How to Trim a Small Dog's Nails

Easy
15 - 20 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Trimming a small dog's nails is the kind of chore that has many owners shaking in their boots. While it would be nice if you could just let your pup's nails grow and wear down on their own, this is not good for your pup's feet or his overall health. Not only can overly long nails be painful, but they can lead to your pup walking awkwardly. This can lead to changes in his posture, muscle, tendon or ligament strains, and even arthritis. Trimming nails is really quite easy once you have mastered the skill and should only take a few minutes. 

Dog's Perspective

Picture this: your toenails have grown out to the point where the push into your toes and twist them with every step. Can you imagine the pain and discomfort? Well, this is exactly what your pup goes through every time you let his nails get too long. Is this really fair when it only takes a few minutes to keep them properly trimmed?

The Touch Paws Method

Effective
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Nail Clipper
Nail File
Step
1
Start by touching paws
Start at a very early age training your pup to let people touch his feet. Most dogs hate having their paws touched, which makes trimming their nails very difficult. But, if you keep playing with your pup's feet from the day you bring him home, he will be used to having them touched when it comes time to trim his nails.
Step
2
The right tool for the job
There are several different types of canine nail clippers on the market, most are of either the scissor type or the guillotine type. While scissor type clippers will work, they are best left for big dogs. A guillotine type clipper is much better for small dogs.
Step
3
Trimming white nails
These are much easier as you can see the pink color of the quick through the nail. All you have to do is hold your pup's paw gently but firmly, and choose the nail to cut. Clip only to just short of the quick. Repeat this for all four paws and don’t forget to do his dew claws.
Step
4
Trimming black nails
This gets a little trickier, as you can't see the quick through the nail. For this, you need to have some styptic powder or silver nitrate sticks on hand in case you hit the quick and the nail bleeds. Trim each nail in small increments. You should be able to see a small pinkish grayish spot in the center of the cut edge when you are getting close to the quick. When you see this, it's time to stop cutting.
Step
5
Finishing up
Use a file or grinder to smooth off the freshly cut tips of his nails. This will keep him from scratching everything and everyone he touches.
Recommend grooming method?

The Power Grinder Method

Effective
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Nail Clipper
Dremel
Nail File
Step
1
The right tools
For this, you will need a small hand-held power grinder. You can use a battery operated one like "Pedi-Paws" or a Dremel electric grinder. The battery-operated ones are designed to run at a safe speed; you will need to regulate the speed of a Dremel. The tool must be equipped with a round sanding bit.
Step
2
The right place
Find a spot in your house where both you and your pup will be comfortable while you grind his nails down.
Step
3
Turn the tool on
Turn the grinder on and let your pup get used to the noise.
Step
4
Take a paw
Take one of your pup's paws in your hand and separate out a toe. Apply the grinder in short little jabs. DO NOT sit there grinding away-- the friction caused by the grinding process will create a great deal of heat that could easily burn your pup badly.
Step
5
Each time you do one paw
Every time you finish a paw, praise your pup and give him a treat. The whole process should only take a few minutes and your pup is sure to enjoy being able to walk flat-footed again.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Always use a guillotine type nail trimmer for small dogs.
  • Never force your dog to let you trim his nails. Work with him until he will relax enough to let you trim them without fussing.
  • You can use plenty of treats as rewards at first to help him get used to having his nails trimmed.
  • If you are going to use a Dremel-type grinder, be sure to keep the RPMs turned down to reduce the amount of heat generated.
  • Never let the heat build up when using a grinder, as it will travel along your dog's nail and into his toe. The temperature can become intense enough to severely burn or damage his toe.
  • Don't forget to trim the dew claws while you are at it.
  • Be sure the cutters you use have a sharp blade. This will help reduce the risk of shattering or splitting an nail instead of cutting through it.
  • Always file or grind his nails when done to remove any sharp edges. 

Conclusion

There really isn't a good reason why you can't learn to trim your pup's nails. It just takes time and patience on both of your parts. At first, let your pup set the pace and use plenty of treats to get him used to having his nails trimmed. Eventually, it should take less than 20 minutes from start to finish. 

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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