Clipping Your Dog's Nails

Clipping Your Dog’s Nails Is More Important Than You Think

If your dog runs around on a farm all day, it is likely that this constant exercise helps keep their nails trim, however, in the suburbs or city many dogs are lucky to get few miles or kilometers of exercise in daily. The result? excessively long toenails.

Long toenails lead to many problems, the first being painful feet. When a dog’s toenails contact hard ground, like a sidewalk or a floor in your home, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on all the toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side. Imagine wearing too-tight shoes all the time, the pain would be awful!

In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. But even if they are not that out of control, long nails can get torn or split, which is very painful and can even affect your dog’s stature and stance. So, from sore toes to arthritis and other medical issues, long nails are a problem for dogs. When touch becomes painful to your dog, they will fuss when you pick up their paw to cut nails. Depending on severity, long nails may need to be treated by a veterinarian.

A regular maintenance routine of trimming your dog’s nails once a week to once a month must be established for good paw and nail health!

The toenail of a dog is made up of two parts: the quick and the horn-like nail itself. Just like human nails, dogs do not have any feeling in the nail itself, but the quick contains a blood supply and a nerve that transfers feelings to the dog.

If you have a dog with light-colored nails, it will be fairly easy to recognize the quick as it appears as a pinkish area in the center of the nail. In dark-colored nails identifying the quick can be harder and so trimming them can be a bit of a challenge.

When you fail to trim your dog's nails as frequently as needed, the quick grows along with the nail. In some cases, when the nails are extra-long, the quick may lengthen so much that it reaches the tip. When this happens, you won't be able to trim much nail without risking cutting through the quick. Don't try to trim those nails short all at once! Ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to gradually trim the nail and encourage the quick to recede so Scruffy can start to walk comfortably again.

If you don’t have any major issues with the quick of your dogs nails being too long, you can trim them yourself.

Start with a bag of yummy dog treats on hand and a positive attitude. Also, don’t expect that you will necessarily get all of the nails trimmed in one sitting. Be patient, some dogs are only good for a few nails in a sitting, even one to start as they get used to the experience.

Use your fingers to separate the toes for clipping and hold the paw gently. Use a pair of blunt edged children's scissors to remove excess toe hair: nothing dulls clippers quicker than cutting hair! hold the handle of the nail trimmers flat against the toe pad and cut straight across the nail, so that the nail will sit just above the ground

This technique makes it extremely unlikely you will cut the nails too short

To get a shorter cut than the previous method, aim to cut at a 45° angle, after observing and getting a good idea of where the quick is.

Remember, no dog ever died from a quicked toenail. If you “quick” your dog accidentally (cut the quick), give a yummy treat and a hug right away. Even people who trim nails every day make this mistake periodically.

Buy good quality trimmers that are sharp and designed for the correct size dog. They should be concave at the cutting edge, to avoid crushing the nail. Blunt or poor quality trimmers will split the nail and hurt your pet. If the nails aren’t that long but are sharp you can simply file them or use a pumice stone to take off the tips. In North America it is becoming common to use a dremel tool to slowly burr down the nails and this can be more gradual and some think safer than clipping. This is all a matter of preference and knowing your dog’s temperament!


If you feel unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, talk to your veterinarian or groomer. They would be happy to demonstrate the correct procedure and coach you as you try it out the first time.

 Happy Trimming!