* Disclaimer – I am not a professional groomer. I have not attended any special classes or secured any certifications for cutting dog nails. I only speak from years of experience with my own dogs.
This article is only a little about where and how to cut your dog’s nails. Mostly it is about how to help get both you and your dog comfortable with nail trimming. For some dogs that hate for their feet to be touched, this process can take a long time. Other dogs take to it quite well. I believe it all starts out with attitude.
If you’re nervous about cutting your dog’s nails, your dog may be able to sense it. So do whatever you need to in order to calm yourself. Drink some chamomile tea, take some deep breaths, do a little yoga, or go for a walk or run first. Doing research on the topic helps too. By seeing how others do it can help boost your confidence that you can do it too.
Practice Playing Footsie
If your dog doesn’t like his feet to be touched, then help him get used to it. Put those clippers away and get out the treats and toys. Make touching feet part of you and your dog’s playtime together. Work your way from just simply touching his feet to actually holding them. Teach him shake and reward him when he lets you hold on.
A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
Exercise your dog before you trim his nails. Make him too tired to put up much resistance. Don’t overdo it, of course. But your dog is more likely to be calm if he’s had a good run, long walk, or vigorous play session.
Clip Just the Tip
Start out by just clipping the tips of your dog’s nails where you are absolutely certain that you won’t cut into the quick. Do this weekly. It will help boost both your confidence and your dog’s. As you get more proficient at it, you can slowly work your way up the nail.
Reward for Calm Behavior
For my dogs, they do not get a cookie until I am done with all their nails. But you can start out by rewarding your dog just because he allowed you to trim one nail. Later you can move up to where he only gets rewarded for when he allows you to cut all the nails on one foot.
Ask Your Vet or Groomer
Have a groomer or vet show you what to look for when you trim. I have some pictures here, but it really is best to see it on your own dog.
Keep Styptic on Hand
For just in case the worst should happen, make sure you have some styptic on hand. Styptic is a quick and simple way to stop the bleeding. Remember, keep calm. If you freak out because you cut too short, your dog will too. And he might not be so cooperative next time.
Where to Cut
A lot of diagrams show the dog nail from the side. But I like to look under the nail. When I look under the nail, I can generally see which part is nail and which part is flesh. Take a look at Maya and Pierson’s dog nails and see if this helps.
Instead of looking at the sides of my dogs’ nails, I like to look underneath.
Can you tell which part is the dog’s nail and which part is flesh?
Here is a closer look at Maya’s toe nail.
The circled part is what I look for. This is part of the quick and I don’t want to cut that. So I cut right above it.
Looking under the dog nail for a dog with black toe nails is much more helpful for determining where the quick is than looking from the side.
Remember, have your vet or groomer show you first. The above pictures may be helpful, but it really is a good idea to get a look at your own dog’s nails. Plus, your vet or groomer can give you direct supervised experience.