How To Trim Your Dog's Nails Yourself!

Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Denise Mullenix, stopped by our studios today to share her fool-proof method for trimming a dog's nails. 

Here is the information you need to know and Denise's tips:

Knowing both how and when to clip a dog’s nails is important to keep your dog healthy.  Overgrown nails can lead to pain and permanent damage. Nails grow constantly so how often they need trimming depends on the individual dog and their lifestyle.  If a dog spends a lot of time on pavement, they most likely won’t need nail trims as frequently. When wondering cutting a dog's nails, little and often is the best policy. Just nibbling off the ends of each claw will be much less stressful for your dog - and for you! Your goal is to trim off any bit that protrudes over your dog's pad so when he stands, his claws should not touch the ground.
Starting the nail clipping process at a young age if possible is a good idea so that your adult dog is comfortable with the process.  It is not uncommon for a dog to be reluctant during nail trimming due to no prior experiences or bad experiences getting restrained and/or the nails being trimmed too short.

Dogs nails consist of several layers, a hard outer covering that protects the quick, a soft inner area of the nail containing sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels.  In a dog with light nails, the quick can often be seen as a pinkish strip in the middle, thus easier to avoid. In black nails, however, the quick can be very hard to see.  It is best to cut off little tiny bits rather then large slices if you’re not certain where the quick begins. This way, you can see when the nail begins to get soft and white in the center. Stop cutting when you see this so that you don’t accidentally cut into the quick, hurting the dog and causing a bad experience for both of you. 
To begin training your dog to do well with nail trims, it’s best to initially get them comfortable with having their paws handled and lightly restrained.  Practicing spreading out their toes and handing each toenails, lightly pinching and putting pressure on them while feeding extra yummy treats and praising and petting  during is a great way to make a positive association.

Trimming just the tips off of a couple nails per day while talking soothingly and feeding delicious morsels is the best way to start a puppy or re-condition a dog with a phobia of nail trims. Be sure to cut just a little off and not hit the quick of the nail which is painful and scary for your pup.  Be sure to have some styptic powder handy in case you do clip the quick. The powder will help stop the bleeding. 

  • If you are using nail clippers start by introducing the clippers with treats and praise so that the sight of the nail clippers are positive for your pup.
  • Then you may break the process down to touching the clippers to each nail but not clipping them yet.
  • The next thing you may do is clip near the nail, but not on it or even clip wooden match sticks near the foot so that your dog can further acclimate to the sounds and sensations involved in nail trims.
  • Finally, shave off a tiny bit of your dogs nail at a time, being careful not to hit the soft white quick in the middle.  Soon they will grow accustomed to the process and may even look forward to it!

You may want to use a nail file or a dremel to keep the nails short or to smooth rough edges.  If you intend on using these tools, it’s good to build a positive association with them by introducing the tools slowly. With a dremel or file:

  • Start by lightly filing a nail manually while treating and praising your pooch.
  • If you’re using a dremel, then turn it on but don’t use it to file the nail yet. Instead, use an extra file for the dremel  to lightly file the dogs nail while they hear the sound of the dremel. 
  • Finally file one or two nails per day while feeding yummy treats and keeping the experience positive for your dog.


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