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How to Cut Your Dog's Nails at Home

How to Cut Your Dog's Nails at Home

  • by Sandra McHendrie

Many dog owners are nervous at the idea of trimming their pet’s nails at home. Having a wriggly dog and the possibly of cutting too far can be off-putting. BUT with patience and some preparation, nail cutting can be done safely and easily at home at a fraction of the cost and effort of a trip to the grooming salon. 

Why does my dog need her nails cut?

In nature, dogs’ nails wear down naturally through contact with hard or rough surfaces. Today, most dogs live mostly indoors and only walk for short distances. These pets may find that their nails need trimming as often as once a week.

Long nails can send a jarring impact into your dog’s foot with every step, leading to painful paws, potential arthritis, and even nails growing back into their paw. Ouch!

Dogs rely on their nerve endings to give information about the terrain and their positioning. When their nails touch the ground, it gives a signal that your dog is on a slope (even though they are on flat ground) and their posture adjusts to more of a crouch position or with their hind legs drawn in. This can then lead to long term joint and muscle pain.

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 by placing your dog on your lap or next to you on the couch, and hold their paw for a short time. Reward with a treat, praise, and a cuddle afterwards.

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

Once your pet gets used to comfortably sitting on your lap, start by cutting one nail, rewarding with a treat or praise, 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!

So how do I actually cut my dog’s nails?

STEP 1: Use a quality pair of nail clippers or 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.

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. Avoid this area as it is sensitive and will bleed a lot if cut!

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.

STEP 3: Holding 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, trim only 1-2mm at a time.

Angle the clippers at a 45degree angle. This will remove most of the nail without cutting the quick.

STEP 4: Use a nail file to smoothen 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.

Well done – now you can trim your dog’s nails at home!

Shop here for our Safety Nail Clippers & File 


Or Learn More: Watch the Rufus & Coco how-to video 


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