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Pet owners have been spending a lot more time with their dogs during the pandemic, causing some to take up grooming their furry friends at home. While giving your dog a bath doesn't require much skill, cutting your dog's nails may seem intimidating at first. Douglas Kratt, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said it’s safe and relatively easy to cut your dog’s nails at home. However, it’s a learning process for pet owners and something animals need to warm up to over time. If you’re hoping to try your hand at it, it might be overwhelming navigating the right components online. We consulted experts about how to cut your dog’s nails at home and found some of the best dog nail trimmers on the market right now.
Best dog nail trimmers
When it comes to choosing the right tool for your pet, Kratt said you can ask your veterinarian if they have any recommendations before shopping. He also noted that there are different size cutters and grinders for different size dogs. For example, Kratt would not use the same tool for a chihuahua that he would for a labrador retriever.
These nail clippers have a 4.5-star average rating from over 32,000 reviews on Amazon. They’re made with sharp stainless steel blades to cut thicker nails on medium and large dogs, and they’re designed with a built-in safety stop to prevent you from cutting nails too short. The clippers also come with a nail file that’s stored inside the handle.
Paws & Pets nails clippers have a 4.6-star average rating from over 300 reviews at Walmart. They’re designed with a blade that has a 45 degree angle to help prevent you from nicking your dog’s quick and cutting too close to it. The clippers also feature a textured ergonomic handle with a non-slip rubber grip so you can keep a firm hold while you’re cutting your dog’s nails.
Safari’s dog nail trimmers have a 4.7-star average rating from over 900 reviews on Chewy. They come in two sizes: Small/Medium and Medium/Large. The trimmers have a double blade with a tension spring to help you make a precise cut, and they’re designed with a safety stop, too.
These nail clippers have a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,100 reviews on Amazon. They feature a plier-style design and a spring that helps you make a clean cut. The clippers have a built-in safety stop that can be moved into position when you want to use it to prevent overcutting nails.
5. Zen Clipper
Zen Clipper nail trimmers have a 4.3-star average rating from over 300 reviews on Amazon. They are designed with an adjustable blade that limits the amount of nail being cut so you can use the same clippers for different sized dogs. To adjust the blade, you can use the trimmer’s thumb wheel, moving the blade from 11 millimeters at its widest setting and 2 millimeters at its narrowest setting.
These nail clippers have a 4.3-star average rating from over 300 reviews on Amazon. They feature an adjustable safety guide that you can use to change the depth of the blade. The clippers have a thick textured handle to grip while you’re cutting, and FURminator says it’s covered in anti-microbial plastic to decrease germs and bacteria from building up.
How to make your dog comfortable with having their nails cut
When pet owners bring their puppies in for their first visit to the veterinarian, Kratt said he tells them to play with their dog’s feet. This helps desensitize dogs to having their paws handled. At first, Kratt said you should barely take anything off when you trim your dog’s nails — and give them a treat afterwards. Repeat this a few times a week.
“I want it to be a positive experience for dogs, not a wrestling match,” Kratt said. “We want to continue reinforcing the behavior so it happens naturally over time.”
“Jackpot” your dog while you’re cutting their nails to get them more accustomed to it. “Jackpotting” is an animal training technique whereby you give them a reward like special treats or food when they exhibit a desired behavior like staying still or letting you hold their paws while you’re cutting their nails. Kratt suggests giving dogs a treat they don’t get everyday, too, like peanut butter (without artificial sweetener) or cheese. He said rewarding dogs with one of these more infrequent items allows them to focus on it rather than their nails being cut, too.
How often should you cut your dog’s nails?
Overall, you should cut your dog’s nails when it’s needed. The time between trimmings varies. For example, dogs that get a lot of exercise or go on a lot of walks have their nails worn down quite often, so they may need their nails cut less frequently. Dogs’ nails also grow at different rates, so what’s right for one dog may not be right for another.
Tips for cutting your dog's nails, and what to avoid
If you’ve never cut your dog’s nails or have questions about what tool to use, Kratt recommended speaking to your vet before trying it at home. In general, he said one of the most common mistakes people make when cutting their dogs’ nails is, surprisingly, getting frustrated. You should never punish your dog if they don’t want to have their nails cut or don’t cooperate with you, he noted. If it’s challenging to cut your dog’s nails at home, it's best to take them to a professional like a groomer or veterinarian.
Before you trim your dog’s nails, be sure to locate the quick within the nail, which supplies blood to the nail and runs through the core of it, according to the American Kennel Club. If the quick is cut, it will bleed since it’s a bundle of nerves and blood vessels, Kratt explained. It’s easier to see the quick if your dog has clear or yellow-colored nails rather than black or brown nails. As a general rule and to avoid complications, he added, never cut your dog’s nails shorter than two to five millimeters away from the quick.
“Much like humans, if we cut our nails too short, it’s uncomfortable,” Kratt said.
If you do happen to nick your dogs’ quick while cutting their nails, he suggested using styptic powder on the nail to stop it from bleeding. If you don’t have styptic powder at home, Kratt advises his clients to use baking flour.