Nailed It! How To Properly Cut Dog Nails at Home

It’s nail trimming time, and in the words of dogs everywhere, “O h*ck.” If you’re wondering how to properly cut dog nails at home, look no further. We got the scoop on everything you need to ruin your dog’s life, er, give him a pawdicure.

Supplies for Trimming Dog Nails

Obviously a good set of nail trimmers is a key tool for this endeavor. Got a tiny smol dog with tiny smol dog nails? These cute little scissor-like trimmers are very easy to use. If you’ve got a Bassett with tree trunks for nails, you may want to roll with something a little more hefty. And if she’s is a “nah” on the cutty cutty bit, you can also try a dremmel tool instead.

Like most blades, dog nail trimmers will dull with time and use, so pay attention to when it’s time to replace them with a new set! A dull nail trimmer will crush the nail rather than cut it cleanly–and that’s a firm no thank you from the dog community. 

For smarty mcsmartsmart who is a hard pass on literally every other method, invest in a scratching board or make one by using some low grit sandpaper and gluing it to a board. Think of a giant nail file that you teach them to scratch at with their front feet for a treat. Of course, it’ll take a while to reach the desired length, but it’s a solid plan D or E for VIPs (Very Intensely Puppin’ Stubborn). 

beagle getting nails trimmed
Oh the hoomanity. | Przemol

How To Keep Your Dog Still for a Nail Trim

You mean your dog isn’t a perfect angel baby that sits politely while you cut, file, and polish their nails? Yeah, ours either. In the absence of cooperation, turn to bribery! Slather a convenient-as-heck suction cup lick mat in peanut butter and stick it to the wall while you work on their feet. Every dog has a different threshold for what they’re willing to handle when it comes to nail trims, so if you have to do this once a day for a week to get all the nails done, that’s actually pretty normal! Don’t hesitate to go slowly. If your dog feels too stressed about mani/pedi time, forcing them to comply will only increase their fear in the future, so stop while you’re ahead! 

How To Get Your Dog to Let You Touch His Paws

Some dogs have been burned in the past (figuratively speaking) when it comes to nail trims and are not too keen on letting anyone near their precious feets. Patience is key with these kiddos! Remember not to push them too far outside of their comfort zone or you might make things worse!

Try some step-by-step positive reinforcement and desensitization methods. If the touching of the feet is the thing that is scary, practice doing foot touches. Start with one or two seconds at a time before gradually increasing the time, and give lots of high value rewards so they know they’re doin’ a good.

Move up to showing them the nail trimmers and rewarding them for looking at them without panicking. If the noise of the nail trimmers seems to scare them, grab a handful of elbow noodles and cut them in half with the nail trimmers, and treat and praise pup every time the noise occurs!

How Short to Cut Dog Nails 

This is certainly the scariest part of cutting dog’s nails. If your pup has white nails, you win. In good lighting, white nails are often translucent enough so that you can see the little pink center that indicates where the quick is. Fear of hitting the quick is usually where the anxiety of nail cutting comes in. Aim your nail trimmers so that there is a small bit of space between the pink and where you’re cutting to be safe, and clip away!

Ready for my pawdicure. | @henarlanga

How To Trim Black Nails 

Black nails present a second level of challenge because you can’t easily identify where to cut (lucky you). For these guys, slow and steady does the trick. Take just the tip off of the nail and then look at the bottom of the nail where you just cut. If you’re close to the quick, you will see a small dot appear in the center of the nail that is different in texture and color than the rest of the nail. When you see that dot in the middle, you’re close to the quick and you should call it good on that nail. If the nail is all one solid color and texture, proceed with caution and repeat the previous step until you see that spot in the center. 

What you mean nail trim? | Charles Deluvio

How To Get Long Nail Quicks to Recede

If you’re noticing that your pups quicks are so close to the end of their nails and you’re not able to cut them as much as you want (to cut down on that charming “tick tick tick” noise as they pace the floors in the middle of the night, amirite?), the key is to be more consistent with your nail trims. Cut back the nail a little bit every 1-2 weeks, and the quick will eventually recede. If only we could get the people in line at the grocery store to back up as easily…

What To Do if Your Dog’s Nails Start Bleeding

Ok, first of all, it happens to the best of us, so don’t beat yourself up. If you go a little too far and hit the quick by mistake, it’s not the end of the world! First step is to reward the absolute heck out of your pup to avoid this being a bad memory that they relate to nail trims forever—absolutely load ‘em up with apology treats!

The best thing to use in case of accidental ouchies is a styptic nail powder that you pack on the end of the toenail to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have that on hand, you can also use cornstarch or baking soda from the kitchen to achieve the same effect, though those methods often take a little longer. Did we mention the endless stream of apology treats?!

What other Qs can we A about how to properly cut dog nails at home? Woof at us in the comments and be sure to tag us in those pawdicure pics at #SidewalkDog.

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2 thoughts on “Nailed It! How To Properly Cut Dog Nails at Home

  1. Steve

    This is exactly what I need. My dog (and cat too) never lets me touch their nails. Whenever I try to approach for a nail cutting session, they’ll sense it and know immediately lol.

    Reply

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