How To Trim Overgrown Dog Nails

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Trimming your dog’s nails once they are overgrown may seem difficult and nerve-wracking. Use these tips to trim their nails safely, even with uncooperative pups! 

brown long with really long overgrown nails

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No pet owner looks forward to trimming their dog’s nails. You worry you are going to cut into the quick or the fact that your dog will barely sit still. With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to cut your dog’s nails the easy way even if they are stubborn, what length they should be, and the best tools to use. 

Once you have their nails trimmed, try to avoid letting them overgrow in the future. 

Why Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails?

Some people wonder why they even need to cut their dog’s nails. If they become overgrown, your pooch may have several problems. Not only can this be painful for them, it can lead to nail infections within the bed, walking trouble, limping, excessive paw licking, and even torn nail beds. 

Not to mention once they get too long, they can hurt us! Our goldendoodle is constantly pawing for attention, and those little nails can get sharp! 

lady cutting overgrown dog nails with scissor clippers

Types of Dog Nail Trimmers + Pros and Cons

Scissor Nail Clippers 

These look very similar to a set of scissors and have two blades that come together when you squeeze to cut the nails. Each brand will vary in terms of the handle size, material they are made, and other features. 

This set of Coastal Pet Safari Clippers has a stainless steel blade, so it sharpens well. The handle can be used for pet parents that are right or left-handed, and there is a safety so you don’t trim their nails too deep. 

Pros: Very precise in cutting, As long as the blades are sharp you can cut nails of dogs that are larger breeds – which means thicker and tougher. 

Cons: Not great for dogs who are anxious, can’t sit still, or it’s their first time getting their nails trimmed. With the wrong cut, you could also splinter their nails.

Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers 

Like its name, this type of nail clipper has a blade that comes down in one swoop to clip the nails. Many dog parents like this style because they feel it’s easier to use and you don’t have to be as precise. However, pushing the nail through the slot too far can cause it to cut into the quick. They also tend to stay sharper for longer. 

Coastal Pet Safari offers a guillotine clipper in different sizes so you can choose the best for your pup. This set is also made with stainless steel, so you can sharpen it when it dulls. Use these trimmers for medium to large dogs, and this set for smaller dogs

Pros: Using these are less likely to splinter your dog’s nails as long as you use the correct size for your pup. There’s also a small guard to keep their nails from slipping out. 

Cons: Sometimes these nail trimmers can leave a sharp end that may require some filing for an additional cut. 

Watch the video to see how to use guillotine clippers.

lady trimming dog's nails using a grinder

Nail Grinder for Dogs 

If you are trimming your dog’s nails for the first time at home a grinder may work better for you. The popular Dremel brand makes a trimmer that comes with extra sanding bands, it’s cordless, and has a rechargeable battery. It’s a great bang for your buck, especially if pup’s nails grow fast, that gets expensive at the groomer! 

When I was shopping around, I wanted something that looked a little more dog friendly, considering this was the first time I was trimming Marley’s nails. We chose the Casfuy Nail Grinder and have been very pleased. It has a small notch that you place the nails in to keep them still, which the Dremel doesn’t have. Instead of bands, this one uses a diamond bit. This is perfect for dogs with long hair, there’s less of a chance for it to get pulled in. It’s rechargeable and comes with a USB cord. Easy to hold and has different speeds. 

Both are quiet and have minimal vibrations. However, I’ve heard people prefer the Casfuy over the Dremel for this reason. 

Pros: Safe than trimmers because you grind a little a time versus cutting the nail in one cut. These also work on all sized dogs, so you don’t have to worry about choosing the correct size. 

Cons: Grinder nails take longer than clipping, so you have to be patient. These also cost a little more compared to manual clippers.

How Do You Cut A Dog’s Nails That Are Too Long?

Choose Your Trimming Tool 

First, you will need to decide if you want to use a grinder, scissor clippers, or the guillotine style trimmers. We were scared we would cut into the quick with clippers, so we ordered this grinder to be on the safe side. Use our guidelines above to make the best decision for your pooch! 

Make Sure They Are Comfortable

Choose a spot where your dog feels comfortable but also is easy for you to access their nails. This might be their bed or a flat surface with a blanket. 

Acclimate Your Dog to the Trimmer

Let your dogs smell the trimmers to get them more comfortable. If you are using a grinder, turn it on and let them hear it before you are actually ready to trim their overgrown nails. 

Clip a Little at a Time 

Start by snipping just a little off the nails at the end instead of cutting the entire nail in one swoop. This may also require doing half one day and the other half the next. 

If their nails are insanely long or starting to curl, use a grinder. It will be much easier. 

Keep the clippers at a 45 degree angle to avoid discomfort and injury. 

You’ll want to stop clipping when you see the light pink in the nail. This is the “quick” which is easier to see in breeds with lighter nails. 

Keep in mind, the longer their nails grow out the longer the quick is. So don’t be tempted to cut off too much.

Smooth them out

If there are any sharp edges, you can use a file or the grinder to smooth the edges and the sides. 

close up of a dog's dew claw that is ingrown

Tips for Cutting Overgrown Dog Nails 

  • They are much easier to trim once they have softened such as after soaking or after a bath. 
  • Rub some baby oil on them so they are easier to see. 
  • Trim their paw hair before starting. This makes their nails more visible and less likely to get caught in the trimmer. 
  • Nail trimming is easiest when your pooch has the least amount of energy, so they are least likely to wrestle with you. 
  • Feed them treats as you are trimming. Not only does this help to distract them, this will help them associate nail trimming with a positive experience. 
  • If your pup starts showing signs of distress, discomfort, or aggression, try again later. Take a break and come back so they don’t form a complex about trimming. 

How Long Should A Dog’s Nails Be? 

While there is no certain length, a good rule of thumb is they shouldn’t come far out over their pads. When sitting still, their nails shouldn’t touch the floor. 

Why Do My Dog’s Nail Grow So Fast?

For some breeds, it’s normal for their nails to grow fast. Just because they are long doesn’t mean they grow fast. 

You should have your dog’s nails trimmed at least once a month, if not more. 

Older dogs or those who get little exercise will have longer nails because they aren’t naturally getting worn down. 

Their front nails may seem shorter, and that’s because they use those more often to gain traction. 

What To Do If You Cut Dog Nails Too Short 

So you cut your dog’s nails into the quick now what? Use a styptic pencil by moistening the end and running it across the nail. This contains wax and alum that will help stop the bleeding. Your pooch may feel a little stinging initially because of the silver nitrate that is in the pencil.  

You may also use flour, cornstarch or baking soda to stop the bleeding. It doesn’t work as fast but it will help. Just keep the pressure on their paw after you apply it. 

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