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How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails At Home

by dogtoysadvisor | Last updated on June 26, 2019

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As far as dog grooming goes, clipping our dog’s nails is really high on the “rather bite my foot off than do it” list for both us and our dogs.

Most dogs hate the entire process and, for us, it’s stressful because it’s so easy to mess up and really hurt them. So why do it at all??

Why Dogs Need To Have Their Nails Clipped

Each time you hear your dog’s nails click on the hardwood floor or the concrete when he walks, he’s pushing his nails against the nail beds, which is, of course, painful.

If he keeps doing it, odds are he’ll readjust his whole posture to make it hurt less, which can result in back and joint problems, among others.

For dogs with an active lifestyle, walking, running or playing on rough surfaces may be enough to wear the nails down naturally, but most dogs need a nail trim every three weeks or so.

And then there are dew claws.

Those pesky nails that hang on the side or dog’s paws that have no use whatsoever aside from being a pain in our necks.

Oh, and have we mentioned Dobby has FIVE dew claws? Because one on each paw wasn’t enough, he actually has two on one of his paws.

Dew claws are dangerous if not trimmed, because they don’t wear off naturally.

They grow to form a hook that can get stuck on pretty much anything, meaning they can tear easily. Also, if they keep growing, they can pierce the pad.

Either way, the pain and suffering it can cause the dog are great.

The Biggest Concern!

So what can possibly go wrong when cutting our dogs nails? A lot.

First, they hate it, so they won’t sit still. In our home, trimming our dog’s nails is a two person process. We need one person to hold them down while the other tries to quickly trim the nails.

Some dogs may bite. Ours never did it, but considering the state they get in, we wouldn’t be too surprised if it happens one day.

But our biggest concern is the quick.

The quick is a blood vessel that runs through your dog’s nail and the worst possible thing that could happen when you’re trimming your dog’s nails is to clip it. It’s extremely painful for the dog and is bleeds profusely.

So, above all remember, it’s preferable to trim less of the nail and make sure you’re not touching the quick then wanting to cut more and end up hurting your dog.

Well, because this isn’t complicated enough, nature decided to make things even more interesting by creating the dark claws.

When your dog has white nails, it’s very easy to spot the quick and stay away from it, but when he has dark claws, it’s a guessing game really. All of our dogs have a little bit of both, just for the fun of it.

With dark claws, less is definitely more. Cut as little as possible and just trim his nails more often to make sure you keep them in check.

How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails Painlessly

Here is a step-by-step explanation of how to actually do it. You’ll need simple tools, his favorite rewards and a loooottt of patience and determination.

Step 1 – Get the Best Clipper For Him

We prefer the scissor style clipper, because the guilhotine-type, with the hole was tricky for us.

We have this one for our small dogs, because it’s lighter and easier to handle. Meaning you don’t need to make much of an effort to do it.

For Dobby, a medium/larger dog, we use this one. It’s sturdier and better equipped for harder nails with a clean cut.

Not only that, but it has a brilliant safety feature that keeps you from cutting too much and reaching the quick.

Can you tell we’re big fans?

If you prefer a fancier version or something that requires less effort or precision, this is the best option, by far!

It’s also a great option if your dog doesn’t particularly like the clipper. It basically grinds the nail in stages until the desired length. We found that is works much better with Dobby, he gets really anxious after that clipping moment, so this is less traumatic on him.

Also, it’s much quieter than we expected.

If we must choose just one tool to trim our dog’s nails it would be this:

Regardless of the model, read the instructions carefully and try your luck.

Step 2 – Choose The Right Time Of Day

Pick the best time to do it. You’ll want to choose a time of the day when your dog is most relaxed or tired after playing.

Get him in a comfortable position before continuing.

Step 3 – Keep Him Calm

Talk to him to keep him calm and relaxed. Massage his paws and feet for a bit until he’s completely okay with it.

Then present him with the clipper, let him smell it, then begin to touch his paws with it until he’s ready to proceed.

Step 4 – Start Small

Particularly in the first time you do it, but it’s good advice for each time you trim your dog’s nails. Start by cutting just the tips of, then you’ll decide if you want to cut a bit further.

If the nails are white, it should be easy to spot the quick and stay away from it.

Step 5 – Hold The Foot Gently But Firmly

This is the part a second pair of hands can be good, if you have the option. Position yourself beside your dog and hold his paw next to you, leg against your body.

If you’re having trouble keeping the dog steady, particularly if it’s a larger dog, you may want to apply some weight to restrain your dog. Then go for it!

Step 6 – Give Him Plenty Of Love

Reward your dog between clippings. His favorite treats or a few cuddles, whatever works. Reassure him constantly and make him feel the best you possibly can.

Step 7 – Remain Calm

During the entire process, but particularly if you happen to cut the quick, it happens more often than you’d think. Soothe your dog and give him treats while you stop the bleeding.

Step 8 – Don’t Forget To File The Nails

Once you’re finished clipping, all you need to do is file the nails. If it’s something he struggles with, you might as well let him file those rough edges during playtime or running around on a rough surface.

If Nothing Else Works…

Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

If you come to the conclusion that it’s just too stressful for the both of you or that you don’t feel confident enough you can do it without hurting your dog, just take him to the vet.

If your dog is anything like ours, odds are he’ll behave better with strangers than with you. Also, a vet is used to doing it, so he’ll be able to complete the process much quicker and without traumatizing your dog too much.

But the best possible solution would be for you to find a way to get your dog to accept having his nails clipped by you, in the comfort of your home.

Not only will it be free, but it will be much less traumatic for him.

Hopefully, with the tips we’ve just given you, you’ll be able to do just that.

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising and iStock

12 Comments

  1. Joanne Morse

    Thank you for publishing this. I will be clipping my dogs nails for the first time. I had already purchased the nail clippers

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Joanne,

      Thank you so much for your reply! Good luck and let us know how it went.

      Thank you

      Mike & Sandy

      Reply
  2. Cj white

    You said the dew claws have no purpose. I’ve had dogs of different breeds all my life but mostly large around 65 to 90 lbs, Several GSDS, EnglishSetter,Boxer,Hunting dogs and Rottweiler mix. I have observed each of those dogs using their dew claws to hold themselves in place while laying down, especially on carpet with great proficiency or while puppy bouncing around to help keep their balance. I don’t agree that they are useless to the dog but they can be a bit of a annoyance to their humans… that’s why dog lovers have tons of patience.

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Cj.

      Thank you for your input.

      We meant to saw those extra dew claws, the ones that aren’t even attached to the bone.
      They have no use for them and can sometimes get hurt if they get them stuck.

      Have a great week,
      Mike and Sandy

      Reply
  3. Tammy50

    Taking your pet to the vet to get nails cut is NOT free!!
    One charged $18 and another $8!! Far from free!
    If you take more than one, that’s pretty expensive!!

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Tammy.

      That sounds very expensive. We take all our pets to the same vet for years and we don’t pay anything for trimming the nails and know a few other vets who do the same.
      So we guess it’s a great thing that we’ve come up with these tips for trimming your dog’s nails at home, it will save you so much money!

      Good luck,
      Mike and Sandy

      Reply
  4. Shannon

    There is a trick that will keep your dog occupied while grooming and cutting nails and that is a spoonful of natural peanut butter have a friend hold it and let them lick the peanut butter they cannot eat if fast and it gives you about 5 minutes to occupy them and get things done

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Shannon.

      Exactly! We think that’s one of the best ways to get it done, it sure works around here!

      Thank you for your feedback,
      Mike and Sandy

      Reply
  5. Kat

    My vet informed me that the dew claws help with balance. She sited a study in which agility dogs performed better with dew claws intact on the front legs.

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Kat.

      Regular dew claws on the front legs are normal and can help with balance as well as to pick up things and hold them. The only worry you need to have is with keeping them trimmed to make sure they don’t get stuck.

      However, extra dew claws some dogs have (Dobby has a dew claw on each paw and two dew claws on a back paw) are more dangerous because, by not being attached to the bone, can easily get caught and rip.

      Thank you for your feedback,
      Mike and Sandy

      Reply
  6. Heather

    We recently had our dog’s back double dew claws removed. We live on a farm and vet was concerned that she would get them caught on something and rip them off. Thanks for info on doggie paw balm. We also clip our fur babies nails. She just lays on couch and let’s me trim them. It’s amazing considering she’s a rescue. She’s lived outside her whole life.

    Reply
    • dogtoysadvisor

      Hi Heather.

      You’re very lucky to have such a well-behaved dog, we’re so envious! Heheheh
      Rescues are often eager to please, being so thankful you gave them a chance to be happy, so some will let you do pretty much anything.
      And it sounds like she has the most awesome life!

      We’re so pleased you liked our balm tip.

      Thank you,
      Mike and Sandy

      Reply

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