Doggy nail trims! The most fun thing ever, right?

If any business or expert wants to share their knowledge, think about an article for B & B.

By Emma Steadman of Dogs of Great Style:


Every dog loves (not) having their paws held still.

But also every person just knows how and where to cut right a dog’s nails. Brilliant!

Well, that highlights all the big problems. And the fact dogs don’t come with manuals so as a new owner (or old) you don’t have a known pathway to find out this information on the hows or whys.

That’s where having a good relationship with a groomer or trainer really comes into its own. Between these two groups, you have all the answers but if you also understand how to find these two professionals that are both doing CPD (continuing professional development) and also up to date with science-based training using positive methods, you already know the advice they are giving is to the best of their knowledge at that time, too – so you don’t need to trawl through Google or the dreaded Facebook groups where everyone is an expert as that’s how its always done.

The best way to introduce nail clippers is back to basics – all that ‘stuff training’ really does come into its own. This is the start to introducing anything to your dog. Give them time to look at the object and to take their time approaching or looking, sniffing it. Allow them freedom to move away at all times. Then, as with all stuff training go through all those steps until your dog couldn’t care less that you are in fact touching them all over on their ears, muzzle and legs and paws with this weird looking object.

Training wise, you can use the bucket game, target training, positive reinforcement just with treats at hand. Which ever method you use go at your dogs pace. If in doubt talk to a dog trainer who can advice if you have missed a training step out so you could have broken it down further, or you may have missed a subtle calming signal that they can point out for you.

While doing that training, also start to build more confidence yourself. If you are not sure on what you are doing then your dog is going to pick that up! They read dogs a lot quicker than us so will easily pick up your shoulders hunching up with nerves, the frown growing on your forehead as you are concentrating – dogs will spot this before we are conscious we are even doing it.

Nails – dogs’ nails come in black, white, clear, really opaque and hard to see through. This makes your job all that much easier trying to guess the sweat spot to clip (eek) each and every dog is slightly different some dogs nails just don’t give ANY clues away where to cut. Some dogs’ nails are naturally short.

The myth about walking on pavement shortens them.. well, I agree and disagree with this – if the nails are not coming into contact with the pavement they wont get short for just walking … some dogs will actively use their nails while walking, some will not.

We can be more effective with this idea though and use a scratch board. Now I don’t know of a place you can buy one as yet but you can make one really easily with a clipboard or a hard surface a sheet of course/ fine sand paper and using shaping and setting them up to touch the board you can train them to scratch the board and do their own nail filling! This is an amazing way to do it as they have fun time training with you, too.

– top tip, check nails after every few scratches (as it’s so slow dogs have no idea they are getting close to the quick).

– also check back nails, too. Its more tricky to teach back paws but it can be done! (this is where having that good relationship with a trainer comes in).

Now lets talk NAILS, Where they are any why they are just so tricky!


Now we know they come in many colours, also they can be thick, thin, pointy or the dreaded twisty.

Dogs have 4 nails on each paw, then they also can have dew claws (sometimes removed by an experienced breeder within the first few hours of being born) Dew claws can be on all four legs, and come in single and double! This can be on all four legs.

There are studies looking at what effect removal of these extra nails has and that sometimes removal is not so good and they do have function. Especially in mountain type dogs the back double dew claws help them in their job to climb.  Though some are just a pain, always catching or ripping on anything and everything…

Dew claws

Inside a dog’s nail you have the quick, this is a blood vessel that dogs can react to if we cut too closely. We know in some dogs, if the nails are left and they do just keep on growing sometimes this quick will, too; sometimes it does stay short just to confuse us even more. But remember each and every dog is an individual so they are all different. If we were to cut into the quick as long as they are medically ok it will stop bleeding. This is the first thing to know for sure. Just if they were to cut themselves it’ll be a mess just because red stuff does like to look worse than it is and spread further than you thought possible…


Top tips – keep ClotIt powder in your dog’s first aid box; it’s used to stop arterial bleeding by vets and does not sting most importantly (read instructions though).  You can buy this from Rachel Bean RVN.

– pressure, just like us if we get a cut, lowering blood pressure and applying pressure for a few mins, if it is a small nick, is all that is needed – and to be honest my most used method in the salon.

The body does an amazing job of fixing itself up without us interfering too much. There are lots of other potions available on the market you could get in but quick stop will sting; cornflour is a good substitute as it will bind up quickly.

It’s also worth noting some dogs don’t bat an eyelid if you just catch the quick; the first time you will be aware is when you start to see spots of blood as they have walked around! Others do definitely feel it straight away. This is where pressure is a good thing, just holding some tissue or cotton wool and firmly holding the nail can help with you being calm also helping to keep the dog calm and understand you’ve got this, while giving them some strokes and reassuring them you didn’t mean to catch that bit with your free hand.


Teeny dogs twisty nails – cat (or small animal) nail cutters are your friend! They are smaller don’t need as much space around the nail.

Small dog nail cutters – my favourite go to choice. Easy to handle, not so big and intrusive as the large nail clippers.

Large nail clippers – for some dogs it has to be these, but were talking chunky nails! I find them harder to handle as they are as they say large!

Guillotine style – just no, I got told don’t go near from training so I just haven’t. I believe they are harder to line up and not as easy to use as scissor style cutters. But if you love them and they work for you go for it!

Dremel with file attachment – now I’d love to get to know this guy as for some dogs its the clip that is the biggest trigger for fear. I know of groomers who love them. I just haven’t had the free time yet to invest in checking these out. Long-haired dogs be aware of the risk of catching and rolling up hair in them; also, humans with long hair just tie it up. Use an old pair of tights over your dog’s paw to push up all the hair away from the nails so you have clear vision. Also I have heard a lot of groomers say only use battery powered ones but that’s down to opinion and personal choice.

Get comfortable with your choice – allow your dog time to be comfortable with your choice.

Getting ready to now cut them

Now when doing the ‘stuff training’ we can add in a tap on each nail while holding that individual nail, to start this may be one tap on one nail on one paw and same again tomorrow. If you dog needs this for a week – go with it.

When you can tap each nail of every paw in one session – lets add in one clip off a tip on one nail.

Start knowing you’ve done brilliantly to be able to line the nail clippers up on a calm comfortable and cooperative dog, now is the easiest bit as you have a happy still dog. Just take a mm off at a time – if in doubt take a picture and send it to me, one from the side front and back – now you have a dog how is happy to be handled around there paws were already over the biggest hurdle.

Start slow, don’t expect dramatic differences, and always end each training session even if its only one or two minutes a day with some fun time.

If you are still not 100%, grab a length of fine towelling or some dry spaghetti place a length over your dogs paw in line with a nail and clip a piece of that, practice that for a few weeks before switching over to a nail. The more inventive you can get the smaller the steps are the MORE steps you take the happier human and dog combined – and remember training is fun and grooming is husbandry training and it is all fun – just calm fun.

I do love pairing up husbandry training with a ‘training mat’ just for the calm hands on stuff – you dog will learn this cue so quickly and if you have gone slow enough one day your dog may even bring the mat to you! Dogs love interacting with us weird old humans so its only us that sees nail trimming as a negative, dog sees human – treat – time with just me – I’m having fun learning = nail trims are great!

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