a close up of a freshly cut dogs nail, diagram shows the pink quick, chalky center and outer nail.

Chihuahuas are fairly low maintenance dogs. They don’t need their hair cut, and brushing them takes very little time. One thing they do need regularly however, is nail trims. Nail trims need to be done frequently to keep your pet healthy. Learning how to trim your chihuahua’s nails yourself can save you a lot of money, and also allow you to trim your pet’s nails frequently enough.

Long nails hurt. They can lead to arthritis, abnormal gait, and even curl around and stab into the paw pad. Nails left too long can twist the paws into uncomfortable shapes and leave them permanently disfigured.

Ideally, you should cut your chihuahua’s nails weekly to keep them from ever causing your pet discomfort. This guide is designed to help walk you through the process, along with some additional tips to make it easier for you and your pet.

Use the right tools

Proper nail trimming starts with having the right tools to do it with. While this article is strictly about clipping nails, I usually prefer to use a Dremel since it is faster. It is also safer, since it takes less nail off at a time. Clipping is best for when you have large amounts of nail to remove. It can also be used if your dog is afraid of the Dremel.

Items you’ll need:

  • A high surface
    Trimming your dog’s nails is easiest if you can both be standing. A kitchen counter or table works great for this if you don’t have a grooming table.
  • Good lighting
    You’re going to be looking for a tiny dot in the center of your tiny dog’s nails. Make sure you have enough light to really see the tip of your dog’s nail.
  • Traction for your pet
    Counters and tables are slippery! Your chihuahua will probably feel uncomfortable standing on three legs if they also feel like they’re on an ice skating rink. A cheap rubber backed rug can give your pet something to stand on and help them feel more confident.
  • A set of kitten clippers
    Dog nail clippers are huge and don’t really let you see what you’re doing when it comes to tiny chihuahua nails. Cat or rabbit nail clippers (ad) are better options for small dog nails. Choose a brand that is sharp, because dull clippers squeeze the nail and hurt your pet.

    If you have both large and small dogs, or want to prioritize sharpness over size, the Millers Forge nail clippers (ad) provide the best overall balance between the two.
  • Treats
    I shamelessly pay my pet for letting me clip their nails, and you should too. All my dogs line up to do the cha-cha when they see the groom tools out. They know they’ll have a non-stop feast of delicious treats as long as the nails are being cut.

    It doesn’t hurt to make the process as pleasant as possible, especially since most dog’s find nail trims so unpleasant.

Creating the right spot and using the right tools will make the process safer and more comfortable for you both.

Holding your pet

Most of the pictures shown of dog’s getting their nails cut show the dog with a front paw pulled forward and the person facing the dog and cutting the nail. This is not the best position for cutting nails. The top of the nail tells you absolutely nothing about the quick.

Instead, stand your chihuahua on your high work surface, with his head tucked under your arm, and his butt facing away from you. This position gives several advantages. Your pet can’t see what you’re doing, which is usually a big relief for them, you can easily access all his feet without moving, and it’s easier to keep him from squirming away.

Pick up your dog’s foot and face the paw so the paw pad is up and you are looking at the underside of the nail. Try to keep the paw low to the ground so you don’t twist his hips or flex the leg up too high. (Remember, chihuahua’s are short!)

From this position, you can now easily clip your pet’s nails and see where the quick is.

Cutting the nails

How to cut your dog's nails
Choose the right tool: Cat nail clippers are better for smaller dogs. Think small! Smaller cuts reduce the risk of injury. Check the tip: The tip of the nail reveals everything you need to know. A solid white interior means its safe to cut more. 
Stop at pink or black. A pink or black dot means time to stop! Ouch! Cornstarch can help stop bleeding if you cut too short.

Using your clippers, cut a tiny amount off the tip of your dog’s nails. Examine the tip of the nail where you cut. What do you see? If the nail looks exactly the same but somewhat shorter, with no difference in color or texture, cut a shred more and so on, until you see a white, chalky interior.

Take your time as you reach this. You’re looking for a black spot for black nails, or a pink spot for clear nails, in the center of the cut area. Once you see the dot, stop! You’ve reached the quick.

Repeat on every nail until done. If you’re not sure where the quick is, cut very small amounts, 1/8th-1/4 of an inch (the smaller the better) off at a time.

Once you get good at cutting your pet’s nails, you can also add an angled cut around the edges of your dog’s nail called the alternative cut line. This additional cut helps shorten the quicks, reducing the overall length of the nail over time.

Worried about quicking your dog? Try playing our free nail trimming game! (Must have javascript enabled for it to work.)

Behavioral problems

Nail trims are easy when your pet holds perfectly still and doesn’t move, but of course, this usually doesn’t happen. If your pet doesn’t like nail trims, you may want to take your pet to a groomer for now, while desensitizing him to the clippers and foot handling at home.

You can help your chihuahua enjoy nail trims more by breaking up the process into tiny steps, and heavily rewarding each one. If your pet is very fearful, try getting the nail trimmers out when ever you feed them and put it next to the bowl. Show your pet the clippers and then feed them a treat.

When your pet is glad to see the clippers, move on to rewarding them for letting you touch the clippers to them in a ‘safe’ area (not their feet) and slowly move it down the leg.

Hands Free Options for Nail Trimming

Another option for your pet if they’re very afraid of having their nails done is to teach them to use a scratch board. While you will still have to trim their dew claws, trimming your dogs nails in this way means most of the nail trim is just a fun game to your dog.

This is a great option for people who are afraid of cutting into the quicks as well, because dogs can feel their own quicks and will stop scratching before they hurt themselves. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

4 thoughts on “How to Trim Your Chihuahua’s Nails”
  1. […] You can see our post here for more details on how to do the traditional cut line. Nails should be to the quick for this, which can be done either with a grinder or with nail clippers. It’s good to note that for the next step, it is very hard to do with clippers. You can use an emery board if your dog has tiny nails and is afraid of the grinder, and big nails it’s a bit easier to do with a pair of clippers, but it’s still very hard. […]

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