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How to Trim Puppy Nails: A Five-Step Guide

Laura Day

July 23, 2019

How to Trim Puppy Nails A Five-Step Guide

Grooming is a vital part of your puppy’s life. Just like you, your dog needs regular grooming to be healthy and happy! A part of that process involves trimming the nails. If you have a pup, you already know that trimming his nails can be tricky. You do not want to hurt your pet, but the job still needs to get done. You may be asking yourself whether the risk of injury is worth it or not.

Here’s the thing–you should not have to worry about nipping your pup’s paw so much that you feel like you can’t trim his nails at all! If you follow this five-step guide, you will be a pro at grooming Spot in no time.

1. Make your puppy comfortable

In order to be safely and properly groomed, your puppy has to be comfortable and relaxed. If he twitches or tries to run during such a sensitive process as nail trimming, he could get seriously injured! You or other people could also be injured if the pup bites or scratches you. You definitely want to avoid any of those fiascos, so you have to set things up in a manner that makes your puppy relax.

Make sure that everything is quiet and still, not too hectic. If your pup prefers background noise, turn the TV on and soften the volume. Sit somewhere familiar and comfortable. Encourage and soothe him through the whole time. These are the things that will really help start things off on the right foot–or paw!

2. Ease into it

Part of helping your puppy calm down around the nail trimmers is to condition him to adjust to it over time. You, in this case, will be conditioning Fido to be okay with having his paw and little dog nails touched.

Paws are one of the most sensitive parts of a dog’s body when it comes to sensation. Dogs have an instinctual desire to free their feet so if they feel that you are trapping them, they will try to get away. The first thing that you should do is handle his paws regularly. Touching or petting your dogs’ nails and paw pads often will help lessen the puppy’s anxiety around getting his nails clipped.

A step-by-step breakdown of this conditioning process may allow you to understand what goes into “easing into it.”

  • Occasionally touch and hold your puppy’s paws for about two weeks. Each time you do, give him verbal encouragement, physical affection, or a treat! Within this time period, don’t even attempt to clip his nails. This builds trust between you for the future.
  • Swipe a little peanut butter on the fridge door or another treat at the pup’s eye level. While he enjoys his snack, take one of his paws in your hand and rub the clippers on them. Still, do not try to trim the nails yet.

After you do this for a few weeks, you can move on to actually attempting to trim your dog’s nails!

3. Learn how to properly trim nails

Learn how to properly trim nails

Before you get started actually making cuts, you need to learn how to trim the nails properly. If you just try and do any dog grooming without guidance, you may hurt your puppy’s nails or have some unwanted bleeding. Here’s how you should do it if you want a pain-free session:

  • Place the puppy’s paw in your free hand.
  • As you trim the nail, hold each toe with your index finger and your thumb firmly. Do not squeeze tightly, but put a little bit of gentle pressure behind your grip.
  • Only cut the white part of your pup’s nail! About halfway down the nail, a vein called the “quick” sits underneath the other part of the nail. If you cut it, the poor pupper’s paw is going to bleed. If his nails are black, you may need to seek out a professional groomer to avoid heightening the risk of cutting the quick by accident.
  • As you get through trimming each paw, give Fido some positive reinforcement and maybe a treat! This will help him look forward to the nail trimming process in the future.

4. Trim only one nail

When you start actually cutting the nails, go slow. This process is anxiety-inducing for many dogs; building up the time spent trimming over several sessions is a good idea. That is why you should start out by clipping only one nail at a time! This helps you gauge how your puppy will react in the future when sessions will be longer.

If he reacts badly, try going back to the first two steps and then attempt this again later. Remember–your pup’s comfort is the most important part of all of this! Gently easing into cutting puppy nails is highly recommended.

4. Trim a new number of nails each day and move your way up

Eventually, you can move up to trimming two or three nails at a time before your puppy shows signs of distress and needs a break. Be patient with him–at one time, everyone was afraid of something silly! When he gets used to the feeling, he will trust you and lose that fear.

5. Put what you have learned together

Now comes the time for you to put everything you read before together as you get ready to trim your pup’s nails for real this time. Sit down in that comfortable place with Spot and get to work, encouraging and loving him all the while. Give him breaks when needed; never show anger. It is slow work and it may be frustrating the first few times, but persevere and your dog’s nails will be trim and tidy at last!

When you groom your puppy, you are setting him up for good health later in life. You’re also learning a great lesson in patience and animal care when you do it yourself! Keep in mind, though, that professionals are always here to help if you can’t groom your furry friend by yourself.

Trimming a pup’s nails can be “ruff,” but hopefully, this guide can make it a little bit easier for both of you. Take care and have fun!