Nail Cutting 101

February 23, 2017

Okay, I’ll say it. I absolutely hate long dog nails! I am obsessed with my dogs having short nails for multiple reasons and, in turn, I despise long nails. It is completely understandable why people are nervous to cut their own dog’s nails because if we don’t know what we are doing we can end up hurting our dog. For this blog, I’d like to go over different techniques you can use to keep your pup’s nails short as well as what I consider to be too long.

Nails that are Curling Under or Grown In

curling under















Having nails like this is detrimental to your dog’s physical health. When the nails are overgrown and curled under (as pictured above), your dog has to shift their weight to avoid discomfort from their nails. We want our dogs to be standing up big and tall, and nails like these cause our dog to “sit back” on their feet. This puts unnecessary stress on joints and bones and leads to a change in gait and structure. Imagine if your toenails began to grow long and wrap around your toes. You would automatically put your weight on you heels! Try walking around for thirty minutes like this, and it will really start to hurt. We are asking our dogs to walk when their toe nails are physically disabling them.

If you are not familiar with cutting dog’s nails, DO NOT try and cut nails like this yourself. Bring your dog into a groomer or the veterinarian to start the process of shortening the nail. If you start cutting your dogs nail and hit their quick, this can start a negative association for your dog’s between the clippers.

Sharp and Long nails (beginning to curl)

long and starting to curl










Dogs with nails like these will also have to adjust to walk without their nails causing them discomfort. These nails are too long! If you know how to cut your dog’s nails and are confident in doing so, cutting nails like these on your own is fine. If not, bring them into see one of our nail care experts at Wooftopia!

Long and Sharp Nails

Long and nieeds a trim











Seeing nails like these should notify you that it is time to get those nails done. While they may not cause as much discomfort as the photos pictured above, nails this long can alter the gait of your pup. These nails are also sharp and could injure another dog while playing. Get them cut ASAP!

Good Nails

about rght














These length of nails is what you should aim for! These nails are achievable for all pet parents with a little bit of patience and time! These nails are short enough that they do not touch the ground when the dog is standing, therefore it does not negatively impact the gait of your dog. Gold star for all pet parents who maintain this length at all times for their dogs!

Dream Nails


These nails are not seen often and can be harder to achieve based on the breed of your dog and your skill level. These nails are achievable for people who follow an alternative cut line as opposed to the traditional cut line. These nails are not easily achievable without the use of an electric nail dremel or a nail file. A groomer can achieve nails this short only if your dog comes in every week to get them done!


Cutting Tools

Now that I’ve gone over what your dog’s nails should look like, let’s go over different ways to keep your dogs nails short!

Nail Clippers: Nail clippers for dogs are easily found at every pet store, but they are not all made the same. The lower the amount of money you spend on your clippers, the longer it will take to cut your dogs nails and the more difficult it will be. Many nail clippers available in pet stores will work great for the first few uses, and then they will go dull. Once dull, the clippers do not cut the nails, but begin to crush them. You want a pair of clippers that are smooth like butter (or olive oil if you’re vegan)! Ideally, you should be able to cut off small bits of nails swiftly and easily. My favourite nail clippers are Millers Forge clippers (767C Large) and they are available on amazon. They last for years without going dull. My biggest rule when cutting dogs nails, especially if the dog is nervous, is to Commit to Your Cut. If you are hesitating when cutting your dogs nails, this can stress your dog out. Once you can see the quick in your dog’s nail, align your clippers and cut in one swift motion. Constantly changing the position on your dog’s nails elongates a process that is not exactly fun for most dogs.

Electric Dremel: If you have tools in your house, you may already have one of these that just needs the top changed to a dog friendly grinder! An electric dremel files your dog’s nails so you can get them even shorter than you could with cutting. Using a dremel can be better for dogs with anxiety over getting their nails done, although this is not true with all dogs. A dremel is also great to avoid sharp nails after trimming them. Personally, I cut first and then round the end of my dog’s nail with my electric dremel. You can purchase a nail dremel/grinder from many pet stores, or on my favourite website, Amazon. There are nail dremels made specifically for dogs and I would suggest starting with a nail dremel made for dogs before changing the grinder on a Mastercraft electric grinder. They move much slower and are easier to use if you are new.

Nail File: These are a great tool for dogs who may be sensitive to the noise of clippers or a dremel. Using a metal nail file you can manually file your dogs nails similarly to how you would do your own nails. This is great for puppies when getting them used to having their feet handled as well as for seniors who may not be able to stand for long periods.

Abrasive Surface Board: Cats typically use scratching posts to keep their nails short and the same thing can be made for your dog! To make a tool like this simply use 100-180 grit sand paper and glue it to a hard surface, I personally prefer wood! Encourage your dog to paw at the board and this will slowly shorten their nails. Be careful that your dog is scratching with their nails and not wearing down their pads.  This is a great tool for dogs that are sensitive to having their feet touched because you can shorten their nails without having to even touch their feet! This works best for front feet and would require significant rear end awareness for the back feet. It is important to watch tutorial videos on this before starting!

Styptic Powder: If you happen to cut your dog’s nail too short, it will bleed. A LOT. A product called Kwik stop works great and is available at most pet stores. Simply press the powder onto your dogs bleeding nails and the bleeding will stop right away!


So, how do I cut my dog’s nails?














The above diagram is a great tool to file for beginners! But how do you see the quick? If your dog’s nails are really long it is easier to see. Look at your dog’s foot upside down and you will see what appears as a cap over your dog’s nails. It will usually be hollow until it reaches the meatier part of the nail. The cap of the nail before the meatier part can all be cut off. If your dog’s nails are already short, pat yourself on the back. Then, make sure you are only taking small amounts off the nail! Clip tiny slivers until you see a small dot in the centre of the nail that differs from the colour of the rest of the nails. In black nails, it will usually be a light grey colour and in white nails it is usually black or pink. I find the best way to learn is to do a quick Youtube search for tutorials. Seeing someone else do it can be really helpful.

Ideally, getting your dog’s nails done everyone 1-2 weeks is best! If you are wary about where the quick is on your dog, bring them in to Wooftopia and we can show you on your own dog. If you have any other questions about nail maintenance, let us know in the comments!

Keep those tails waggin’ and those kisses comin!

Auntie Emily