Updated - Nov 10th, 2021
Clipping your dog’s nails is a necessary evil. We say “evil” because, well, most dogs don’t enjoy the experience (and neither do dog parents!). Thankfully, there are ways around this. Through training, both for you and your pooch, and by using the proper tools (including the best dog nail clippers included on the list below), you can make dog nail trimming fast, painless, and even pleasant for you both. Yes, really. We promise!
How do you know when your dog’s nails need clipping?
When do you know that Fido needs a mani-pedi? If your dog’s nails touch the floor and you can hear them clicking as your dog walks, it’s time to find the dog nail trimmer.
How often should I clip my dog’s nails?
Typically, most dogs can use a trim every three to four weeks. Of course, all dogs are different, and you may find that your dog needs theirs clipped every two weeks or every six weeks or more. Certain dog breeds may require less frequent nail trims; the same applies to pups who often walk on hard surfaces that naturally grind their thick nails down. The most important thing is to find the frequency that works for you and your pet, and stick to it. Making a calendar appointment or setting a phone alarm can help you remember to trim your dog’s nails, even if you don’t necessarily notice the tell-tale clickety-clacking sound when they walk.
What happens if my dog’s nails don’t get clipped?
We totally understand the temptation to slack off and never clip your dog’s nails. We’re not all professional nail trimmers. The problem is, neglecting to trim your doggo’s nails can actually cause health and mobility problems for them. Aside from painful breakage, nail overgrowth can hurt your dog and impact their balance, which may make them sit, stand, and move in awkward and unnatural ways. Over time, those altered movements can cause splayed paws, poor traction, strains on their muscles and tendons, and even arthritis and deformities on their feet and toes if left uncorrected. Your dog can also develop nerve damage in the “quick,” or the living part of their nail, which can cause pain and discomfort lasting much longer than the minor inconvenience of clipping their nails.
Is it painful for dogs to get their nails clipped?
If a dog’s nails are clipped properly with a trusted grooming tool, they won’t feel any pain. That said, if done improperly, they may very well experience pain and discomfort. The most common cause of pain associated with nail clipping for dogs is if their quick gets cut.
How short should I clip my dog’s nails?
The aforementioned quick is the center, living part of the nail that typically starts where the nail first curves. If your dog has light-colored nails, the quick will usually appear pink to the naked eye. You want to clip the tip of the nail before the quick and its curve.
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How do I clip my dog’s nails if they’re black?
It can be tricky to find the quick if your dog has black nails. Once you begin clipping, you should be able to see a chalky white ring. According to PetMD, that ring is the beginning of the quick, so let that be your guide. You can also use a flashlight to better see the quick in black nails. If it’s your first time, your best bet is to ask your veterinarian for a tutorial on how to trim your dog’s nails safely.
What should I do if my dog’s nails are bleeding after clipping?
First, don’t panic: This is a relatively common occurrence, especially in dogs that have dark-colored or black nails. You are not a bad dog parent just because you made a mistake! The calmer you remain, the calmer your dog will be, even if they’re in pain.
That said, the first step you take in remedying the problem should be to immediately give your dog a treat to help distract them from their discomfort. While they’re snacking, clean the affected area as best as you can with gentle soap and water to prevent infection. Next, dip the toe in styptic powder (the same kind used for human shaving cuts) to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have styptic powder or a styptic pencil, you can use plain cornstarch or even try flour in a pinch. Don’t have any of those things handy? Ice cubes may help stave off bleeding as well.
If the blood flow doesn’t stop within a few minutes, contact your veterinarian.
How can I make it easier to trim my dog’s nails?
There are some tips and tricks to make clipping your dog’s nails an easier overall process. Most of this relies on you simply making them comfortable with the idea, which, while not necessarily difficult, will certainly take some time to achieve.
It pays to start early in your dog’s life. The younger your dog is when you start the nail care process, the less they’ll freak out when it’s time for a trim. That said, don’t worry if your dog is older: You can still teach them new tricks! It may just take a bit longer. The American Kennel Club recommends acclimating your dog to the nail clipping process over the course of about a week:
- Get your dog comfortable first by simply touching and holding their paws.
- Next, let them get familiar with the nail clipper, grinder, or whichever other preferred tool you’re using, without actually using it. Let them look it over thoroughly, give it a good sniff, and even rub it against their fur. Accompany the experience with treats and compliments.
- The following day, touch the clippers or grinders to their paws without actually clipping or grinding, and give your pooch some praise and snacks. You can also turn the grinder on or squeeze the clippers to get them used to the sounds and sensations associated with them. And, again, sweeten the pot with some treats!
- Try clipping or grinding just the tiniest bit of only one nail, sandwiched with praise, kisses, and treats before and after. Even if your dog cooperates and seems willing to let you clip more nails, stop at one.
- Clip or grind two more nails, combined with plenty of praise and tasty goodies.
- Trim more nails each day until all are done, and, as always, be generous with the Scooby Snacks and praise. “That’s a good boy (or girl)!”
The 8 Best Dog Nail Clippers
If you’re ready to get down to business, you need the right tool to clip your dog’s nails safely, painlessly, and easily. With some input from veterinarian and author Dr. Margit Muller, we rounded up the best nail clippers for dogs based on safety, price, efficiency, ease of use, and customer reviews.
One type Dr. Muller says to avoid in general are guillotine clippers. Aside from just sounding pretty terrifying, she warns that long nails can get stuck in them. Instead, consider a nail clipping tool from this list:
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1. Millers Forge Quality Nail Clipper
Dr. Muller prefers the basic pliers-style clippers with stainless steel blades, without bells and whistles. With nearly 2,700 reviews and a low price, this is a great high-quality and affordable option for large dogs.
2. BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer With Safety Guard
These clippers with stainless steel bladers were designed with beginners in mind, complete with a safety guard to prevent you from cutting too deeply. There’s even a nail filer in the easy-grip handle to smooth out your dog’s nails post-trim.
3. Ruff n’ Ruffus Upgraded Professional 2-Speed Dog Nail Grinder and Clippers
This rechargeable, heavy duty, cordless nail grinder is equipped with a special motor to be up to 40 percent quieter than others on the market, making the dog grooming experience much less scary. It includes caps to let you grind nails for a variety of dog sizes and also comes with a basic set of dog nail clippers, making it a great bargain.
4. Yoobure Cat Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer
These deluxe nail clippers have sharp blades and come with a built-in LED light to help you see the quick, making them a good option for dogs with dark-colored nails.
5. KISSIN Dog Nail Clippers Trimmer Set
You wouldn’t use the same nail clippers on your dachshund as you would on your Great Dane, right? (We hope not!) This set of dog nail clippers comes with two different sizes to accommodate large and small paws, making it a great choice if you have multiple dogs at home.
6. Pawsibility 2021 Reinvented Pet Nail Clippers
These nail clippers come not only with a built-in LED light, but the nail trimmings collect neatly in an attached box to prevent you from stepping on them later.
7. Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals
Don’t be fooled by the ultra-generic name; these are great small dog nail clippers with nearly 4,600 positive reviews (and counting).
8. Bigger Dog Nail File
A great option for skittish pooches and owners with unsteady hands, this grooming tool essentially acts like a giant nail file for your dog. Reviewers recommend it for dogs that fear the vet or squirm too much during grooming. Food-motivated dogs can do especially well with the Bigger Dog File, as you can train them to use it by “marking” their scratches with small treats.
So, should you do it yourself or go to a professional dog nail trimmer?
Listen, we totally understand if this is overwhelming and you’d rather leave it in the hands of trusted professional dog nail trimmers. Your veterinarian or a groomer can clip your dog’s nails for you if you’re too nervous, squeamish, or otherwise preoccupied.
Prices vary by location, as well as whether or not buffing the nails is included, but you can typically expect to spend about $10 to $30 for one visit. Aside from the cost of the clippers, taking on the task yourself can save you money in the long run.