Learning How To Use Dog Nail Clippers

One of the things that dog owners need to learn quickly is how to use dog nail clippers. Learning this when the puppy is very young will make the world of difference in the future.

Clipping your dog’s nails on a regular basis is a chore that many dog owners overlook. They may overlook this chore because they just don’t think about it or they are afraid of doing this.

how to use dog nail clippers
nail trimmers

The biggest challenge that comes with learning how to use dog nail clippers is where to actually cut the nail. Now if you are lucky enough to own a dog that has whitish nails then you can see where you can cut back to.

Structure of a Dog’s Nail

I guess before I go any further I should explain something about a dog’s nail. A dog’s nail is made up of a hard outer shell and this protects the blood vessels and nerves, commonly referred to as the quick. When you are trimming your dog’s nails and you cut too much off you risk cutting into the quick which will cause bleeding and more importantly will hurt your dog. Not only will it hurt your dog but he will be a lot less trusting in the future when he sees you coming will the dreaded nail clippers.

The best way to get your dog used to the nail clippers is to start using them at a very young age. At this stage just clip the tip off – don’t worry about having super short nails. Do this once a week and your puppy will get use to the feel of the nail clippers.

Now as I mentioned earlier if you have a dog with whitish nails then you can actually see the quick in the nail so you know where to cut. Not so with a dog who’s nails are black. For this reason you are better off trimming just the point of the nail off and also since you are not taking off that much trim the nails more often.

You can tell where the quick is on a black nail by the colour of the center of the nail. As you get closer to the quick it will become a fleshy white to gray colour.

Every time you clip a dog’s nails the quick goes back a bit. So if your dog has long overgrown nails you cannot just cut them back you need to take a bit at a time to work the quick back. Doing this may take some time but is worth the effort.

How can you tell when your dog’s nails are too long. Do you hear that clicking as your dog walks along on the floor? That is a good indicator that your dog’s nails are in need of a trim.

When you are learning how to use dog nail clippers you will find the best way is to hold the clippers in your dominant hand. If your right handed hold them in your right hand, if your left handed hold them in your left hand. Hold your dog’s paw gently but firmly with your other hand. For best control your thumb should be on the dog’s pad and your fingers should be on top of the foot. Once you line up the nail trimmers clip the nail. Try to do this when the dog is not moving. I know easier said than done.

As your dog gets use to the clippers he will remain calm and still. This will take some time and patience and hopefully no setbacks by accidentally cutting into the quick.

Now some people prefer to cut their dog’s nails when the dog is standing, others prefer the dog to be laying down. Usually the dog will dictate how they want their nails cut.

how to use dog nail clippers
how to use dog nail clippers

The dog we have now we got from the pound. Before we picked her up they did clip her nails but they told us it was quite a battle. She was 7 months old at this point. The first time we clipped her nails(my husband and I usually do them together) we had her laying down. She tried to bite so we had to muzzle her. It was battle royale. It took quite awhile but we finally got her nails clipped.

Next time when we clipped we decided to stand her up. She still didn’t like it but she was much better. Now if my husband is not around I am able to clip her nails by myself. It took awhile but it was well worth it.

Some people will use a grinder to trim their dog’s nails. We did that with our last two dogs. They were both Dobermans and the breeder actually started grinding their nails before we picked them up at 8 weeks old. We never had any issues with them.

Before you go to clip your dog’s nails it is a good idea to take a good look at their feet. You never know what you might find. I once found a small lump between the toes. Turned out to be a cancerous lump. It was caught so early that it was removed without incident.

Trimming your dog’s nail is just one small thing that you can do to keep your dog healthy.  To find out other things that you can do to keep your dog healthy check out Kingdom of Pets Ultimate Guide To Dog Health.

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    • Rosa
    • September 20, 2017

    Hi there,

    Thank you for this helpful information. I recently brought home a couple of rescue dogs and I know that I will need to clip their nails. I think I’m going to find this to be a chore considering my dogs move around a lot. I realize the dogs need to be calm and still. That’s going to be a little complicated for me. Just like you, I will need my husband’s help to get it done. Your tip on how to clip your dog’s nail is very helpful.

    Thank you for the tips shared here.

      • Maureen
      • September 21, 2017

      Hi Rosa If your dogs are not used to it at all and you are not sure of their disposition yet have a muzzle on hand.  If they do try and bite it is best to use a muzzle but try it without at first.  If your dog’s nails are white you will be able to see the quick if they are black just take off the points until your dog gets used to getting their nails clipped.  Good luck!

    • Matt's Mom
    • September 23, 2017

    I have two dogs, both of them get groomed. It gets to be so pricey at $55 a dog, having them groomed, so I find myself spreading the cuts as far apart as I can. The problem then is with their nails. I have been really leery of cutting my dogs nails, only because I have heard horror stories about cutting them too short and hurting the dog. Your post is very informative and useful, yet now I feel even more compelled to not trim their nails. Both dogs have black nails, and when I look at them, I don’t see the quick. I do see your point, that I can just cut off the tip, and do it more regularly. I had not thought about doing that.

      • Maureen
      • September 23, 2017

      My dog’s nail are also black so when I do clip her nails I will hold just the one nail right where I want to clip it.  by holding her nail like this it does not allow me to clip her nails back too far.  The other thing I will do is trim off the point and then use a grinder.  It may take some time to get your dog use to the grinder but with time and patience they will get used to it.  I often use the grinder on our dog now without any help from my husband.  This is quite an accomplishment considering when we first got her it took two of us to hold her down with a muzzle on to trim her nails.  You can accomplish great things if you have the patience.  Good luck!

    • Alyssa
    • September 26, 2017

    Such a helpful article! My husband and I both fall into the category of “too scared” to clip our dogs nails. I can tell you from personal experience that its very expensive taking the dogs to get their nails groomed professionally. I’m so frightened that the dog will move and I’ll clip into the quick and we’ll have a messy incident. I really don’t want to hurt either dog. Our mini schnauzer, Chancy, has black nails, which makes me even more nervous. Fortunately, we found a groomer we trust and is reasonably priced, but I know that someday we’ll have to learn how. Is there a particular brand of clippers or toe nail grinders that you recommend? Perhaps a “how to” video?

      • Maureen
      • September 26, 2017

      Hi Alyssa you are not alone when it comes to people scared to cut their dog’s nails.  The more you do it the more used to it your dog will become and they will calm down.  As far as clipper go I think they are all pretty much the same.  As far as grinders go if you have a small to medium size dog then the pedi-paws grinder would be good.  If you have a large dog and their nails are quite thick you may need to go with a dremel.  I know the nails on our dobermans we did with the dremel because the Pedi-Paw grinder just wasn’t heavy duty enough.

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