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How to Cut an English Bulldog’s Nails – the Right Way

How to Cut an English Bulldog’s Nails – the Right Way

Dogs are such a privilege to have in this world. We’re undeserving of them as a species. All they want to do is love and be loved. However, when they want to show you love, you will get scratched up—if their nails aren’t trimmed.

How do you cut an English bulldog’s nails the right way? Well, you will need to find a way to handle their foot firmly but gently at the same time. Then you will need to trim just a little past the tip of the toenail, and you must stop any bleeding immediately after.

This article is going to teach you all about cutting your bulldog’s nails the right way, including

  • How to hold the dog’s foot so that they can’t squirm away
  • When you should cut the nails and how far to cut
  • Tips to help them stay calm as you do the old snippity-snip
  • Suggestions on the best type of nail scissors for them
  • instructions on what to do in the event you do cause bleeding

Is Clipping Actually Important?

To a novice dog owner, clipping the dog’s nails may seem like an incredibly daunting task. It seems like there’s just so much at risk: the puppy could bleed, or you could cut too far and hurt them. Nothing is worth hurting a puppy, right?

Not cutting your puppy’s nails is so much worse for them. It’ll hurt so much more for them to be walking on overgrown nails than to be in pain for a few seconds because you went a little too far with the clippers.

When the nails get too long, your dog can’t properly sit against the floor, causing them to lean to the left or the right. When this happens, your dog is putting a lot more pressure onto uncomfortable areas of their foot than they should be.  If left unchecked, this could result in issues such as tendonitis, which is the inflammation of a tendon. A dog suffering from tendonitis will be in a lot of pain, and they might even begin to limp and strongly detest walking.

It would be like letting your toenails grow long enough that they always scraped the front of your shoes. It would be incredibly uncomfortable. The difference between you and your dog when something hurts is simple: you can handle your own pain. They need you.

On the subject of English bulldog care, check out this other helpful article if you need to know the right way to clean their teeth.

How to Know When it’s Time to Trim

It might be hard for you to know when to cut your dog’s nails, especially if you live in a place with soft or carpeted floors. A general sign of when it’s time to make the cut is when you start to hear your dog’s nails clicking on the hard floor as they walk.

The clacking is a sign that the nails are overgrown because it’s really the sound of the nails meeting the floor and then scraping against it as they splay out to the left or right. Another sign of overgrown nails is when your dog runs on those same hard floors. If you notice them sliding around, it’s because their overgrown nails aren’t allowing them to get adequate footing.

If you do not have any hard floors to go by, then you should follow the general rule of trimming: approximately once a week. That way, there’s no chance that the nails will grow too long.

Getting Ready to Trim

Before you actually begin your trimming adventure, there are a few things you need to do in order to make sure it’s done both safely and correctly. The first thing you might want to try is getting the dog comfortable with the feel and the sound of the clippers.

The AKC recommends this as an essential step to getting your dog to behave when they’re having their nails trimmed. It’s no surprise that the way they recommend you start the training process is with treats and lots of praise. You should start by simply putting the nail trimmer onto the dog’s nail, but not actually clipping down and cutting.

Once you have done that, if they do not squirm, give them a treat and praise them heavily. It’s similar to potty training—use treats and continued positive reinforcement so that they will associate the nail trimmers with a reward.

After your dog is comfortable with just the device itself, then you can actually try to start the trimming. Start with just the tip of the nail, reward the dog, and then go further.

Before you begin the actual trimming piece, always make sure that the nails are completely clean. That way, if you do accidentally cut too far and they bleed, nothing will infect the wound. Having a clean nail will also make it easier for you to see where the cut should stop.

Step One: Choosing Your Tool

There are two main methods of nail trimming for dogs: traditional clippers and grinding. The two tools are completely different methods of simply achieving the same thing: clipped nails. However, different dogs will prefer different tools, though.


Dog nail grinders are popular with professional groomers. The Casufy dog nail grinder is a popular choice for at-home pedicures.  If you are checking out social media such as Instagram or Pinterest, you will see people showing off their grinders. The focus on grinders is because they create a more dramatic look, which is something social media values heavily.

Nail grinders work best for dogs that have very thick or large nails with a large amount of surface area. Another thing grinders do well is create a more rounded nail, so there is less risk of sharp, jagged edges. Sharp edges lead to scratches, which then lead to the owner trimming the nails again, even if they do not need it. Over-trimming the nails is just as bad and painful for the puppy as under-trimming.

Unfortunately, if you have ever used a grinder, you know that they make a sawing sound when applied to the nail. That noise is likely to make the puppies anxious, causing them to squirm. If a puppy squirms while you’re trimming, you risk cutting the nail where you didn’t mean to. That won’t bode well for getting your dog not to mind having his or her nails clipped on a regular basis.

Traditional Doggy Nail Clippers

These are what most of us use in everyday life. If you have your puppy’s nails clipped at the vet, these are most likely what they use instead of opting for a grinder. They’re cheaper, for one: a grinder will run about $20 for a good one, whereas you can get a pair of decent doggy nail clippers for under $10 at most stores.

They also do not make the little sawing noise that the grinder does, which can reduce the dog’s anxiety as you try to clip them. Traditional clipping takes less time, too. With grinding, you have to be slow and precise to get the shape and smoothness you want. For a quick trip to Target, you might not want to spend 20 minutes giving your pooch the perfect mani-pedi.

Traditional guillotine-style nail clippers work best for dogs with nails of a regular size and thickness. They’re set up like a guillotine: there a round hole that the dog’s nail goes into, and a blade comes down across the top of the nail and makes the cut. The process is quick, so with good distraction, your dog won’t lose their head over having their nails cut. Dog parents everywhere love these guillotine-style nail clippers.

The other style of traditional nail clippers is the scissor-type trimmers, which work better for dogs with thicker nails. The issue with these and guillotine clippers alike is that, when you’re cutting the nail, you risk cutting into the quick.

Quick, What Does That Mean?

The quick of a dog’s nail is the part where there are blood vessels, located near the top of the nail. Since it is so close to the top of the nail and so easy to cut into, you need to be extra careful to avoid nicking it while you trim.

Think of the quick of the dog’s nail as equivalent to your nailbed, right? When you clip (or bite, if you’re a nervous nelly) your own nails too far down and you nick the nailbed, it bleeds and hurts. Depending on how far you went, that pain can last for days, until the nail grows out again.

It’s the same thing for dogs when you nick the quick. It bleeds and hurts them.  The pain doesn’t go away for them, just like it doesn’t for us. Depending on the severity of your mess up, the pain will last your pup for days. Being conscious of the quick is imperative to cutting the dog’s nails and also lowering the risk for your dog’s nails to get infected.

Can You Use Human Nail Clippers?

There is not and will never be a worse idea on this earth than using your regular human nail clippers on your dog. Even in the most extreme pinch you have ever been in your life, you should never just throw caution to the wind and reach for your medicine cabinet where you keep the clippers.

First of all, they’re completely the wrong shape for a dog’s nails. One of the main purposes of trimming the dog’s nails, to begin with, is to achieve a rounded edge so that your dog’s nails do not scratch you, your furniture, or your floors. Human nail clippers just cut straight across, so you must go back in with guillotine clippers or a grinder anyway.

Human nail clippers are also incredibly blunt if you’ve ever noticed. Even people with thin nails will tell you that it takes multiple tries clamping the clippers down to actually get the nail off, and when you do, it pulls and tears rather than cleanly cuts. Having blunt clippers that tug and tear at your dog’s nails is bound to compromise their integrity and damage the nail, even if you do not hit the quick.

Human nail clippers are completely the wrong size for a dog’s nails, too. They do not open very wide at all, so you won’t be able to cut the dog’s nail if it is thicker than a dime. It will also take multiple tries to actually cut the nail, making them more likely to squirm.

Step Two: The Cut

You’re finally ready to cut! Congratulations. We’ve come so far. Unfortunately, you’re not out of the woods just yet.

You’ve cleaned the nails. You’ve chosen your tool. You’ve hopefully identified the quick and made a game plan to avoid it. Now there’s only one thing left to do: make the cut. First, have treats ready. If your dog struggles with just the traditional treats, you can try putting some peanut butter on a plate or a spoon and holding it up for them to lick while you cut.

And yes, peanut butter is safe for a dog.  Ask the American Kennel Club.

Peanut butter takes a while to eat, and it’s very distracting, so you will probably be able to get through most if not all of the nails before they finish, depending on how much you gave them. For an extra layer of time, you can try giving them the crunchy kind; then, they’ll have the nuts to chew through, too.

Once you have got your dog sufficiently distracted, you can start the cut. Grasp the dog’s paw as firmly as is comfortable for them: if they whimper, loosen up a little. That way, you steady their paw so that they aren’t squirming about as you cut. If you can, try to have someone else holding the body of the dog. Doing it all by yourself might end in disaster.

Step Three: The Aftercare

You thought you were done? You were wrong.

Once you have cut the nails, your first step is to clean them up, of course. They’re sharp, and dogs are gross, so if you do not, there is a very good chance the dog could end up eating them. You could also clip the nails directly into a container and dump it out when you’re finished.

Once you’re done with that, check over each of the nails for blood. The best way to do that is by taking a dry paper towel and pressing it to each freshly cut nail. When you pull it away,  be able to see if any of the puppy’s nails are bleeding. If they aren’t, you’re good to set the puppy down and let them go about their day, and you can return to yours.

What to do if the Nails are Bleeding

It’s all right if you accidentally nicked the quick on a couple of nails. Sometimes, especially when dogs have dark or black nails, it can be hard to tell. It happens to the best of us. However, the worst idea in the world is to just let them go like that.

If your dog’s nails are bleeding and you let them go and run around like that, then you run the risk of infection. Dogs are dirty, and they do not wear shoes, so anything and everything can find its way into that open wound. Luckily, there are a few ways you can solve this problem before you let them go off to play.

When you’re getting ready to cut the nails, you should always have a little cup of cornstarch nearby. As soon as you notice the bleeding, dip the dog’s nail gently into the cup. This will usually stop the bleeding immediately. If it doesn’t, dip then nail in again. If thirty minutes or so pass and the nail is still bleeding, you should take your dog to the vet just to make sure nothing is wrong.

After a few minutes, when the bleeding has fully stopped, you can wipe the cornstarch off of the nail. At this point, if you’re a paranoid puppy parent, you can apply a teeny tiny bit of Neosporin to the nail just to further prevent any infections. Once you have done all of that, your puppy is good to go and resume their playing.

Making the Nails Presentable

This next step is completely optional, but it’s something a lot of pet owners choose to do. When you have finished cutting the nail, you can actually go in with the grinder to create that rounded edge that will hopefully hurt less when they scratch you.

If you want to do that, though, please adjust accordingly. Maybe, instead of cutting the nail fully off with the clipper and then going in with the grinder—which will basically guarantee you a ticket on the train to “I Nicked The Quick-Ville”—try cutting the nail off about three-quarters of the way with the standard nail clippers and then going in the rest of the way with the grinder. That reduces the risk of hitting the quick and takes less time than using the grinder exclusively.

There are also a variety of brands that make puppy safe nail polishes, so if you’re feeling really extra, you could actually paint your dog’s nails to match your own. In fact, one could argue that doing this increases the dog’s tolerance for having their paw held and worked on. You’d get a dog who does well with having their nails clipped and a dog that has very pretty nails, all in one fell swoop.

Is the Process Different for English Bulldogs?

Generally, the nail trimming process is going to be exactly the same for every breed of dog. The only thing that really adjusts to the dog is the type of trimmer you like to use as well as the way you choose to distract your dog.

English bulldogs have pretty standard nails, so as far as the tool goes, you will be okay with just the standard guillotine clippers and cornstarch approach. Their nails are thin enough, so you won’t want to use the scissor-type trimmers. If you’d like to, you can go ahead and cut about three-quarters of the way down the trimmable part of the nail and then use a nail grinder to round off the edges.

Understanding Their Temperament

The English bulldog is incredibly easygoing and very trusting of its owner. Of course, their actual temperament varies a bit from dog to dog, but for the most part, that’s how they tend to behave.

That being said, if they do not like something, they will absolutely let you know it. For example, when an English bulldog gets scared of something, it will start walking backward away from whatever it is that’s giving them a fright. Their ears, which are usually floppy and carefree, will go back, sometimes inverting against their heads.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you should definitely put the clippers down and take care of them before you try again. Proceeding and forcing them to have their nails clipped will associate the activity with a negative experience in their minds, meaning they’ll be more likely to continue protesting in the future.

Not to mention that, when dogs are scared, they’re also aggressive without meaning to be. You’re probably going to get bit if your English bulldog is backing away in fear, and you pick it up and start cutting its nails anyway. English bulldogs have pretty sharp teeth, so that won’t be fun for you or for them.

The Best Way to Win Them Over

English bulldogs love to give love, and even more, they love to get it back. They can be food motivated, of course, as we all can be, but they also highly value praise from their owner. The best way to get your English bulldog to enjoy or at least to tolerate having their nails trimmed on a regular basis is to praise them.

Praise them after essentially every move you make. You picked up the dog? Good boy! The dog sat in your lap? Hooray! Oh my gosh, he let you pick up the clippers? Yes! Perfect! The more praise they get, the happier they’ll be, and the more compliant they’ll be next week when you need to cut their nails again.

When you are cutting the dog’s nails, try to have another person available so that one of you can hold and butt pet while the other does the cutting. It will soothe them and make them more trusting of you. The most important thing to do when cutting a dog’s nails is to let them know you’re not going to hurt them.

Work in Pairs

English bulldogs are chunky and can be hard to manage alone, even though they aren’t even one of the largest breeds. They may not necessarily be long and tall, but they are very wide dogs. You also do not have a lot of leg to work with since their legs are short.

Ideally, when you are going to cut an English bulldog’s nails, you should have at least one other person there to help you out. The other person should either hold the dog and the distraction food, or they should cut the nails. The person that the dog seems to be the most comfortable with, which is usually the owner, should always be the one making the cuts.

While one person holds the dog steady, you should still grasp the paw that you are working on to make sure they do not pull away mid clip. If there is more than one person available, assign them to work on another foot to get the job done as quickly as possible.

What to do When Your Dog Refuses

If you have tried all of this and your dog still absolutely refuses to have his or her nails trimmed, then the best thing to do is take them to the vet or to a professional pet groomer and have them do it. They are trained professionals who have dealt with it all, so they should have no problem cutting your dog’s nails.

If you can, go in and observe while they trim the nails. Ask for pointers. Maybe you were doing something wrong, like grasping the paw too firmly or going at it too fast. Check out this very helpful YouTube video.

Someone Has to Do it

Your dog’s nails need to be trimmed, whether it’s you, your aunt, or Billy from soccer practice. Your English bulldog needs to have the cutting of their nails sandwiched in between copious amounts of praise.

Eventually, it’s likely that your dog will get over their fear, especially as they get older. All you can do until then is wait them out, love them, and do what’s best for them, even if it’s not what they want you to do. You’re in control, and sometimes, you need to exercise that.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.