How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Nails & What To Do If They Bleed?

Among the most important tasks in dog grooming is trimming their nails. Though often overlooked, trimmed nails make it easier for your dog when she’s walking, running, playing or out exploring. Failure to take dog trimming nailsadequate care of her nails can lead to a number of problems including splitting and breakage of nails which occurs when long nails get caught by objects. If the problem goes unchecked for a long period, your dog may even develop infections or joint and bone complications caused by continuously assuming an unnatural posture.

How Often Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails?

You can cut your dog’s nails at intervals of 3 to 8 weeks depending on what kind of use your dog puts his nails to. The more active your dog is, the more often your need to do it. For example, city dogs that do a lot of walking on hard surfaces like sidewalks require less frequent trimming as the concrete and asphalt surfaces they walk on grind down their nails.

Conversely, dogs that spend more time on grass and other soft surfaces usually require trimming more frequently for obvious reasons. Of course, if your dog does a lot of digging up, she’s bound to naturally trim her nails in the process.

How to Tell If Trimming Is Required

The two things to look out for are:

  1. If the claws protrude over the pad and touch the ground when she’s standing then they’re too long.
  2. If the nails make a clicking sound on a hard surface like the kitchen floor when your dog walks, then they need trimming.

The Quick

trimmed nailsThe quick is a blood vessel that runs through a dog’s nail. Knowing where the quick is located will help you to trim without cutting the quick. To achieve this, you’re best off giving an allowance of about 2mm away from the quick when cutting the nail, which can only be done if your dog has transparent claws that allow you to see the quick inside the nail. If the claws are black or dark colored, it may be almost impossible to see the quick.

What Do Owners Hate Most About Clipping Nails?

Trimming your dog’s nails though important can prove to be a stressful and unpleasant task for both you and your dog. The reasons trimming can be difficult include:

  1. Dogs can get scared or uncooperative making it difficult to trim the nails safely.
  2. Trimming can cause pain and bleed when the quick is cut.
  3. Some dogs are scared of having their nails trimmed to the extent that they even bite their owners.

How To Clip A Dog’s Nails

When clipping your dog’s nails observe the following:

  1. Choose the correct set of nail clippers. You can use scissor-like clippers or guillotine style. For the scissor-like ones, you place the claw between the blades and squeeze the handles together. For the guillotine-style clippers, you place the nail inside a hole and squeeze the handles triggering the blade to slide up and cut the nail. If you haven’t used a pair of clippers on your dog before carefully read the instructions for the clipper you have bought.
  2. Assemble other supplies including styptic powder to stem any bleeding that may occur. Have some treats on hand to offer your dog to encourage her to cooperate during nail trimming.
  3. Pick the appropriate time: choosing moments when your dog is relaxed will make your job a whole lot easier. The best times are usually after meals or when she’s been out playing and is too tired to cause a fuss. Ensure she’s in a comfortable place before you start.
  4. Keep your dog calm. Use a quiet, soothing voice to help keep her calm. If it’s her first time having her nails done, warm her up to the idea by gently rubbing her legs and feet for a few minutes a day. Once she seems okay with this, proceed to the next step – touch the clippers to her toenails. Reward her with treats to keep her comfortable and encourage her to cooperate.
  5. Choose which spot to make the first cut. Locate the quick of the nail. It will be easier to see the quick if your dog has white, clear, or light colored nails. The quick is a small, pink tube that runs through the nail center and terminates a few millimeters before the tip. You will probably not be able to see the quick if the nails are black or dark colored and you will have to improvise as explained elsewhere in this article when cutting the nails. The golden rule is always begin by cutting less of the nail than what you think is possible – you can always cut more later. It’s better to cut less than too much which can cause pain and bleeding, and discourage you from finishing the job.
  6. Hold the foot gently but firmly.  Your hand should face the same direction as the paw, but avoid holding the foot between the pads so as not to tickle the dog.
  7. Remember to clip the dew claws. These are found on the inner leg, and do not wear down naturally like the rest of the claws; hence the need for special attention. Begin by laying the dog on his side, preferably on a table, so that you don’t cause her too much strain. For bigger dogs, you may want to use your body to help secure them, usually by leaning your torso over their body.
  8. Clip the nails in bits. Begin by cutting only a very thin shaving from the tip of the nail. Shave in small slices until you achieve the desired length of the nail
  9. Don’t panic if you cut the quick. Even the most experienced professionals make mistakes when cutting nails so if you cut the quick, stay calm and gently reassure your dog. Give your dog a treat at once to soothe and distract her.
  10. Finish by filing the nails. Use a nail file to smoothen out the edges of your dog’s nails if they appear rough after trimming. Active dogs may not require this as they wear them down in the course of playing and other normal activities.

Cutting Dark Claws

clipping dog nailsDark claws pose a challenge when trimming nails because you cannot easily see the quick. To solve this problem cut the claws in several small slices to minimize the chance of accidentally cutting the quick. Keep checking the edges of your dog’s nail as you cut; look out especially for a dark spot at the center of the newly clipped edge because this is the area where the live quick starts.

Other things you can do to avoid cutting the quick in dark nails:

  1. Check under the nail where the quick is more visible.
  2. Bathe your dog’s paws to make the quick easier to see and for an easier trimming process.
  3. Alternatively, try applying baby oil for the same purpose.
  4. Shine a torch or bright light through the claw.

For Longer Nails…

Dogs with longer the nails naturally have longer the quicks. Again it is better to trim the nails a little at a time to avoid nicking the quick. Shave off a little bit of the nail from each toe and then give the quick a few days to recede before trimming some more. Once the claws have a reasonable length you can resume cutting on a monthly schedule.

Trim Her Claws Regularly

Given that most dogs dislike having their nails trimmed, the best way to help your dog get used to the process it is to start trimming them at a young age if possible. You can use several sessions to trim the nails at first before establishing a regular schedule.

Take Your Dog To The Vet.

If you lack the confidence, patience or time to clip your dog’s nails, or don’t have the proper equipment to do it’s wise to get a vet or groomer to help you. This is especially the case if the nails are dark and difficult to trim. These are best left to someone with the experience and ability to treat the dog in case a problem arises.

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When should you trim your dog's nails and what to do if they bleed

About the Author Andy

When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends many an hour walking his mischievous, mixed breed rescue Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy. A leading authority on all dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.

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Jim says January 12, 2019

Good to know the process of trimming dog nails. I’ve never done it before, but given an opportunity now I can do it fine.

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Maury Cheskes says January 12, 2019

I didn’t know it was such a delicate process to cut a dog’s nails. I can see how different climates make such a big difference in the amount of cuts per year. I’ll be sure to have a gentle tone and carefully measure the quick before doing it myself. Thanks for the read.

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thewanderrunner says January 12, 2019

I now know how often to trim my dogs nails.I usually scared to do it with them.But anyways this article is helpful.

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Bernard says January 12, 2019

I have only clipped our dogs’s nails only once. I’m pretty scared of doing it again it looks like I’m hurting them. But I did see the difference on how our dogs play after. No more scratching things after clipping their nails.

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AJ says January 12, 2019

I’ll be more apt to leave that to the experts. I’m always anxious when I try to trim my dogs’ nails, and they can sense that, I believe. I don’t really want to hurt them unexpectedly, in case if it happens they might see nail trimming as something to be scared about.

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Rizzee Cerdeñola says January 12, 2019

I consider trimming nails as one of the hardest to do in our pet. This article made it easy.

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ema says January 12, 2019

My mum hate to see our dogs nails long and dirty and she made us trim it once every two weeks. It is good to keep their nails short and neat.

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Felix says January 11, 2019

I know the vet help to cut our dogs nails I think once a month especially when the nails are protruding. I agree the nails should either be trimmed or cut at interval.

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Danielle M says January 11, 2019

I wasn’t used to cutting the nails to my dog, but from now I’ll make it a habit because I don’t want that her nails get split.

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Scott Summers says January 11, 2019

Admittedly I do not trim my pets nails. I am afraid they will lash out. Besides, I do not see any need for it.

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