how to trim dog nails that are overgrown
Pet Care Advice

How to Cut Dog Nails That are Too Long

Almost all dogs hate having their nails trimmed. It results in sheer terror and physical protests. Often, a dog’s aversion to nail trims stems from a traumatic and painful experience when they were young. It’s hugely important to ensure that there are no scary occurrences during the puppy years, as dogs are like elephants where nail trim mishaps are concerned – they never forget.

Most dogs will frantically flail around in an attempt at escaping a nail trim, and given that these claws are oversized for the occasion, many pet parents end up looking they have fought twelve rounds with Freddy Krueger before they’re done.

Sure, you could pay a groomer to do the job for you and run for your life, but maybe your dog will find the experience a little less terrifying if it’s you that does the job. This guide will talk you through how to trim a dog’s nails, no matter how much they may protest.

Table of Contents:

Do I Have to Trim My Dog’s Nails?

Well, somebody does! It is all part of being a responsible pet parent, no matter how much your dog may protest. Dogs will wear down their nails a little by walking on hard surfaces as well as running, playing and climbing, but they will never be able to keep up with the rate at which their claws grow.

On top of this, it’s no secret that dogs love to scratch. If they have excessively long nails, they could open their skin – or even damage their eyes or ears. Playtime with fellow pooches could also take a turn for the dangerous if a dog’s nails haven’t been appropriately cared for; nobody wants an innocent wrestle to end with a trip to the vet due to an inadvertent stabbing in the soft tissue.

One way or another, you will need to get your dog’s claws trimmed from time to time – at least every two months, and maybe ever four weeks. A golden rule that Preventative Vet recommends is always to get your dog’s nails trimmed before they start to touch the ground. If you can hear your pooch approaching from ten paces due to click-clacking on the ground, it’s time to get those talons trimmed.

What Are the Best Dog Nail Clippers?

If you’re looking to pick up a pair of nail clippers to trim your dog’s claws at home, here are some recommended products that can be delivered to your door from Amazon.

1) Miracle Corp Sensor Dog Nail Clippers

Miracle Corp Sensor Dog Nail Clippers ReviewIf you’re a nervous nail clipper and your dog is under 40lbs, this is the perfect product for your needs.

Think of it as a stud finder for your dog’s paws; you can hover the tool over their nails, and via the medium of lights the gadget will tell you whether its safe to clip or if you’re at risk of cutting to the quick and leaving your pooch bleeding.

Check the Price of Miracle Corp Sensor Dog Nail Clippers on Amazon!

2) GoPets Nail Clipper

GoPets Nail Clipper ReviewIf you’re looking for something a little less space age and want the best conventional nail clipper that money can buy, you’ve found it with this GoPets design.

These clippers will cut through even the most sturdy and stubborn of nails, and they’re available in two sizes to ensure that your breed is catered for. The only thing to be aware of is that you’ll need significant hand strength to make use of them.

Check the Price of GoPets Nail Clipper on Amazon!

3) Hertzko Electric Pet Nail Grinder

Hertzko Electric Pet Nail Grinder ReviewAnother alternative is to grind your dog’s nails down using this electric device, which removes the risk of slicing through the quick and causing a bleed. It’s quiet, can be easily charged through a computer’s USB port, and comes with a variety of different heads and sizes to cover every possible need that your dog will have.

There’s nothing to gain by picking up cheap or low-quality nail clippers for home use. If you’re going to do the job yourself rather than calling in reinforcements, you should at least make sure that you have the right equipment.

Check the Price of Hertzko Electric Pet Nail Grinder on Amazon!

My Dog is Limping Because Their Nails are Too Long

Extremely overgrown dog nails can cause severe problems for a canine, including an eventual inability to walk properly. Your dog may end up piercing their paw pads and inviting infection by allowing their claws to grow inward. Long nails also place a great deal of pressure on a dog’s ankles and could lead to a hound struggling to keep their balance. If you allow the problem to persist for long enough, your canine may even end up with a permanent irregular gait as though they have forgotten how to walk normally.

The moment that you notice your dog struggling to walk because of their nails, get them to a vet or a groomer ASAP. You really ought to deal with the problem before it reaches this stage, but if it has happened, then make sure you take the necessary action before permanent damage takes place.

How to Cut a Puppy’s Nails

It’s hugely advisable to get your dog used to the idea of having their nails trimmed while they are young. If you’re lucky, a pup will be indifferent to the process – and this may help them cope with the idea later in life!

The flipside of this is that, if you give your dog a traumatic and scary experience at this young stage of their development, they’ll likely have a phobia for life. No pressure then…

However, if you’re prepared to learn how to trim a dog’s claws without relying on assistance from a professional, follow these instructions laid out by PetMD. Remember, it’s best not to wait until your dog is old enough to understand that this might be scary; give Fido his first nail trim before he reaches six months.

  • Purchase specialist puppy nail trimmers. Puppies will need different nail trimmers to adult dogs, and adult dog, in turn,n will need different trimmers to humans. Check out the selection in your local pet store, and stock up. Don’t even think about cheaping out and using kitchen scissors – at best you’ll break the blades, and at worst you’ll cause an accident due to difficulty ensuring accuracy.
  • Get your dog used to the sensation of having their paws touched. Some dogs will shirk away from any kind of physical contact on this part of their anatomy, suspicious of what comes next. If you can get your dog used to having their paws touched while they’re a puppy, they’re more likely to tolerate the experience later in life.
  • Start with the very tip of a nail. Don’t walk before you can run – clip the slightest tip of a nail, so your pup gets used to the noise and sensation of being clipped. Don’t just grab their paw and get to work, as the restraint will freak them out. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Very gently take their paw in your hand. Offer your pup a little paw massage with your thumb, making the experience as enjoyable as possible. Start with the claws that are located on the back legs of your dog, as these are a little less sensitive than the ones at the front.
  • Pick a nail, and hold the relevant toe between your thumb and index finger. The key here is to apply pressure, but not to crush your poor pup’s little foot. This is the point where your dog is likely to get worried and start to wriggle or launch an escape attempt, so you’re going to have to be very firm here with your short, sharp commands such as, “no!” or, “stay!” This is a real tightrope, as you don’t want your pup to think that they’re in trouble – that reinforces their idea that having nails trimmed is a scary and worrying experience. Equally, however, they need to know that you’re in charge!
  • Get trimming! Start trimming the nails, methodically and efficiently. It shouldn’t take long with a puppy, as their claws are not quite as strong as an adult dog. It may be advisable to start small and quick, just lopping off the very tips, to begin with, and working your way up to a more thorough trim.
  • Never cut the quick. Trimming a dog’s nails is much easier if they are clear or white, as this means that you’ll be able to keep an eye on where the quick of the nail begins. The quick is the vein that runs through a claw and is easily identified by its pink color. Cutting too far – into the quick – will lead to your puppy’s nails bleeding, and a lifelong fear of having their paws touched again.
  • Let Your Puppy Go. Once you’ve finished the nail trim and praised your pooch, let them go. It will be tempting to try to squeeze in a bath or another form of grooming at this point and kill two birds with one stone, but your pet has been through enough. Reward them for this good behavior with a walk or a lengthy playtime.

dogs nails too long cause pain

Offer constant reassurance to your puppy throughout this process, and don’t be shy about offering bribes as you work. Make a fuss, offer bags of reassurance, and find a small treat to hand over every time you manage to lop the end off a nail. The more positive associations that you can create, the more likely your dog is to let you keep on top of their nail grooming in the future.

How to Clip Nails When a Dog is Scared

As we have established, dogs loathe having their nails trimmed. It’s not because they’re being awkward for the sake of it – they find the whole idea to be extremely worrying and scary.

If you’re going to attempt to trim your dog’s claws, you’ll need to calm them down first.

Here are a few suggestions as to how this may be possible:

  • Take them for a long walk first. You may be surprised at how much energy a seemingly comatose dog can summon to run away when a nail trim is in the offing, but the more exhausted your dog is, the easier they’ll be to control. Sometimes exercise is the best natural sedative.
  • Apply a Thundershirt. You can pick up a thundershirt from a pet store. These garments are designed to keep canines calm during firework displays, but many people also use them for calming general nervous dispositions, and breaking separation anxiety. The shirt works by applying gentle compression to a dog’s pressure points and calming them down, in a similar way to swaddling a baby.
  • Use a calming spray or essential oil. You can keep a dog calm with the aid of various sprays or essential oils. Rescue Remedy is particularly effective, and most dogs will react well to it, but use drops in their water rather than a spray in this instance. You could also diffuse some essential oils (lavender, sweet orange, petitgrain, and geranium are particularly impactful). Alternatively, you can pick up a pre-mixed calming spray from most pet stores.
  • Stay calm yourself! We get it – it’s hugely frustrating when you’re trying to get the job done, and your dog keeps squirming, whining and generally making a fuss. However, if you get stressed during the process, your dog will pick up on that and get even antsier. Keep an even tone throughout, and try not to let your irritation show.
  • Distract your dog. Part of the worry for a dog is probably the fact that you are concentrating so hard, and the silence will be deafening. Try popping the radio on while you work, ideally tuned into a classical music station. Better yet, use this piece of music from Classic FM written exclusively to keep canines calm!

Dogs will be scared by the idea of having their nails trimmed; it’s just a fact of life. If you follow some of these suggestions, however, you should be able to keep the impact down to a minimum. And if you can’t, call in the professionals!

My Dog’s Nail Quick is Exposed

If you’ve cut to the quick, that’s a bad thing in this instance – your dog is going to be bleeding, and you’ll need to take action. The good news is that you haven’t placed their lives in any danger, no matter how much they may make you believe that by howling the house down. Just make sure that you have stocked up on either styptic powder or a styptic pencil before you begin.

In the event of a nail’s quick being exposed, very quickly apply the powder (on a moistened cotton pad) or the pencil, and hold it in place for around 30 seconds. The powder will act as an aesthetic to ease your dog’s pain, in addition to stemming the bleeding; if you use the pencil, prepare for more flinching as it will likely sting a little at first. If you pull away the pad or pencil and the bleeding starts again, repeat the process for another 30 seconds.

If you’re determined to use a homemade remedy, you could always fall back on flour or baking soda that you can dip your dog’s palm into. This will only stop the nail from bleeding, however, and offer no pain relief to Fido.

Once you have finished, try to keep your dog off their feet for a while; carry them over to their bed or the sofa, and give them a treat and favored toy to take their mind off their ordeal. They’ll bounce back in no time, so there’s no need to worry about permanent damage – though it may be a very long time before they trust you to trim their nails again.

how to clip dog nails without clippers

How to Cut Dog’s Nails That are Black

Black nails are trickier to trim than their transparent counterparts. After all, you can’t see the quick in these instances – how will you know that you’re not going to leave them in huge pain?

The website Devoted Dog World has a pictorial guide as to how you can know that you have trimmed a black dog nail sufficiently; it’s about continuing to trim until you reach what is known as the pulp.

In short, when you trim the very tip of a black dog nail, you’ll notice that the claw is almost entirely white inside. Trim a little further; you’ll find some darkness in the middle. Clip one last time, and you’ll notice that the nail is almost entirely black again. This is known as the pulp and the limit of how far you can cut without risking a bleed.

If you’re nervous about clipping the claws of a dog with black nails but are still determined to complete the groom at home, you could pick up a nail file and wear them down this way instead. You’ll need a very patient and understanding dog to pull this off, though!

Can I Put a Dog to Sleep to Cut Their Nails?

You can, but as the old saying goes, just because you can it doesn’t mean that you should. Placing a dog under medical sedation always comes with risks, and if it isn’t 100% necessary you really shouldn’t take the chance.

If your dog will not allow you to trim their nails and you need to use a sedation technique.

Remember, though, that you shouldn’t engage in physicality with your dog unless you share complete trust and you understand his or her physical limits – and body language for, “enough.” You don’t want to make a scary experience even more frightening, as it could permanently damage your relationship.

  • Find somebody to lend you a hand, as you won’t be able to do this by yourself.
  • Make sure you have everything that you need within reach – any sedating sprays of oils, anything to deal with an accident in the event of the quick being exposed, and of course the nail clippers.
  • Lay something soft for your dog to make them as comfortable as possible, such as a towel or a blanket. Soothe them in whatever way you can.
  • Encourage your dog to roll onto their side, and take a firm but gentle grip of their neck. Keep your face away from Fido’s mouth at this point, as there may be some panicked snapping in your near future.
  • Hold firmly onto both legs closest to the surface. This means that your dog will be immobilized, and your partner in grooming can get to work on clipping away.

Just allow us to reiterate one more time – if you’re not comfortable with physically restraining and sedating a dog, don’t take any chances! Vets and dog groomers will always help with the trimming of a dog’s nails, and the few bucks you’ll save by doing it at home is not worth traumatizing your poor pooch.

If you have a dog that is indifferent to having their nails trimmed then you can count yourself lucky – this can be a hugely frustrating and traumatic experience for most people! Keep an eye on your dog’s nails and make sure that they never grow too long for comfort. While no dog will actively ask to have their claws trimmed, it’s essential that it be done with regularity – for your dog’s sake, and that of everybody and everything around them.

Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API