Guide To Cutting Your Dog’s Nails

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A Black and Tan Terrier laying on the couch with sunlight hitting her face.

There can be trepidation when it comes to clipping your dog’s nails. Especially if they’re young and you’re attempting to establish a routine with them. They might react playfully, leaping this way and thinking you’re playing a game. While it might be painful to think about, keeping your face stoic and your voice an even tone will signal to them that it’s not play time. 

You may not want to clip their nails, but when they’re between appointments you might have to, especially if they’re walking along the floors making clicking noises as they go, or accidentally putting holes into their doggie pillow. 

It’s best to keep your dog’s nails short and smooth to avoid nicking you when it is actually play time. 

If you’re unsure of how to start and what to do while clipping their nails, you can reach out to your veterinarian for advice. They may also be able to give you a quick lesson on how to cut your pet’s nails safely and without all the fuss. 

The American Kennel Club has created some suggestions on how to properly trim your dog’s nails: 

  1. Pick up a paw and firmly, but gently, place your thumb on the pad of a toe and your forefinger on the top of the toe on the skin above the nail. Make sure none of your dog’s fur is in the way.
  2. Push your thumb slightly up and backward on the pad, while pushing your forefinger forward. This extends the nail.
  3. Clip only the tip of the nail, straight across. Include the dewclaws, located on the inner side of the paw.
  4. Avoid clipping past the curve of the nail or you risk hitting what is called the quick (the pink area of the nail that contains the blood vessels). A nick there is painful and will bleed. For dogs with dark nails, watch for a chalky white ring.

Remember regular nail maintenance goes beyond keeping scratches off the floor. It could be detrimental for your dog’s health to have unhealthy nails and cause irreversible damage if an accident were to occur. 

As the American Kennel Club pointed out: “long nails can turn a sound paw into a splayed foot and reduce traction, and they can cause deformed feet and injure the tendons over an extended period. As the long nail hits the ground, the pressure puts force on the foot and leg structure. Some dogs wear their nails down and won’t need to have them clipped as often.”