How To Trim Dog Nails At Home: How Often, Clipping, Grinding & More

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Dog's nails up close (caption: How To Trim Your Dog's Nails)

Are you forking out a small fortune paying a groomer to trim your dog’s nails? It’s a necessary part of having a healthy and happy dog, but many pet owners dread doing it themselves. Nail trimming doesn’t have to be a negative experience for you and your dog. We run you through the steps to positively approach the process and to trim dog nails safely.

Why It’s Important

Dog's long nails
Dog nails before trimming

When dog nails get too long, it can lead to discomfort and even more serious problems. Long nails can result in a reduction in traction and difficulty walking. Over time, too-long nails can even cause deformed feet and injure the tendons in your dog’s feet.

If your dog’s nails are touching the floor and you hear a constant clicking sound when he walks, it’s time for a trim. Other signs that they need trimming are if they appear brittle or are turning sideways. If you can’t fit a sheet of paper between the floor and your dog’s nails, they’re too long.

Types Of Trimmers

BOSHEL Nail Trimmer

You can use either scissor-type clippers or a guillotine type, whichever makes you more comfortable. We use and recommend the BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers, which are easy to handle and feature a safety guard to protect against over-cutting.

Another option is a grinder, like the Dremel Cordless Grinding Tool, which trims the nails by filing them down with a rotary emery board. Grinders are a bit more expensive and are electronic, so the spinning head and noise, while minimal, may make some dogs more anxious about the experience. However, many pet parents find a grinder to be less stressful than clippers.

Introducing Your Dog To Nail Trimming

Introducing a dog To a nail grinder

Nail trimming or grinding can make dogs anxious, so it’s important to ease your dog into it at first until he gets used to the routine. We recommend you follow these steps slowly over a few days, making sure your dog is ready for the next step. And be sure to give your pup plenty of treats and praise with each step.

  1. Handle your dog’s paws regularly so they get used to you touching them.
  2. Introduce the clippers a few times without trimming — have them sniff and inspect tools so they become accustomed to them.
  3. Touch the clippers to your dog’s foot without cutting or grinding.
  4. Try trimming off the very tip of one front paw nail.
  5. Once your dog is comfortable with doing one nail at a time, try doing two at a time, and so on.

How To Clip Dog Nails

Clipping dog's nails with Boshel clippers

Follow these steps if you’re using clippers. Be sure to have treats on hand to reward your dog for good behavior.

  1. Hold your dog’s paw with your thumb on the toe pad and your finger on the top of the toe above the nail, gently pushing the nail out.
  2. Clip only thin slices straight across.
  3. Don’t clip past the nail’s curve to avoid cutting the quick (the pink area that contains blood vessels). The quick is easier to see with light-colored nails. For dogs with dark nails, look for a chalky white ring. (Using a flashlight can help.)
  4. Clip down to just above the quick.
  5. Repeat this process with each nail. And, don’t forget to clip the dewclaws on the inner side of the paw.

What If My Dog’s Nail Bleeds?

If you accidentally cut the quick and your dog’s nail begins bleeding, don’t panic. Your dog will be okay. It’s a good idea to have some styptic powder handy in case this happens. While styptic powder is ideal, you can also apply corn starch or ice the wound until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding continues or you are still concerned, it’s best to seek medical attention from a vet, and they can advise on what to do.

The cause of bleeding might also be a result of a minor injury. Read below for a personal experience.

When my dog Sally was playing, she made a funny noise which made me think she caught her dewclaw on something. I called my vet, and she recommended that we come in that afternoon. Right before the appointment, I took her outside to go potty, and Sally ended up ripping the dewclaw off, and it started bleeding (I didn’t realize this until we got to the vet’s office around 10 minutes later).

Turns out, her broken dew claw quick was exposed, and there was blood dripping down her paw. They had to sedate her to fix it. The vet also gave her antibiotics to take to help stop any infections. She had a bandage on her leg for a day or two after and monitored her for chewing or licking her wound. – Kimberly A., Canine Journal

How To Grind Dog Nails

  1. Dog with nail grinderHold your dog’s paw with your thumb on the toe pad and your finger on the top of the toe above the nail, gently pushing the nail out.
  2. Hold the grinder closer to the rotating head for greater control.
  3. Make sure to keep fur away from the grinding tool so it doesn’t get caught.
  4. Start by grinding across the bottom of the nail and then the tip of the nail. Be sure to smooth any rough edges carefully.
  5. Grind only a small part of your dog’s nail at a time until just above the quick.
Dog nails after trimming
Dog nails after trimming

How Often Should I Trim?

It would be best to trim your dog’s nails at least once a month. But if your dog’s nails are very overgrown when you start, you may want to cut them every couple of weeks. The more you trim, the more the quick retreats back into the claw. So more frequent trimming can get your dog’s seriously overgrown nails back to an ideal length faster.

How To Spot The Quick & Other Tips

This brief video by a professional dog groomer is a helpful tutorial on how many nails to clip at a time, how to spot the quick, and other tips.

Need Some Coat Grooming Tips?

Your dog’s coat also needs regular maintenance, and you can save a lot of money by grooming him at home. Our article on how to groom your dog takes you through all the steps and gives you our top picks for all the equipment you’ll need. We also have some tips for bathing your dog and how often you should get him squeaky clean. And to manage his fur in between baths, see which dog shedding brushes we recommend.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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