How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

If Ziggy walks across your carpet and sounds like Velcro coming apart, that is a sure sign he needs to have his nails trimmed. If you let his nails grow too long without trimming he may develop foot and ankle problems or his nails may turn outward, causing pain and discomfort. Proper nail care is essential for your dog.

Dog nails grow just like human nails, except that they are curved and pointed at the end.

The best way to keep Ziggy’s nails in check is to have him run on concrete. Yes, this sounds painful, but it isn’t, and it helps to wear down his nails. If you run with him, you will get some well needed exercise as well.

Sometimes, however, running on concrete is not enough, and then you have to trim his nails. The first thing to do is purchase a pair of clippers that are especially designed for clipping dog nails. They come in two types, a guillotine type and a scissors type. The type you select should be consistent with the type of dog you have. If Ziggy is a 75 lb. Labrador, then the guillotine type would be best for him, as this type works well on thick nails. Some dogs, Poodles and Dachshunds in particular, have nails that grow to a certain point and then become really thin and claw like. For these the scissors type of nail clippers work very well. No matter what type you select make sure that the clipper is neither too large nor too small for the dog. If the clipper is too small you could crush the nail (ouch), if it is too large you run the risk of taking off too much and cutting the quick. That’s right dogs have a quick, just like humans, and when it is cut, it hurts. It also bleeds, so keep some corn starch close at hand when trimming dog nails, just in case. Corn starch will pack the wound and stop the bleeding, and it won’t hurt the Ziggy if he licks it.

Now that you have your tools and your dog make sure you have one more thing, treats. Nail clipping is very stressful for a dog, so be sure you have plenty of his favorite treats. You may have to bribe him to stay still, or you can reward him for being good. Always approach nail clipping as though it is going to be fun for both of you. If you are nervous or scared, Ziggy will be. Of course, if your dog doesn’t like to have his feet messed with, then you may need an assistant to scratch him on the chest (dogs love that) and restrain him while you are clipping. It could be dangerous and painful for Ziggy if you slip and cut off too much because he is squirming.

You are set now.

Take Ziggy’s paw, start anywhere you want, you have four to choose from, in your hand.
Squeeze it gently to expose the nails.
Place your clipper vertically, at the curve of the nail or close to the end of the quick.

White nails are easy; you can see the quick, so in this case you can clip them a little shorter.

Black nails, especially thick black nails take time and patience. Turn the paw over and look at the inside of the nails. You will see that at the base they are thick and round; as you get closer to the point they thin out slightly and develop a groove. Where the groove begins is usually the end of the quick. But don’t cut the nail that short. A better idea is to clip it right at the curve.

If you can’t tell where the quick is, you will have to experiment by taking off a little at a time. Look at the part you just removed when it resembles a donut (with a round black spot in the middle) stop. That is the end of the quick.

Trim all of the nails on one paw, before going to the next. Be sure to get the dew claw (that thumb-like claw) as it does not get walked on, and can get hung up on things. Your dog will want to stop after the first three feet, or even after a couple of toes. Give him a treat and scratch him, but continue. Do not stop. He has to know that you are serious and that you are not going to stop until all the paws are finished.

Clip at a 45 degree angle, that is, when you are done and the dog is standing on the ground, his nails will be level with the ground. You can use his pads as a reference point.

Speaking of points, if your dogs nails splinter when you trim them, or if they have sharp points leftover you may want to file them slightly. Use a large manicure file and run it across the bottom and side of the nail to reduce the sharp edges. There is no need to buff them, but if you want to use nail polish on your Poodle, Dachshund, or Rottweiler then be sure it is approved for use on dogs. Human nail polish takes too long to dry and can be harmful if it is ingested by your dog.

Another good way to wear down the sharp edges is to allow Ziggy to run on concrete, or just walk for awhile. This will make the sharp edges more manageable.

If you trim your dog’s nails regularly, he will look good and when he jumps on you, he won’t hurt you or himself. Besides it will allow you some good quality time with your dog, and we all can use more of that.

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