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Introducing Nail Trimming to your Puppy

Last Updated: 5-20-2020

Paw Handling and Desensitization:

Part of caring for your new puppy will involve bathing, grooming, and nail trimming. To set your pup up for successful nail trims, try holding the paws, touching their toes, and looking closely at their nails to help get your pet used to having their paws handled. Do this regularly, especially when not trimming their nails, to develop a positive association with handling prior to nail trims.

Familiarize yourself with your dog’s paws and nails. Each nail has a bundle of nerves and blood vessels inside called the quick. The quick is visible as a pink line in dogs with white nails. For black nails, the quick is not visible. If cut, it is painful and will bleed. Remember, it is better to take too little off the nail than to cut the quick and make future nail trims a struggle.

Have the Right Tools:

►Nail trimmers come in both scissor and guillotine type. You may feel one style works better for you. Make sure your trimmers are clean and sharp; dull trimmers put pressure on the quick, leading to discomfort.

►Be sure to have “kwik stop” on hand in case you cut the quick. This powder can be applied to the quick to stop the bleeding.

►Another option is a scratch pad. A scratch pad is an abrasive pad to have your dog wear down their nails through scratching. For more information, see:

When and Where:

►It is best to pick a time when your pet is relaxed and has been exercised. It is also helpful for you pup to be hungry so that they are more interested in treats. Peanut butter and Easy Cheese are ideal to use.

►It is best to have a designated spot in your house for nail trims. Pets may do better on a yoga mat or on a table with a non-slip mat. Small pets may be gently held up to facilitate trimming.

Positive Reinforcement:

►When trimming the nails, start building confidence by trimming one paw at a time. You do not need to do all the nails in the same sitting! (If your pet will tolerate it, feel free to do all four feet at once!)

►If you pet gets resistant, take a break, and try again another day. Use lots of positive reinforcement and treats. If you accidentally cut the quick, use kwik stop to control the bleeding and take a break.  Go back to getting your pet used to having their paws and toes handled with positive reinforcement and treats.

You may decide to leave nail trims to the groomer.  But you still want to work on paw handling to increase your pup’s chance of success!


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