How to Clip a Dog’s Nails

Here is a quick post that will give you some tips on clipping your dog’s nails. Most of the important information will be found in the embedded video.

I decided to do a video on cutting nails, because I realized that too many dogs are unnecessarily traumatized during the process. Although, it is good to have styptic powder, corn starch, or another solution available to help with clotting the blood from a nail clipped too short, it should not be considered the norm to always clip the nails until they bleed.

From a dog training point of view it is nearly impossible to desensitize a dog to nail clipping if the nails are consistently cut too short and the blood vessel “nicked” every time it must be done.

It is highly recommended that you use counter conditioning with any dog that has had bad experiences with nail clipping in the past. To do this simply give a treat after each nail is clipped. Some dogs may be extra difficult and require more gradual counter conditioning - whereas they are giving a treat after you simply touch the paw. Then, work your way up to touching the nails and then maybe clipping just one nail per session. This would technically be desensitizing AND counter-conditioning.

I suggest to condition your dog to enjoy having his/her nails trimmed even if there was never a bad experience to begin with. Therefore, I recommend using the same technique of treating the dog after each nail is clipped as you would if you were counter conditioning the dog from a bad experience.

On a side note, we have noticed that some people have been offended because of the video's "Indian" in a canoe analogy. We apologize and I can assure you as a father of children with Montaukett heritage, a tribe that still refers to themselves as the Montaukett Indian Nation, that we do not think of ourselves as any better than Native Americans.  We were using the term "Indian" instead of the more politically correct "Native American" to make a visual reference to an earlier time... when their canoes looked like overgrown doggy toe nails 🙂
indian canoe

If anyone has any other tips or thoughts to add, please feel free to comment.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video below:

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  1. one trick I learned was to cut q tips around the dog and then while holding the paw to mimick the sound of the nail being cut?

    I am wondering what the best way to cut a dogs quick is to long and the only way to cut is cutting the blood vessel? I was told to give the dog a mild sedative and just get the job done and then to “solder” the nails. I can not remember the exact term used.