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How To Trim Your Dog's Nails

Close up of dog getting its nails trimmed

Learning to trim your dog's nails at home can save you money - and stress - when you no longer need to depend on your vet or groomer to trim them.

Your dog will appreciate having their nails trimmed by you, rather than a stranger. They'll also feel much more comfortable when their nails no longer hit the floor every time they take a step.

When your dog's nails are too long, they'll press into the ground when they walk, and your dog may need to shift their weight differently to avoid that unpleasant feeling. This can lead to paw deformities and injured tendons.

With the right tools, some treats, and a bit of patience, trimming your dog's nails at home can be safe, easy, and even fun.

Tools To Trim Your Dog's Nails

You'll need to use pet nail clippers to trim your dog's nails. Human nail clippers won't work, as they're specifically designed to accommodate our thinner, flatter nails.

Guillotine style nail clippers have a groove in which you set your dog's nail. When you squeeze the handle, the blade will cut the nail.

Scissor style nail clippers have two curved blades that work together to cut your dog's nail. Guillotine and scissor style nail clippers work differently, but offer the same result. You may want to try several different models until you find the one that you're most comfortable using, and that seem to work best on your dog's nails.

A nail grinder is a popular alternative to clippers. Instead of cutting the nail, it uses a small, rotating sandpaper belt to grind down the nails. They're preferred by some groomers and pet owners because they trim the nail gradually, making it much less likely that you'll cut too far. You can also use clippers and then follow up with a grinder to round out any sharp edges.

How To Get Your Dog To Relax When You Trim Their Nails

Nail trimming is not normally painful for dogs. However, you will almost certainly need to use lots of treats to help your desensitize your dog to the sensation of having their paws handled and the ordeal of having to sit still while you trim.

Before you begin trimming, practice your technique. A raw piece of spaghetti is great for practice, as it has about the same hardness as a dog's nail. While you clip or grind the spaghetti, give your dog treats so they'll get used to the sounds your tool makes.

Try gently holding your dog in your lap or sitting next to them while you handle their paws. See if they tolerate the clippers or the grinder (turned off) touching their nails. Give them plenty of treats while you do this, and take extra time on this step if they already have anxiety about having their nails trimmed.

If your dog doesn't mind having their nails touched with the tools, you can try to clip just one nail. Follow up with a tasty treat. If you give your dog a small tidbit every time you trim a nail, they'll likely start to associate nail time with getting lots of yummy snacks.

Still having trouble trimming your dog's nails?

You and your dog could suffer injuries if you try to force them to tolerate it. Seek help from your veterinarian or a professional trainer to learn how to trim your dog's nails without risking their (and your own) safety.