How to Cut a Dog’s Nails

Why You Should Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Some people like to keep their fingernails long. If those people had fingernails on their feet, they would surely want to keep them short! A dog’s nails should be short enough that they do not touch the floor when standing. If the nails are too long, pressure is felt with each step the dog takes, which takes its toll. Arthritis, limping, or pain can develop. There is also a risk of slipping on hardwood floors.

Before You Start Cuttinghow to cut a dog's nails 1

How to Find the Quick in Dog Nails

A dog’s nail contains a blood vessel, which we call the ‘quick.’ We of course don’t want to cut the nail so short that bleeding occurs, so we need to locate the quick.

Finding the quick is very easy in white-colored nails. The quick is pink, so you just trim until just before you’re about to hit the pink part of the nail.

The quick in black-colored nails are less immediately visible. Start by trimming at the point of the bend in the nail, then clip until you reach a dark, black circle. That dark circle indicates you should stop trimming because if you trim any shorter, you will cut the quick.

Make Your Dog Comfortable with the Tools

It’s very likely that your dog will be uncomfortable with the Dremel or clippers, so they may need to be gradually introduced in a comfortable environment. Let them sniff the clippers or grinder. Use treats and give pets positive reinforcement. During the trimming session, take short breaks to give your dog a moment of rest. If you notice your dog is very stressed, it may be best to trim the nails over several short sessions instead of one long session.

How to Cut a Dog’s Nails

You will need to find a position to trim the nails that is comfortable for both you and your dog. You can cut them straight on, or you can bend their leg and trim the nails with their paws facing the ceiling. Whatever works for you and the dog.

Cut the nails at a 45-degree angle. If you cut completely vertical or completely horizontal, you will surely hit the quick and make the dog bleed.

Tips for How to File a Dog’s Nails with a Grinder or Dremel

You can make trimming nails a little bit easier for yourself if you get yourself a nail grinder.

With long-haired dogs, be mindful not to let the spinning Dremel get caught on their fur.

Grind the nails until you are about to reach the quick. Then, round the nails out by quickly and gently touching the sharp edges of the nail with the grinder.

To get your dog comfortable with the grinder, our head groomer Lisa suggests first touching the nails with an electric toothbrush. This accustoms the dog to the vibration and friction before going all in with the grinder.

This short video by DIY Pet Grooms is an excellent demonstration of how to use a Dremel:

Tips for How to Cut a Dog’s Nails with Clippers

If the nails are especially long, you can save some time by using traditional clippers. Sometimes what groomers do with longer nails is cut off a good chunk of each nail with clippers, then finish them off and polish them with the Dremel.

How to Stop a Dog’s Nails from Bleeding

Before you begin cutting nails, have handy some styptic powder. This can be applied to the nail after a bleeding incident occurs. You just take a pinch of powder and apply pressure to the affected paw for a few seconds, depending on how long it takes for the bleeding to stop. Even experienced groomers cut a nail too short from time to time so styptic powder is a necessity! You can also use styptic gel instead of powder.

How Often Should I Cut My Dog’s Nails?

Generally, dog nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks. However, overgrown nails need to be trimmed more often. Since the quick grows with the nails, we want to recede the quick back into the paw so that we can achieve the goal of the nails not touching the ground. The more frequently nails are trimmed, the better.

When you finish trimming, give your dog a treat and praise so they think of the nail trimming experience as a generally positive one.

The main thing to remember is this:  make sure your dog is getting their nails trimmed on a regular and frequent basis, whether it’s by a groomer, vet, or yourself.

Additional Resources: AKC | How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails Safely