Clipping and Trimming Dog Nails

When trimming dog nails, attitude is half the battle. I'll show you exactly where and how to clip nails yourself with pictures and explain when and how to use bribery.

First, has your dog ever seen nail clippers? If not, they might frighten him or the sound they make might frighten him.



To be sure you don’t start out on the wrong foot (am I funny or what?) you can show him the clippers and let him sniff.

You might even lay them on the floor and put a tiny dog treat next to them. Anything that helps your dog know they are not a scary beast.

When I’ve helped friends with clipping dog nails and I’m not sure how comfy their dog is about having his feet touched I use the treat tactic. The treat tactic also comes in handy when taking a dog’s temperature; cleaning his ears or examining anything that seems sore.

What is the treat tactic? Put a yummy treat in your mouth. Yup, yours. Don’t eat the stuff, just hold it between your lips  because that is what the dog will focus on and he doesn’t get it until he lets you do what you need to do. If he’s a first timer, I’d give him a treat after each paw so he gets the idea (I usually hide a few extras behind my back.)

By the way, make the treat a good one. Favorites are real meat or cheese and just giving a tiny piece while in the middle works best so they can eat it without getting up. Heaven knows, you don’t want to start over.

My favorite dog nail clippers

Tools for Clipping Dog Nails

  • Sharp nail clippers
  • Good Attitude
  • Patience
  • Reward

This style is my personal favorite.

With these clippers, your dog's nail goes inside the hole. You squeeze the handles, making the sharp blade come out of it's hiding place and trim the end of the nail off. The quicker you learn to do this, the better.


Setup for Trimming Dog Nails


Get yourself in the right mind set. Play a soothing song if you need to. Know you are doing something that will help your dog. He doesn't know that if his nails aren't trimmed it will cause him discomfort. He doesn't know his toes can become deformed if his nails grow too long. You do.

You can actually turn dog nail clipping into a bonding time. I'm not kidding. Feel good while you do it, and your dog will relax and feel good too. Remember you control the situation more by your energy than your words.

That means even if you are not confident or know exactly what you're doing, act like you do anyway!


How to Clip Dog Nails

Have your dog lay comfortably on his side where you can get to his or her nails easily. Since I am left-handed, I have each of my dogs lay on their right side. This gives me the best view and cutting angle. I sit close to their belly, usually on my knees and start with the front right paw.

Instead of lifting the leg or paw, I crouch over to keep the foot as still as possible. I hold the foot I'm working on. I line each nail in the clippers and squeeze the clippers hard and quick. This way the dog doesn't have a chance to pull away.

nail trimmers half closed to show you the blade

In this picture, my daughter shows how to clip dog nails. After I uploaded this picture I noticed both she and her dog Lulu could use some fresh polish, but you get the point.

It's good to teach youngsters basic dog care. Here my daughter trims her dog's nails.

I do both front feet, then the back feet. Sometimes the reward is verbal praise, sometimes a belly rub, and often a treat. My dogs are very food oriented!

Trimming dog nails takes me less than a minute.


Afraid of Making Her Nails Bleed?

A surefire way to avoid cutting the quick is to only cut the tip. If you line up your cut with the bottom of the nail, there will be no vein in your cutting path. Once the nail is cut, the vein moves back naturally. Here, I'll show you exactly where to cut, in a picture:

If new at trimming dog nails, here's a good place to cut the first time.

The purple line I drew is the perfect place for a beginner to start. You cannot make the nail bleed cutting on this line. Well, shoot, I need my nails done too. Bright pink was big in our house a that day.

If your dog has black nails and you cannot see the vein, just trim nails as shown in the picture. Trimming dog nails a tiny bit more each time you trim will avoid the quick and get you to the length you want. It takes about seven to ten days for the vein to recede.

Does Your Dog Shake Hands?

If you have a dog who loves to shake hands, you can try trimming nails while he sits. Ask for his paw and snip, snip, snip. You can then get his back paws while he's standing by lifting one back foot at a time.

Work with whatever positions are comfortable for you and your dog.

Once you get the hang of trimming dog nails, you'll wonder why anyone would be nervous about this simple task. And you'll be proud of the time and money you save too!

Now if you'd like, you can move on to Dog Ear Cleaning. I'll see you there.




Trimming Dog Nails to Basic Care

› Nail Trimming



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