dog Nails

If your dog isn't used to having his nails cut or you're starting with a young puppy, it can be a long process, so patience is key. Start slowly and get your dog used to you touching and holding his paws. It may also help to let him sniff and investigate the nail clippers so that he's familiar with them before you get started.

An extra pair of hands can be extremely valuable when you're cutting your dog's nails, as you may need someone to hold your dog steady while you concentrate on just one leg at a time. It's easy to cut a little too far down, so be prepared for some bleeding by keeping styptic powder handy. If your dog really doesn't like their paws touched or you're just too nervous, your vet or a groomer may be a good option.

Trimming the Nail

When you're ready to start trimming, gently grab your dog's paw and squeeze slightly to help the nail protrude out more. If your dog's nails are clear, look for the pink line at the base where the nail attaches to the paw — also known as the "quick." This is where the vein that supplies blood to the nail bed is located, so it's important to cut above this to avoid bleeding.

Hold your dog's paw firmly and cut the top of the nail. It's always better to start slowly, cutting just a little bit at a time, to ensure you don't cut too far down. If your dog stays still and cooperates, make sure to offer plenty of praise. For dogs that really don't enjoy the nail clipping process, it might be best to do just one nail a day to break it up into more manageable sessions.

Commonly Asked Questions

How long should dog nails be?

Your dog's nails should not touch the ground when walking. This means that you shouldn't hear any clicking or clacking noises as your dog walks on hard flooring. Taking regular walks on concrete and other hard surfaces can help wear down your dog's nails and keep them shorter between cuts.

How do you cut black dog nails?

Black dog nails can be harder to cut because you can't see where the quick begins. To clip these nails, go very slowly, taking off just a bit at a time. If your dog is very cooperative or you have a helper, you may be able to cut looking up at the underneath of the nail, which may make it easier to see the quick. If you still have difficulty, it's probably best to leave it to your vet.

How do you stop a dog's nail from bleeding?

If you accidentally cut the quick or your dog jerks his paw while you're cutting, it could cause a bleed. Immediately put pressure on the nail, and apply the styptic powder to the cut. The bleeding should stop within a few minutes.

Keeping your dog's nails trimmed to a short length can help them stay healthy and avoid problems such as torn toenails. For more tips on grooming your dog or other pet care considerations, check out Purina Canada's content hub.

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