How to cut dog nails

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Many dog owners are nervous at the idea of trimming their dog’s nails at home, but it is important you cut dog nails regularly so they are not allowed to grow too long.

Nails that are too long can jar when a dog walks, causing very painful paws.  Dogs also rely on their nerve endings to give information about the terrain and how they need to adjust their body to deal with it, so if their nails are too long it can throw out their balance, which can lead to painful joints and bones.

In nature, dogs’ nails wear down naturally through contact with hard or rough surfaces. They used to spend their days foraging for food whereas many of today’s dogs live mostly indoors and get much less exercise, so their nails need trimming far more regularly, sometimes every couple of weeks.

How do I get my dog to sit still for a nail trim?

Many dogs don’t like their paws to be played with initially. Work up to this gradually but placing your dog on your lap or next to you on a couch, and holding their paw for a short time. Use positive reinforcement training to reward them being calm with a treat, praise and a cuddle.

Continue this daily, holding your dog for a longer period each time.

Once your pet is calmly on your lap, start by cutting one nail, rewarding and letting your dog go. If all goes well, you can work your way up to a full set of nails at one time.

Be patient and consistent and your dog will get the message in the end!

How to cut dog nails

STEP 1: Use a quality pair of nail scissors with stainless steel blades, and replace them as soon as they become worn down or blunt. Look for clippers with a safety guard to prevent putting the toe and nail too far through the clippers like those from DGG clippers.

STEP 2: Take a good look at your pet’s nails, and identify where the ‘quick’ is. The quick is the dark section inside your pet’s nails which provides the blood supply to the area. It should not be cut as it is sensitive and will bleed a lot.

Light coloured nails: In light coloured nails it will usually appear as a pink area or darker area inside the nail.

Dark coloured nails: Identifying the quick varies by breed and can be difficult. Ask your groomer to demonstrate for you on your own pet and take note of the area they have identified. Some dogs can have a notch, or coloured triangle underneath the nail identifying the quick area. Stopping if you notice a small dark marking in the centre of the nail, as that is likely to be the start of the quick.

STEP 3:  To cut dog nails, hold your dog’s paw firmly (but not uncomfortably) in your hand, place the nail into the clippers or scissors, ensuring that the quick is not inside the cutting area. For dark nails, only trim 1-2mm at a time.

Angle the clippers at a 45degree angle, as shown in the image above. This will remove most of the nail without cutting the quick.

STEP 4: Use a nail file to smooth any rough or jagged edges.

If you do accidentally cut too far, have some styptic powder or corn starch powder handy to quickly stop the bleeding.

You can find the DGG range of grooming tools at your local pet specialty store or online on the DGG website.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog

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