How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown

By John Martin - May 3, 2022

Small dog getting overgrown nails trimmed

An important step in dog care includes trimming their overgrown nails.

If you are not too sure how to trim your dog’s nails properly while making sure that you don’t hurt them, you are on the right page! Read ahead to find out the steps involved in trimming dog nails.

Why You Should Trim Dog Nails

Why should you trim dog nails in the first place?

It’s simple. Just as overgrown nails can cause humans discomfort, they can cause discomfort for dogs as well.

It is an important part of grooming your dog. Without it, your dog can become susceptible to several health issues as well.

Not to mention, you definitely want to avoid any accidental scratches on your skin or on your furniture!

Steps to Follow

So, what steps should you follow to carefully cut your dog’s nails? What do you need to keep in mind?

Let’s find out!

Recognize When They Need Trimming

First of all, you need to make sure that you know when you need to trim your dog’s nails.

You should be able to tell when your dog’s nails are overgrown and need to be trimmed. There are a few signs that you can look for.

These signs may include your dog’s discomfort, slower walking or running, scratches in your house or the sound of nails on the floor when your dog passes by.

Train Them to Be Comfortable

Now that you know how to recognize if your dog’s nails are overgrown, you can start the trimming process.

It is likely that your dog will not enjoy this process at all. To make sure that they do not run away each time you bring out the trimmer or clipper, give it some time.

Train them to stay in place whenever you touch their paw and start trimming. You can do this by giving them time and space to investigate the trimmer.

You can also give them treats each time you complete a step. Keep adding steps to this process until your dog is fully desensitized and ready.

Make sure you and your dog are patient enough to get through the whole process.

Also Read: How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog?

Check If They Have Injuries

Sometimes, your dog may not want you to touch its paws and may exhibit odd behavior when you try to do so.

Dogs may also keep licking their paws on a regular basis if they have any injuries or allergies.

In this case, you should first ensure that you are not hurting your dog by trimming nails. Look for injuries or allergies before you start trimming.

Put Them in a Good Position

Try to make sure that your dog is in a comfortable position. You should also be able to look at the nails comfortably and clearly.

During this process, you want your dog to be as relaxed as possible. Ask someone else for help if you can’t do this by yourself.

If your dog is small enough, you can place them in your lap and trim the nails comfortably.

Another way to keep your dog in place is by placing them on a table or any flat surface. Stand next to the dog (on the opposite side of the paws), put your arms around the dog and then start trimming.

This way, you can also make sure that your dog does not try to keep moving around and squirming too much.

If your dog needs a break, don’t hesitate to stop for a while and get back to it when you are both ready.

Whatever the position is, try to be as comfortable as possible so that you don’t end up accidentally hurting the dog.

Use the Right Trimmer

You can choose to use either a clipper or a grinder for trimming your dog’s nails. Figure out which one works better for you and your dog.

There are also various types of trimmers such as a guillotine kind and a scissors kind. Both can be used for different purposes depending on the nail length and location.

Usually, it is best to use a guillotine trimmer. If the nail is too long or if you have a larger dog who has thicker nails, then you might want to consider using a scissor clipper.

A scissor clipper is also useful if the nail is slightly bent inwards in a circular shape.

If it so happens that a long claw grows into the toe (this can happen with the innermost parts of the paw), hold that claw at a certain angle so that you can trim it easily using a guillotine clipper.

You can also use grinders that simply grind down the nail. This will reduce effort to a great extent and can be convenient for large dogs.

You will have to provide some extra training to your dog if you want to use a grinder. This is because the vibrations might scare your dog off.

It is also a longer process as compared to clipping.

Related: Can You Use Human Nail Clippers on Dogs?

Identify the Quick

The part of the claw where the blood vessels and nerves are is called the quick. When you are trimming your dog’s nails, find out where the quick is first.

Once you do, make sure you avoid cutting or trimming the quick as this will be painful for your dog. Trim only around the quick at the edges of the claw.

It will be easier to identify the quick in light-colored claws than in black ones. For black ones, try to trim using small cuts.

Keep cutting until you see the quick in the form of a pinkish oval at the top of the nail’s surface. There might also be a black dot in the middle.

Figure Out a Trimming Strategy

Hold your trimmer at a correct angle. Hold it comfortably in your dominant hand and make sure to keep it away from any other parts of the dog such as the face.

Start cutting at the top of the nail by following the angle and shape of the claw. If your dog has light claws, you can cut the nail in one or two turns.

However, if your dog has black claws, go slow and make small cuts.

Further, if the nails are too long and overgrown, don’t cut too much at a time. Make small cuts in this case as well to keep the process painless.

Check how much you have cut after each trim so that you can keep track of how close you are to the quick. Keep cutting until you can finally see the quick.

Figure out what works well for your dog and what strategy you and your dog are most comfortable with.

Don’t Rush It

Remember, take it slow and don’t rush the process. You want your dog to be completely relaxed during this process.

Try to make yourself as relaxed as possible as well. Trim confidently and steadily.

If you rush the process, you might cause accidents that could be painful for your dog.

Don’t worry if you can’t finish the process in one go or sitting. Your dog will probably want a break to run around.

If this happens, you can keep doing it at intervals during your day or spread out the process across a few days.

It takes time to get used to trimming your dog’s nails. Perhaps it might not even work out too well the first few times.

Remain patient and keep trying. You will definitely get the hang of it soon and your dog will become better at staying still as well.

Also Read: How To Use Dog Nail Clippers

Reassure Your Dog

When you are cutting your dog’s nails, try to keep reassuring your dog throughout the process.

This will be particularly helpful if your dog is nervous or if this is your first time trimming nails.

You can also give your dog some space to play around in between if required.

Give Treats!

Last but not the least, keep some treats handy to give to your dog after you are done with the trimming process.

You can also give some treats at regular intervals if you think that works better. That way, your dog can stay invested and learn how to stay in one position.

It can also be a fun way for both of you to get through all the steps. Before you know it, you will become better and better at it.

Repeat this entire process on a regular basis. Set a schedule to do this once a week.

You can also keep a longer gap if your dog’s nails take a bit longer to grow. However, don’t wait too long or else it might increase your dog’s discomfort.

It is best to not wait until the nails are too long as this might lead to injuries and other health issues. It might also make the trimming process much longer and frustrating.

Do whatever it takes to make things easier.

What to Do If You Cut the Quick

In case you accidentally cut the quick, remember not to panic.

It will be painful for your dog but it also won’t be too much of a threat. Keep yourself calm if it happens.

You will find out that you have cut the quick if your dog’s nail starts bleeding. If this happens, there are some easy steps to stop the bleeding.

Keep some styptic powder ready and apply it to the nail. This is usually used to stop bleeding and to aid clotting.

Try to keep your dog calm during this process as well by giving them treats and praises.

Observe your dog after you apply the powder. If they are chewing or licking their paw, they might be experiencing some discomfort.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop with the styptic powder, contact your vet and get the nail checked.

Also Read: 13 Simple & Effective Home Remedies for Dog Scooting

The Final Word

Now that you know how to trim your dog’s overgrown nails, go ahead and try it out.

It might take a bit of time to get used to (both for you and your dog), so don’t try to rush or hasten the process. Make sure that your dog is completely comfortable.

Take your time, trim those nails and give your dog (and yourself) some treats!