How to Cut Golden Retriever Nails

By Britt Kascjak

Cutting your Golden Retriever’s nails doesn’t have to be complicated. There are three popular options for maintaining your Golden Retriever’s nails depending on his comfort level. This includes standard nail clippers, a nail grinder, or a scratch pad. Whichever option you choose, your dog’s nails should be taken care of at least once every 2 weeks.

How to Cut Your Golden Retriever’s Nails

Before trying to cut your Golden Retriever’s nails, start by conditioning him to have his paws handled.

Starting from a young puppy, regularly touch your Golden Retriever’s paws. Include praise and rewards to create a positive association.

You can also incorporate the nail clippers into the conditioning by gently touching them to your Golden Retriever’s nail.

When he’s comfortable with the nail clippers, you are now ready to introduce the process.

Hold your Gold Retriever’s paw in a firm yet gentle grip. This is important to stop your Golden Retriever from moving his paws as you’re cutting causing an injury.

Inside your Golden Retriever’s nail is a blood vessel called the quick. Cutting this will not only cause it to bleed, but it also contains several nerves making it painful.

Place a small section of the nail in the clippers, careful to avoid the quick. Cut through the nail with a fast, smooth movement.

If you do hit the quick, you can stop the bleeding quickly using styptic powder.

How to Use a Nail Grinder on Your Golden Retriever

Rather than clipping off the ends of a Golden Retriever’s nails, a nail grinder works by slowly grinding the nail down.

This is a good choice for Golden Retriever owners that are nervous about cutting the quick. It’s also a good choice for dogs that are startled by the sudden movement of the clippers cutting through.

But, some Golden Retrievers are irritated by the sound it creates or the sensation of the grinder against their nails.

To use a nail grinder, hold your Golden Retriever’s paw firmly in one hand.

Bring the grinder to the end of the nail and slowly grind back the end of the nail, shortening it. Stop before you reach the quick to prevent pain and bleeding.

How to Teach Your Golden Retriever to Use a Scratch Pad

A scratch pad or scratchboard allows your Golden Retriever to wear down his own nails.

It’s a flat or rounded board with a sandpaper surface. As your Golden Retriever scratches at the board, the sandpaper files the nails down.

This is a popular choice for Golden Retrievers that are scared of having their nails trimmed and uncomfortable with the nail grinder.

The scratch pad gives the dog full control. This can help to build confidence and encourage dogs to be calm throughout the process.

To train your Golden Retriever to use the scratch pad, hold it at a slight angle in front of your dog. Each time he touches the pad with his nails, praise and reward him.

At first, your Golden Retriever will only touch the board slightly. But, in time, hold out on the reward for your dog to keep his paw on the board a little longer.

You can then move to rewarding only with a dragging action, effectively filing the nails.

The best part about this option is that you can turn it into a fun and interactive game with you and your Golden Retriever.

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Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. Her ‘pack’ includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx.