Hearing the clickety clack of your pup’s nails on the floor? Maybe it’s time for a manicure. But should you clip a dog’s nails or is filing a dog’s nails better? Clipping a dog’s nails can be pretty tricky but it is something you should get your puppy used to and make part of their general grooming routine. 

Leaving a dog’s nails too long can cause all sorts of problems and make them sore, so read on to find out all you need to know about dog’s nails:

  • Why you should clip your dog’s nails.
  • How to clip a dog’s nails.
  • How long a dog’s nails should be when you clip them.
  • How to check on your puppy’s nails.

If you’re looking for more advice and lessons like this, download the Zigzag puppy training app and get started on your puppy’s journey to being a well-behaved adult dog, the talk of the town, in fact! We have a team of expert puppy coaches ready and waiting to talk to you about your puppy, it’s literally like having a dog trainer on speed dial… really!

dog with paws on bed
Photo by T.R Photography 📸 on Unsplash

Why should I clip my dog’s nails?

It’s a really good idea to learn how to clip a dog’s nails from the very beginning while they’re still puppies. You don’t want to be taking your puppy to a Vet or groomer every time you want to cut your dog’s nails, so it’s good for you to learn to do it, and for them to feel happy about you doing it. 

Our modern lifestyle means our dogs’ nails are not worn down naturally, therefore it’s up to us to clip them. A dog’s claws are like our nails, they constantly grow. Prior to domestication, your dog’s claws would have been worn down with all of the hunting, scavenging and running around on different surfaces, but modern day dogs do very little if any of this.

Leave a dog’s nails to grow too long, and they begin to curl and grow into their paws. This is a serious welfare issue and is cruel, it’s such an easy fix – just teach your puppy to have their nails clipped! 

How to clip my dog’s nails: Top 7 Tips

When thinking about how to cut puppy nails you’ll first want to assemble all of the right equipment, so you’re organised and ready. Choose the right nail clippers for your dog. There are a few different types to choose from, from basic guillotine nail clippers to the power-assisted electric nail grinders

You’ll also want some super yummy treats to teach your dog that nail clipping is fun, and something non-slip or comfy for them to lie on like a piece of Vet bed

Another thing people often use is a product to stop bleeding – these swabs look great for that! There is also a powder available too. There is a vein that runs through a dog’s nails called a quick. In a dog with white claws this is nice and easy to see but in a black nailed dog it can be much harder.

If you clip the nails too short this can cut the quick and it’s not only sore for your puppy but it also bleeds quite a bit. A product like the ones mentioned work as a blood clotter, so you might find it useful to have some on hand, just in case! 

1. Make sure your puppy is happy being handled

Before you go near your puppy with the nail clippers, make sure they are happy having their feet touched and handled. You might need to do this over several days, or even weeks, using food to teach them that having their feet touched is fine. We have a programme in the Zigzag app on this. 

2. Have your nail clippers, treats and puppy ready

Bring your puppy on to the vet bed, or other non-slip mat and just throw some treats down for them to eat. Listen to your puppy’s body language to see what they’re saying. If they walk away or step off their mat, let them go, we need to make sure that having their nails clipped is a positive experience.

3. Pick up a paw and touch it with the nail clippers and give them a treat

No need to cut the nail just yet. We’re practising first by teaching your puppy that nail clippers aren’t something to worry about, but they mean treats! 

4. Pretend clip a couple of nails and see how your puppy reacts

Was your puppy happy having their nails ’pretend’ clipped? Great. Now give them a break. Learning how to cut puppy nails doesn’t need to be a race!

5. See if you can do all four paws over the course of the day

Clipping your dog’s claws needs to be fun and a regular part of your new routine. With that in mind, we want to make sure our puppies are comfortable, so being on the mat, and having their nails pretend clipped, before we move on to actually clipping our puppy’s nails! 

6. The next day try and clip one of your puppy’s nails

Was your puppy happy to have their nails clipped? Great, give them a treat for being so brave, now move onto the next one. If you can do one paw in this session, then let them have a few minutes break and see if they are happy to go again.

7. Try and clip the nails on the next paw

If they’re happy with you clipping their nails then carry on and do all of their paws if you can. Sometimes it’s better to get it out of the way if your puppy is obliging and enjoying the experience. 

You did it! You learnt to clip your dog’s nails! It wasn’t so bad was it? It should be easier the next time too. 

Woman holding dogs paw up
Photo by Igor Bumba on Unsplash

What to look out for when cutting your puppy’s nails

Check your puppy’s nails regularly. This is to check how long they are and that they haven’t cracked or split. 

Sometimes if the nails are too long, they can get caught on blankets and break, just like a human nail, and this will be sore.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how long should a dog’s nails be, then you can easily tell by looking at whether the nails extend past their paw. You should be able to see your dog’s nails, it can be tricky in long haired dogs we know, but it’s worth checking. If you can hear your puppy tap tap tapping across the floor, it’s probably a sign that their nails are too long and you should clip them.

If there’s any rough edges after you’ve clipped your dog’s nails, you can always file your dog’s nails with a nail file. 

When cutting your puppy’s nails, watch out for that quick we told you about. It’s a good idea to leave around 2mm from the quick. If you have a dog with dark or black nails, then be conservative, you can always trim their nails more regularly, and in time this actually makes the quick recede so you can cut them a little shorter. Alternatively, consider filing, or grinding the nails instead with a dedicated dog nail grinder or a dremel! 

black and brown dog paws
Photo by Kristine Tanne on Unsplash

For a puppy who is afraid of nail clippers, maybe because they’ve never had it done, or had a bad experience, then filing a dog’s nails can be something that they learn to accept a bit more readily. You can even teach them tricks like filing their nails on a piece of sandpaper board. 

Always watch your puppy for signs of stress, we want this to be pleasant, and their body language is an excellent way to communicate how they’re feeling. 

We hope you’ve found out what you needed to know about how to cut puppy nails, it’s a process worth taking time over so they learn it’s not a scary experience. We all have tickly feet don’t we, and it would be strange for someone else to cut our nails. Put yourself in their paws!

You might also want to read more about puppy grooming while you’re here, or why not download a trial of the Zigzag puppy training app and have a timetable of lessons and a team of puppy coaches there for you every step of the way? We can’t wait to hear all about your puppy.