Learning how to trim your puppy’s nails is an important skill and will form part of his routine grooming regime. If you don’t feel confident about trimming your pup’s nails, this article should be able to help you with some useful tips and tricks!
How to get your puppy comfortable with nail trimming
The first step before you even start trimming your pup’s nails is to get him comfortable with having his feet handled. This is important so that he is happy with being groomed but also so that a veterinarian will be able to handle his feet to examine them if needed in the future. Many dogs are quite sensitive about having their feet touched, so build up to it gradually with plenty of praise and treats.
Start by just lightly touching or holding your puppy’s paws for short periods and rewarding him afterward. If he is reluctant then try not to force him, take a step back. Try touching higher up his leg instead and slowly work your way down to his foot.
Most puppies are ok with having their feet touched, as long as everything is kept positive and upbeat. If he is happy with having his paws touched you can then move on to introducing the nail clippers.
Do the following process over the course of a week or two, repeating steps if you need to so that he is comfortable with each one before you move on.
- First, introduce him to the nail clippers and let him sniff them. Give him plenty of praise and a treat.
- The next day, hold his paw and bring the clippers towards him, touching them lightly against his toes. Give him praise and a treat.
- The next time, squeeze his paw gently to extend his toes as you just touch the clippers against his nail. Again, repeat praise and treats.
- When he is happy with the previous steps, you can then try to clip the end off of one nail, praising him as you do so. Give him a treat afterward.
- Then the next time try and clip a couple of nails
- Trim the remaining claws gradually over a few days.
If, at any point, your puppy is uncomfortable with the process, stop and repeat some of the earlier steps until he’s happy enough to try moving forwards again. Don’t rush through the process as the aim is to build his confidence slowly.
How to trim your puppy’s nails
Whenever you trim your puppy’s nails, make sure you find somewhere quiet to do it where you won’t be too disturbed, and set plenty of time aside so that you aren’t rushing. Make sure you have a decent pair of dog claw clippers, as old blunt ones will be more likely to cause more discomfort.
The most important thing to remember when cutting your pup’s nails is not to go too short. The nail has a sensitive ‘quick’ that runs down the middle of it which contains a small blood vessel. If you trim too short you could catch the quick which may cause some discomfort and bleeding.
In puppies with white nails, you should be able to see the quick as a pink stripe running down from the base of the claw (nail bed), so avoid cutting into this. You should only be trimming the white/clear part of the nail below the quick.
It can be trickier if your dog has black nails, as you won’t be able to see the quick. Instead, a good guideline is to extend the toe slightly by squeezing it gently and trimming the tip of the claw off so that it is roughly in line with the pad. If you have any doubts, leave the claw a little bit longer, just in case. You could always take a small amount of the nail off at a time, and if your dog shows any signs of sensitivity then stop.
Steps for trimming your dog’s nails
- Find a quiet area and try not to rush things
- Consider having a second pair of hands to help hold the puppy and praise him whilst you trim
- Gently hold the puppy’s foot and extend the toe by squeezing the pad slightly between your thumb and forefinger
- Make sure any hair on the dog’s foot isn’t obscuring your view
- Trim the nail at a 45-degree angle, cutting the point of the claw off
- Repeat for all of the nails including any dewclaws
- Don’t forget to praise and reward your dog as you go
- If they seem stressed at any point, stop and repeat some of the training steps discussed earlier
If you are a bit nervous about trimming your puppy’s claws for the first time you could ask your veterinarian, veterinary technician/nurse, or a good dog groomer to show you how to do it.
What do I do if I accidentally cut the quick?
If you do accidentally cut the quick, then stay calm and apply a bit of pressure to the nail with some paper towel or cotton wool to help stop the bleeding. It often looks more dramatic than it is, and a clot should soon form, making the bleeding will stop.
You could help things along by applying some styptic powder or a silver nitrate stick if you have it, or even dabbing some flour or cornstarch on the nail tip. If the bleeding is extreme or goes on for several minutes, then you may need to call your veterinarian for advice.
Cutting the quick may cause your pup some discomfort so is best avoided where possible – however even the best veterinarian will have caught a quick or two at some stage in their career, so try not to feel too disappointed in yourself! You may however want to get someone to demonstrate to you how to clip your pup’s nails if you are struggling yourself.
The importance of regular nail trimming
It is important to make sure your dog’s claws are well maintained so that he is comfortable and able to walk soundly. If his claws grow overlong, they could become twisted or misshapen. The quicks can grow longer too which will make trimming tricky in the future.
Dewclaws (the little claws on the sides of the foot) are particularly prone to curling around if not clipped, poking into the pad, and causing pain. Long claws are also more likely to get caught and injured whilst out on walks.
You might be wondering how old a puppy needs to be to have his nails trimmed. By the time you get your puppy at around 8-10 weeks he probably could do with his first trim. Many pups have pointy little claws that can be a bit scratchy when you are handling them. Follow the steps described previously to gradually get him used to having his feet handled and his nails cut.
How often a dog needs his claws trimming going forward is quite variable. Some breeds seem to need more regular trimming than others. Where they exercise also plays a part in this too – dogs that do lots of pavement walking will wear their nails down faster than a dog who always walks on soft grass. So, some adult dogs may need their nails clipping every few weeks, whereas others may hardly need it doing at all!
Trimming a puppy’s claws little and often is probably a good way of getting them used to having it done. A good guideline is to ensure that the end of your puppy’s nails are roughly level with the pad when you are extending the toe. The claws should not contact the ground when he is standing either, if they are then they need trimming. If in doubt speak to your veterinarian.
It is important to help your puppy build a positive association with having his nails trimmed so that you can keep them well maintained. Take it slowly and remember to give lots and praise and plenty of treats. If you are still uncertain about trimming his claws or having any difficulties, then speak with your veterinary team for advice.