Cutting Nails

Wag Cutting Nails1

If you’ve ever had a big (or little for that matter) dog jump on you or anxiously paw at your leg, you know just how much damage their nails can do. But it’s not just for your sake that it’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed, it can actually be detrimental to their health to have long nails. If you’re unable to take your dogs to a groomer to get their nails cut on a regular basis, then the responsibility lands on your shoulders. So let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions regarding doggy manicure and pedicure time.

Puppy’s First Nail Trim

Here is an example of me doing Tito’s nails. Because it is his first time ever, I have his owner distracting him with treats and lots of pets. I am letting Tito have a break when he needs to and be able to walk away when he wants to. You don’t want to force or push the puppy too much.

What Should You Do if You Cut a Dog’s Nails Too Short and They’re Bleeding?

  1. Don’t Panic; it happens to the best of us.
  2. Keep your dog calm.
  3. Apply some styptic powder onto the nail.
  4. You can use cornstarch or flour as well.
Accidents can happen while trimming your dog’s nails, so it’s important to be prepared. There is no need to panic and upset your dog further, so keep yourself and your dog calm. Use Styptic Powder to stop the bleeding.
Styptic powder is a staple tool of veterinarians and groomers. It should absolutely be in your First Aid Kit for any type of bleeding. It is called Kwik Stop at some places. The kwik is the part that bleeds when you cut a nail too short. You can use it on nail cuts that are too short, when a dog injures their nails or for small wounds, although you should see a vet for anything that is not a simple nail cutting accident.
You simply wet your finger and then dip into the styptic powder and then apply it to the nail. You may need to reapply the powder as the blood can rinse it away.
If you haven’t bought Styptic powder yet, cornstarch or flour can be used in a pinch.
The powder serves three basic functions:
  1. It stops bleeding by promoting clotting.
  2. It has a topical pain-relieving agent.
  3. Some veterinarians have a powder that actually helps kill bacteria to prevent infections.

Can You Teach a Dog to Like Getting His Nails Cut?

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is important for their health, it affects their ability to walk and run. Thus we need to keep nail trimming as stress-free as possible for our pet and ourselves. Habituation is a really simple way of learning. The dog, after a period of exposure to a stimulusstops responding to that stimulus. The time it takes to habituate or get your dog used to something they are afraid of or don’t like can vary greatly from dog to dog.

It is also important to do habituation practice when your dog is asleep or playing. You want to generalize as much as possible. Here are some steps that you can take:

  1. Start at the level your dog is comfortable. It could be as simple as just touching his paw.
  2. Praise him like crazy.
  3. When your dog is comfortable with that, begin picking up the paw and holding it for a short time.
  4. Start increasing the time you hold the paw.
  5. Always praise and reward.
  6. Then begin separating the toes.
  7. Introduce the clippers. Show them to your dog and praise him if he shows interest in them.
  8. Touch the clippers to the paw.
  9. Hold the clippers in one hand and a paw in the other.
  10. While holding the paw, touch it with the clippers.
  11. Then separate the toes and touch it with clippers.
  12. Eventually clip one nail.
  13. Make a big deal about it.
  14. Slowly increase how many toes you can clip.

Remember this is a long process and it can take days to months depending on your dog. So stay patient and positive and avoid having a bad experience with you and your dog by having a professional clip the nails until you can do it.

When working with your dog, you have to remember that each step needs to be repeated many times and in different circumstances. It might be days or months before you move on to the next step. Take your time.

Should I Restrain My Dog When He Freaks Out?

Wag freaks out

Your dog may not have been properly handled when he was younger and now certain situations may cause anxiety and stress that your dog expresses in a disturbing manner. This may lead some people to think that their dog needs to be restrained during the situation, but most of the time it is not worth the trouble to restrain your dog.

While there can be dangerous situations when restraining your dog IS necessary, if there is no immediate danger to the dog or anyone else look for other solutions instead. Remember that it is not his fault that he was not handled properly when he was younger and his behavior is out of fear and not done on purpose to frustrate you.

Restraining some dogs can make them even more freaked out and cause damage to your relationship with them. Call a professional instead while you work on habituation with your dog. Remember all habituation takes time and to remain positive during the process.

How Can I Safely Restrain My Dog?

Situations may arise that for the safety of your dog or others they may need to be restrained. There may also be some medical procedures, such as vaccinations and nail trimmings, that may freak your dog out but are necessary for his health. Here are the proper steps to take while restraining your dog:

  1. Place one hand in front of the dog’s neck.
  2. Place the other hand in front of the rear legs and under the abdomen.
  3. Gently pull the dog toward you until he is snug against you.
  4. You might need to muzzle the dog if he is too close to the face and is injured.


Speak to a professional to see if habituation is an option to get your dog comfortable in a stressful situation.

Wag safely restrain

How Do You Cut a Dog’s Nails That are White or See Through?

  1. Remember to be patient with your dog.
  2. You might not be able to do all nails in one sitting. Take your time. Praise your dog and give him treats.
  3. Hold the paw in your hand and spread the toes out
  4. Cut holding the clippers at a slight angle and horizontally to the floor.
  5. Cut a little at a time
  6. You can see where the pink starts, that is a nerve and you don’t want to cut into it.

How Do You Cut a Dog’s Nails That are Black?

  1. Remember to be patient with your dog.
  2. You might not be able to do all nails in one sitting. Take your time. Praise your dog and give him treats.
  3. Hold the paw in your hand and spread the toes out.
  4. Cut holding the clippers at a slight angle and horizontally to the floor.
  5. Cut a little at a time.
  6. It should be gray or white at first. As soon as you see a solid dark spot, stop.
  7. Go to the next nail.


It’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed for several reasons. It’s better for their health and it keeps them from scratching you and your home. By being patient with your dog and offering high incentive rewards, you can easily train your dog to sit still during nail trim time. But if this is too much for you, there are a lot of places out there that offer this service at a reasonable price (including your veterinarian).

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions