For many dog owners this is a subject that makes us shudder with dread. How do we safely cut our dog’s nails without causing them pain, cutting too close to the quick and making our best pals yelp?

Ever done it? Ever done it wrong?

Well, we’re here to help.

Trimming your dogs nails can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience for both you and your pet but it doesn’t have to be – if you go about it the right way.

The key to making this experience more pleasant is to get your dog used to having his feet handled. Most dogs don’t care to much for this and if you can start when your dog is a puppy you’ll have a bit of an advantage. However, even older dogs can learn to love getting a little pedicure every so often.

Before you even get out the nail clippers, though, you’ll want to touch your dogs feet often. Just a little touch at first. If your dog pulls away, don’t push it but keep it up, touching his feet often throughout the day. Eventually he’ll get used to it and you can proceed to holding his paws for longer and longer. Once this seems to be acceptable to him (this could take weeks or even months), it’s time to get the clippers out.

When trimming your dogs nails the big thing to watch out for is that you don’t cut into the quick. This is in the middle of your pets nail and contains nerves and blood vessels so it can really hurt if you cut into it or even too close to it. Depending on your dogs nails, you might be able to hold them up to the light and actually see the darker vein of the quick in the middle.

Start by trimming a little off the end, then a bit more until you see pink in the nail or feel like you might be close to the quick. On dark nails, it’s pretty much impossible to tell so you’ll have to just cut enough to trim down the nail or else you will risk cutting the quick. The edges of the nail might be a bit jagged after this so go ahead and file them down until they are smooth or they might end up catching on something.

You might want to have some styptic powder handy in case you do cut into the quick and hold this on the nail to staunch the bleeding.

How do you know when it’s time for trimming your dogs nails?

Your pets nails should just about touch the floor when he walks so if you hear clicking then the nails have grown too long and it’s time for a trim. This usually needs to be done every 4 to 6 weeks but if your dog does a lot of walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete you could go longer as the surfaces themselves will help wear down the nails kind of like a natural nail file!

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