Hello everyone – meet Kimbo. Kimbo is our Dutch Shepherd and toady he’s going to help us demonstrate how to clip a dog’s nails. Knowing how to do this yourself at home can save you quite a bit of time and money and make your dog more comfortable. Long nails can scratch people or get snagged in clothing and furniture and break off which generally requires a trip to the vet.
Most people are afraid they will trim nails too short and hurt their dogs so we will be focusing on how to trim the nails without actually cutting to the quick. Also, it is a good idea to start handling your dog’s feet when they are a puppy so that they don’t grow up to be difficult about having their nails trimmed. I usually clip the nails of my puppies and dogs at least once a month unless their nails grow faster or slower, then I just tailor the schedule to the dog.
Really the only tool you absolutely need for this is a set of nail trimmers. There are a couple of versions available but my this is my favorite pair:
This pair gives me a bit more versatility than the version that looks like a guillotine – with these I can control the actual angle of the trim and it seems like they accommodate larger nails a little better.
If you are worried about nicking the quick or if your dog has long quicks that are accidentally trimmed frequently, you might also want to keep styptic powder on hand to stop any bleeding.
What are we looking at?
Some dogs have clear or white nails that make it pretty easy to see where you should make a cut. Almost like human nails, a portion of a dog’s nails have living tissue and blood underneath the surface and the nail grows over the top of this and outward. The shape of a dog’s nails makes it easier to accidentally cut this tissue – especially if the nails are black or brown and you cannot see the quick.
Kimbo has both clear and black nails so we’re going to use him to demonstrate how you can determine where to actually trim if you have no idea where the quick is. In the photo below you can see the underside of one of Kimbo’s nails and that underneath the very tip, the nail is hollow. As you get closer to the quick that “hollowness” disappears and is a good indicator that the quick has grown down the nail that far.
How far to trim?
Looking at the same photo, I’ve drawn a red line where the trim should be made. I picked this spot because that is where the end of the nail is no longer hollow so if you make sure you trim at this point you should be able to avoid any mishaps. Make sure your trimmers are sharp and you make the trim quickly. This will be the most comfortable for the dog and ensure that the experience is not an unpleasant one they try to avoid in the future.
What To Do If You Cut a Quick
If you do end up cutting a quick – and despite our best efforts it does happen – then expect it to bleed profusely and not clot quickly. To speed up the clotting, apply styptic powder with you finger so that it completely covers the tip of the nail. You can find my favorite styptic powder in this post. Application of styptic powder should stop the bleeding immediately. Nicking the quick is painful – kind of like breaking a fingernail – so your dog may limp and act painful. The pain should dissipate soon.
Nail trims definitely don’t have to be done only by a vet or groomer – with a little bit of practice this is a very simple and quick process that can be done at home. Most dogs don’t love having this done but they can be conditioned to tolerate it. Our poodle, Tucker, sits in my lap while I trim his nails but the bigger dogs like Kimbo are asked to sit or lay down on the ground. I am very quick about this and trim each nail as fast as possible and once we are done they usually get a treat. Practice and positive reinforcement are the key.