How to Trim Paw Pads – Easy Step-By-Step

Hairy paw pads can cause all sorts of problems:

  • They reduce traction and make it easy to slip.
  • They collect dirt and other nasty stuff
  • It’s a breeding ground for bacteria

Trimming paw pads is a simple process that you can do on your own that will provide some relief for your dogs.

Likewise, we can trim the tops of the feet with shears to give a neat and tidy look. But if you’re not confident with shears yet – best leave that part to the professionals.

What you’ll Need

  • A pair of pet grooming clippers
  • A #40 Blade
  • A dog

NEVER use shears / scissors to trim paw pads. You are at a high risk of cutting your dog.

How to hold your dog

First, we need to learn how to properly hold your dog.

Your dog may become uncomfortable from the noise and feeling of clippers. They may try and jerk their leg away as you work.

You’ll need to safely hold them while you work to avoid injuries or dropping (and damaging) your clippers.

There’s two different methods for comfortably holding the front and back legs.

1. Holding The Front Paws

The easiest method for front paws is to reach over your dog and and bend their front leg backwards so that their paw pad if facing the ceiling.

Hold the joint with your off hand. If they jerk their leg or move around, you’ll have more control and avoid accidents.

You can also support your dogs weight with your own body by bracing up against them. This is especially helpful for big dogs.

Now you can use main hand and work with the clippers.

Katlin holding the front paw

2. Holding The Back Paws

In a similar fashion, you’ll reach over your dog and pull the back leg up so the paw pad is facing the ceiling.

Don’t worry, this position is very comfortable for your dog. And it gives you more control.

Again, hold the joint securely with your off hand while you work with the clippers in your dominant hand.

Katlin holding the back paw

How To Hold your Clippers

I’ve been grooming and teaching student groomers for several years, and a common problem among new groomers is how they hold their clippers.

In this first picture I’m holding the clippers with a full grip:

  • This encourages “jamming” or stabbing the clippers.
  • This makes detail work very difficult (like trimming pad pads)
  • Less control

In the second picture, I’m holding the clippers with just my thumb and forefinger.

  • No way to direct the clippers with your hand.
  • They can easily shift around as the dog moves, causing mistakes.
  • If a dog moves suddenly you may drop and damage your clippers.

Finally, we get the the third picture, where I’m holding the clippers like a paint brush:

  • I have full control of the clippers.
  • Sudden movements won’t cause me to drop or lose control.
  • I can do detailed work with the edge of the clippers.

I encourage you to practice holding your clippers in this fashion before working on your dog.

How To Clip The Paw Pads

We’ve got our clippers ready, we’re holding our dog properly. Now we can get clipping:

  • Make sure you have on a #40 blade securely in place on the clippers.
  • Hold the clippers in your dominant hand and in the method shown above.
  • Hold your dogs paws as we explained previously.
  • With your off hand, use your thumb to gently seperate the paw pads and create a small gap.
  • Use your clippers to gentle ‘scoop’ out the hair within the gap.
  • Keep creating gaps with and removing hair until complete.

Imagine that you’re gently scraping away the surface with your clippers.

We’re not digging or jabbing the clippers into the paw. Just using gentle strokes to remove small amounts at a time.

Important note: we’re not removing all the hair, just trimming enough to make walking more comfortable.

Repeat

Now it’s time to move to the next paw.

Take this moment to gauge how your dog is feeling.

If they looked stressed (or if you’re feeling stressed) take a break, or finish the next paw another day.

Notice we didn’t take away ALL the hair, just enough to make walking more comfortable.

Help! My Dog is scared of the clippers and won’t stay still

Dogs feeling a little uncomfortable with clippers is very common. But with a little practice it’s easy to overcome.

1. Get Them Used To The Feeling

My best tip is to not trim their paw pads at all (we’ll get to that later).

Instead, turn on the clippers and press it against their paw (without actually clipping) for just a second, and then immediately give them a treat for being brave.

Keep doing this over and over until they start to feel a little more comfortable with the feeling of the clippers.

Extend the time the clippers is touching their paws to a few more seconds each time.

Use gentle encouragement and talk in a positive manner.

Do this for a few minutes each day. Try to extend the time a little each session.

2. Paws Don’t Like Being Touched

Many dogs don’t like their paws being touched by clippers or human hands.

Following the same advice as above, we’ll practice for a few minutes and reward with treats.

But in this case we’ll practice touching paws with our hands.

As we get further into the session and your dogs is feeling more comfortable, practice gently pressing your fingers in between the paw pads to create a little space.

3. One and Done

Some dogs reach a point of stimulation where they’ve had enough.

In this case, just clip one paw pad per day. Easy.

Keep doing one per day until all four paw pads are done.

Follow the same advice as earlier; rewarding them with treats and vocal encouragement.

Katlin Primrose

Katlin Primrose

​​Katlin is certified master groomer with over 10 years of experience, a registered veterinarian tech assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice), and has won multiple awards in the show ring with her dogs at AKC and CKC.

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