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Nail Trimming - Caring for your Dog

If you have not done so yet, starting a routine of grooming is very important for the health and well being of your dog and part of that care should include nail trimming. When nails get too long they can break which can lead to infection and can cause discomfort or even pain. An irregular gait can also be a result of long nails which can lead to damage to the skeleton. However despite its important a lot of dog owners neglect this part of their dog's care because it makes them anxious which in turn makes the dog anxious. It is true care has to be taken. Dogs have live blood vessels in their nails so careless cutting could be a problem. But if you follow some of the tips and guidelines here you can trim your dog's nails without the stress.


Teach him to link nail trims with positive things

There are two main points to take away about dog nail clipping. Take it slowly and teach him to associate trimming his nails with things he loves like treats, praise, fun, love and so on and it will be fine. A lot of dogs dislike this aspect of grooming so if you get your dog from a young puppy a good idea is to get him used to having his feet handled on a regular basis. Still nail trimming can be a little uncomfortable and if you cut too far down it causes them pain and bleeding and potential infection.

Teach your dog to at least tolerate nail clipping be using treats, toys, games and rewards. When he lets you take a paw give him a treat. At the first clip offer another. Keep repeating this approach and offer praise and love. Stay patient and calm. At the end reward him with some play time like a tug of war or a walk for example. Go slowly so that you do not overwhelm him. Introduce him first to the nail clippers and get him used to you touching his nails with them. Cut one nail then stop and plan on doing the rest another time if you have to. Be soothing as you talk to him.

Using the right clippers

The two types of dog nail clippers you can get are a scissor type and a guillotine type. The latter has a hole that stays stationary and the nail goes through it. Then a blade lifts up when you squeeze the handles and comes down to cut the nail. The scissor type work like scissors, you open them with the tip of the nail between them and then close to trim. Choose clippers that you feel happier with as either are effective and fine to use.

Get your dog ready

If your dog has never had this done before or if he is not fond of having his feet handled take it slowly and get him ready a few days before. Pick up one of his paws and touch his toes and nails gently just for several seconds before releasing it. Then give him a favorite treat and praise him. Repeat this for a few minutes and do it for a couple of days. When your dog is more comfortable with you touching him there get the nail clippers. You are not going to do any clipping yet. Just touch the nails with the clippers and then give him a treat. Do this again for a few minutes over a couple of days. If he remains happy and relaxed you can start to trim, but just one or two nails for the first session and give a treat after each one.

How to trim your dog's nails

Get yourself ready with the clippers, enough treats, a clotting powder and move your do into a room where it is quiet and calm. The clotting powder will stop the bleeding if you do cut the quick. Choose which nail you are starting with and firmly but gently take that toe between your fingers. For people using scissor type clippers be sure to hold them at a right angle to the nail placing the nail tip between the blades. Squeeze the handles quickly to cut the nail.

For those using guillotine type clippers place the tip of nail in the hole making sure you are holding the clippers so that you cut from top to bottom. This means holding then perpendicular to the nail you are trimming you should not be cutting side to side. So that you can see where you are cutting have the cutting blade’s face toward you not your dog. A cleaner cut will happen if it is facing the dog but then you cannot see where exactly the blade makes contact so just go with what makes you feel better.

Where to cut

This takes some skill, research and practice. If the nails on your dog are clear this makes it easier as you can see the pinkness which is the live quick and the part you need to avoid. The nail should be cut to at the most 2mm away from it. If your dog has dark nails though it is a little harder and you need to basically cut a bit at a time. As you take a slice off look at what is exposed and when you see a gray or pink oval appearing you stop trimming. If there is someone who can help you they can hold a light over each nail as you trim as this helps to light up the quick.

Dewclaws should be trimmed too. While most dogs have these just on their front legs, some have then on the rear legs too. If your dog does not have any they were surgically removed at some point before you had him.

As long as your dog was okay with you trimming a couple of nails one day, you can continue to finish the rest over the next few days. Try to get two or three done each time and give him a treat after each nail. The next time his nails need a trim try to do more nails each time. Slowly you will be able to reach a point where you can trim them all in one session.


Tips to remember

If you cut too low you will cut the quick which will make your dog yelp in pain and it will bleed quite a lot. Stay calm, sooth your dog and give him treats and apply the clotting powder you have next to you. Stop the trimming and resume in a day or two.

If he is acting fearful or getting aggressive ask for help from a professional like a CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist).

You can use a vet or groomer to do the nail clipping if they are not anxious about going to these places.

There is a special tool called a Dremel that grinds the nails down like an emery board if you want to avoid clipping altogether.

If your dog is truly resistant to the trimming do not get angry or punish him, this will just make his aversion worse. Do not force him to go through it if he is scared.

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