How To Cut Your Dog’s Nails Without Ruining The Friendship

It’s a Saturday afternoon and your dog comes walking into the room making the noise of someone furiously pressing the keys on an old typewriter. The dreaded feeling washes over you. It’s time for a trim. Rather than make a trip to the groomer’s, we’ll break down how to easily and painlessly (for both of you) trim your best friend’s nails.

Bernese Mountain Dog relaxing on a blanket

Why Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails?

“Wolves don’t trim their nails, maybe if I leave them alone my dog will take care of it like their ancestors.” That’s a good thought that I wrote out pretending it was you, but the major difference between a wolf and your pupper is that wolves are constantly on the move.

It’s estimated that wolves may travel up to 30 miles a day, mostly over rough terrain—there are many opportunities for the nails to be worn down naturally. Your dog, on the other hand, enjoys a life of comfort and scheduled outings. Their nails simply don’t have the chance to break down the same way.

“Ok wolf expert, what happens if I just leave the nails anyway?” Quite the contrarian, made up person I’m arguing with by myself. There are several reasons to keep Fido’s nails short and tight:

  • If the nails become too long they may break or split, which could cause a lot of pain.
  • The nail could begin to curl and alter the way your dog moves around.
  • Too-long nails can reduce traction.
  • The adjustment of pain avoidance may cause your dog to widen their paw in such a way that could cause permanent damage to the ligaments of the foot.

“That’s not good.” Agreed. So, we know what could happen if this stressful task is avoided and why it is important to keep those nails trimmed.

french bulldog lying on its back

One of the major hurdles to trimming your dog’s nails is that they seem to despise it with a nightmarish dread and the dramatics of a first-year acting student. They don’t like it, and you don’t like doing it because you’ve never felt more like a medieval dungeon torture master. So what gives? If it’s not painful for them, why does it sure as heck seem that way?

Well, unfortunately, pain is usually the big reason your dog recoils in fear.

Does Nail Clipping Hurt My Dog?

The outer layer of a dog’s nail is insensitive to pain. But within the nail is something called the quick. This is the blood supply to the nail, and it is very sensitive. If the quick is nicked once, your dog will remember that feeling for all time. The longer the nail becomes, the further the quick extends, as well— another reason it’s so important to trim those nails regularly. The goods news is that the quick will recede when the nail is trimmed shorter.

Of course, there are other reasons your dog runs at the sight of clippers, like maybe they don’t like having their paws touched, or they feel trapped when they try to pull a paw away mid-trim and can’t get free.

Great! That was terrifying, now you definitely don’t want to try and trim their nails at home. Why have I written this? You came here to learn tips and tricks and now you need to be comforted. Have hope! Read on, and you will learn how to avoid everything you have just read.

Related Article: What To Do If You Trim Your Pup’s Nails A Little Too Short

sad pug wrapped up in a blanket

It is important to not only have a sharp pair of nail trimmers, but a pair best suited for your dog. A bigger dog will have a thicker nail, and a dual-blade clipper should be used, such as the one below to the left. For medium sized and smaller dogs, guillotine clippers will make effective cuts, such as the one below on the right.

Scissor style nail clipper for dogs
guillotine style nail clipper for dogs

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Step 1:

Before trimming, create a calm environment for your dog. Use a soft voice. I don’t know if they get ASMR tingles, but a soothing voice is soothing nonetheless. Rub the paw gently until you get to the desired toe and toenail.

Step 2:

Begin by trimming the just the tip of the nail. The cuts should be small slivers. The goal is to not cut a big chunk off the nail in one go, but to take your time little by little. This will prevent you from accidentally nicking the quick, which is the scary thing you read about a minute or so ago.

If your dog has clear or white nails, the quick can be seen quite easily. It will be pinkish in color and you can trim up to that pink with no issues.

closeup of dogs paws with clipped nails

A lot of canine companions have dark nails, and the pink will not be seen. After you trim small sections at a time, you will see a small black dot in the center of the nail. That is the start of the quick and you do not want to go any shorter than that.

Step 3:

Have lots of treats nearby! Give one after each nail, or each paw, depending on how brave your dog is being. Read the room, and remember that treats earn forgiveness for just about anything.

dog surrounded by treats on the floor

And that’s it! Not so scary after all. A fresh set of trimmed nails will have your dog sneaking around the kitchen in no time. With each new trim session, you and your pup will become more comfortable with the process, and then you can finally open that dog nail salon you’ve always dreamed about.

Levi Miller

2 months ago

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