How to Clip your Dogs Nails
A good guide to follow is to cut your dogs nails when they are touching the floor. Ideally, you don't want your dogs nails touching the floor as it can cause them discomfort as they walk. Its best to clip small sections of the nails on a regular basis to maintain the nails at a healthy length. Walking your dog on concrete footpaths does naturally grind down their nails, however, the front nails usually still require clipping, even if the back ones wear themselves down. It is usually recommended to clip your dogs nails every 4-6 weeks, but keep an eye on them as dogs are individuals, just like us, and their nails can grow at different rates.
Nail clipping vs filing
Nail clipping is usually done with a spring loaded or guillotine nail clipper, but they do also come in other styles. This is done by holding your dogs paw and using the clipper to cut off small sections of the nails. If you clip too much off, you may hit the quick and cause the nail to bleed. If the nail does bleed, you will need to stop the bleeding. Products such as the BioGroom Styptic Powder are great to have on hand for this very purpose.
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Nail filing is done with a Dremel style nail file. To use the file, you will hold the dogs paw and gently touch the nail file to the dogs nails. Avoid holing the file on the nail for too long, as it can heat up the dogs nail, and cause them discomfort. Nail grinders tend to reduce the risk of cutting the quick when compared to nail clipping, however it can still happen, so it is always recommended to have some Styptic Powder on hand. Using slow, tapping movements you can continue to grind the dogs nail shorter until you reach the desired length. Filing dogs nails down does take a lot longer than clipping the nails, however it is useful for anxious or sensitive dogs, as long as you slowly introduce them to the noise and vibration. Read our guide: How to Use A Nail Grinder on Your Anxious Pet, for more information.
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Some professional and home groomers like to use their nail file in conjunction with their nail clippers. If your dog has very long nails, it will be a very lengthy process trying to file them all the way back. Instead, you could clip the bulk of the nail off with nail clippers, and use the nail file to finish and give smoother edges.
How to clip your dogs nails using a nail clipper
Dogs nails have a vein that runs through their nails, called the quick. Depending on the colour of the nails, you may be able to see the quick and use it as your guide when clipping. If your dog has white or clear nails, you will be able to see a pink vein that runs through the nails, that is the quick. You want to avoid cutting into that to avoid the nail bleeding. If your dog has black nails, it can be a little harder to know how far back to cut. You can make the first clip, taking only a little bit off the tip of the nail. Once you have made the first cut, pick up the foot and look at the nail front on. If you can see a small black dot, surrounded by a white ring, that is the quick. You don't want to cut any further. If you cant see that, then you can cut a little bit more and check again. If you do accidentally cut the quick, don't panic. Simply wipe the nail with a paper towel, and apply styptic powder to the end of the nail. Your dog will be okay, accidents do happen, but it is best to monitor your pup for a few days following the accident. See below for a step-by-step guide to cutting your dogs nails.
Step 1: Get your dog into a place and position that is comfortable for both you and your pet.
Step 2: Hold your dogs paw in your non dominant hand in a way that feels comfortable and secure. Hold any hair back that is covering the nails.
Step 3: Show your dog the nail clipper, let them smell it, and give them praise.
Step 4: Working with one nail at a time, you can clip the end of the nail off, with the clippers at a 45° angle, (photo below). Make sure to give your dog lots of praise during this process.
Step 5: Work your way around all the feet clipping all nails, including the dew claws on the sides of their feet. Some dogs have dew claws on their back feet too!
Step 6: Once you have clipped all nails, have your dog stand on the ground and check to see if the nails are still touching the floor. Ideally, you don't want the nails to be touching the floor. If they are touching the floor and you can see the end of the nail is not that close to the quick, you can take off a little bit more, or use a dremel to finish off and file the nail shorter. If the dogs nail is touching the floor and you can see the quick is very close, you will need to leave the nails as they are. If you leave nails too long in-between trims, the quick will grow longer and you wont be able to clip the nail short anymore. You can train the quick to recede, however it is a process that must be done over a few weeks, and is often best left to the professionals.