How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails at Home (Even if they’re black!)

How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails at Home (Even if they’re black!)

The thought of clipping your dog’s nails yourself possibly fills you with dread. Combine a wriggly pup, black claws, and a lack of experience and it’s no wonder! However, it is possible to learn to safely clip your dog’s nails at home, depending on your dog. Nail clipping should be a part of your dog’s regular grooming routine, either by yourself or a professional. Overgrown nails can be painful, are more likely to break and can start to grow into the pads. Each dog is different, but as a general rule your dog’s nails should not touch the ground when they are standing. So, here’s how to safely teach yourself, and your canine friend, to nail clip at home.

Equipment needed to clip your dog’s nails at home

- You will need good quality sharp nail clippers designed for dogs, that are appropriately sixed for your dog’s nails. Some have a guard to help with not cutting the nail too short.

- You should also have a product to stem bleeding, should you accidently cut the nail too low. You can buy pens that you have to hold in place to stop the bleeding (such as sliver nitrate pens), blood-stopping swabs, or blood-stopping powders. The latter form a gel when they come into contact with the blood, and this gel barrier stops the bleed. The powders are handy for wriggly pups, since you don’t have to hold them in place for them to work.

- An extra pair of hands is always useful!

- Lots of treats.

How to clip your dog’s nails

            First things first, you need to make sure your dog is happy with you handling their paws. If they aren’t already accustomed to this, start slowly. Lift your dog’s paws daily, then give them some praise and a treat. Once they are happy with this, start gently putting your fingers between their toes, holding their toes and finally holding their nails. Follow with praise and a treat when they allow this without wriggling. This process can take weeks, so take your time.

            It can also help to acclimatise your dog to the nail clippers. Let your dog sniff them. Open and shut them next to your dog’s paws (without touching), so that they can hear the noise they make. Give your dog a treat whenever you do this.

            Once your dog is happy with you handling their paws you can begin. When you first start clipping your dog’s nails at home, it is sensible to do a paw at a time, with breaks in between (for you and your pooch!). Attempt nail clipping when you are relaxed and have plenty of time. Exercising your dog beforehand can make a huge difference, as they should be much calmer. 

            Ideally ask someone your dog knows to help. If you do have someone who can help you, ask them to stand on the opposite side of your dog, to place their arm over your dog’s back and to gently lift the paw on the opposite side to them and nearest to you. Hold the paw or toe yourself with one hand and have your clippers in the other. With small dogs, you may be able to hold them yourself. Make sure there is no hair obscuring your view. You can gently press the pad to extend the nail you are working on.

            Always clip the nail with the clippers in a vertical position. In other words, don’t clip the nail from side to side as this may cause crushing. In some nails, you can see the pink middle part of the nail, or ‘quick’. This contains nerves and blood vessels. So, if you accidentally cut the quick, it will both bleed and be uncomfortable for your pet. If you can see the pink quick, only trim the white nail tip and do not trim too close to the pink. If your dog’s nails are black, only trim the thin straight tips. The quick lies in the fatter portion of the nail that naturally curves.

            If you don’t feel confident, but are keen to learn how to trim your dog’s nails at home, you can ask your vet or vet nurse to teach you at a nail clipping appointment. They will be able to show you how much you can take off.

How do I stop my dog’s nail from bleeding?

            Accidents happen, even to professionals, so don’t beat yourself up if you do accidentally cut the quick. Place your coagulation stick, swab or powder on the cut end of the nail. The bleed always looks very dramatic, but it will stop! If possible, keeping your dog calm and still will help the bleed to stop sooner. Cuddles and treats often work.

How often should I clip my dog’s nails?

            This depends on your dog and the walks that you do. Dogs that walk daily on hard ground such as pavement often need less frequent nail trims, since the nails are naturally worn down to some extent. The more often you trim them, the easier it is, since you are just taking a tiny bit at a time. Around once a month is average.

When should you NOT clip your dog’s nails at home?

            You will need to take your furry friend to a dog groomer or veterinary nurse to have their nails clipped if:

- At any point in the process you feel you are at risk of being snapped at or bitten

- Your dog is showing signs of distress

- Your dog’s nails are growing into their pad

- The nails are split or damaged

- You aren’t confident about how much you safely can trim

            So, now you know all you need to about clipping your dog’s nails at home! If you can master it, it is a skill that can save you time, money and a trip for your pup. However, this doesn’t mean you have to! If you aren’t sure or are nervous, it is often better to leave it to a professional.