Don’t we all sweat at the mere thought of trimming our dog’s nails? No matter how hard we try to do it right, dogs hardly ever like it. In fact most dogs are reluctant to have their feet touched, let alone nail trimming. Although it can seem daunting, nail trimming is an important part of a regular grooming routine. And if you keep a few guidelines in mind and maintain a consistent schedule, nail trimming doesn’t have to become a stressful chore.
You probably have some questions that need to be answered before we begin.
Here are some common ones:
Why should I trim my dog’s nails?
Dog nails are constantly growing. Dogs can wear them down naturally by walking on pavement, gravel or concrete. However, the majority of today's dogs live indoors and don't spend enough time on these surfaces to keep the nails short. If left to grow, some dog’s nails curl and hurt their paws. Long nails make it difficult for dogs to walk, especially on slick surfaces. They also catch on something easily and get partially torn or split. This will most definitely be very painful for your dog and end up in a vet’s office.
How Often Do I Need to Trim My Dog's Nails?
This depends on your dog. The rate of nail growth versus the amount of natural wear can vary from dog to dog. A good rule of thumb is to trim your dog's nails if they touch the floor when he/she is standing. In general, most dogs will need a nail trim every month or two. The front nails tend to grow faster that the rear nails, so you may only need to trim the rear nails every other time you do the front (or just trim a smaller amount off the rear nails each time).
How Soon Should I Begin Trimming My New Dog or Puppy's Nails?
Right away! You should begin handling your dog's paws from the moment you bring him home. He should get used to the sensation and associate it with a positive experience (treats, toys, attention). Just remember NOT to rush this process. Most dogs will not obey instantly, so be very patient and remember to NEVER manhandle your dog. NO scolding or intimidating him. If you do, it will be more difficult to trim his nails in the future.
Alright now that this is covered, let’s begin......
A dog's nail consists of a hard outer shell and a soft cuticle in the center consisting of nerve and blood vessel. The cuticle is typically referred to as the "quick" of the nail. If the quick is cut, the nail will bleed and the dog will feel pain.
Some dogs have light nails which enable us to see the quick, but many dogs have black or dark nails. While cutting these, only cut back a small amount (about 2 mm) at a time. You may opt to trim dark nails more frequently, only taking a small amount each time. This will also help longer nail quicks to shrink back.
You need to have the right equipment. There are a few styles of nail trimmers available. The right choice depends on the size of your dog's nails and your own preference. These are the main types of nail trimmers available on the market today (Please read the instructions mentioned on the pack carefully before using any of these on your dog):
Guillotine style: This an internal blade and a hole to line up the nail. When the handle is squeezed, the blade comes up to trim the nail, kind of like an upside-down guillotine. Many beginners find this type of trimmer very easy to use. However, it is very important to hold this trimmer in the correct manner so that it works properly. Guillotine trimmers work best for small to medium size nails. They are not ideal for very large or very small nails.
Scissors style: These work just like a pair of scissors. Rather than a flat cutting surface, they have a curved blade to cut the round nail. These trimmers are only useful for smaller nails, as they are typically not strong enough for the larger nails. Their blades may dull over time and the hinge may become loose.
Pliers style: These trimmers are often the preferred choice among professionals. Pliers style trimmers work in a similar manner to the scissors style trimmers, but with more force. They are spring-loaded and the mechanism resembles garden pruners. The small/medium size is great for small and medium size nails. The large size typically works well on all nail sizes except the very small ones (they can leave the ends of small nails frayed). These are easy to use and tend to stay sharp for a long time. The blades, however, are not replaceable and can eventually dull (though it usually takes years).
Other Nail-Trimming Equipment:
Styptic Powder: If you cut the nail too short, it will bleed. Styptic powder can stop the bleeding very quickly and it fairly easy to apply.
Tip: if you don't have styptic powder, try packing bit of corn starch or flour on the bleeding nail tip. It will also be helpful to have cotton balls, tissues or paper towels handy for nail cleanup.
Metal Hand File or Power Rotary Tool: If your dog will tolerate it, you can use one of these tools to smooth the rough edges after the nail is trimmed. Many professionals prefer to skip the nail trim altogether and use a power rotary tool
Remember to select a comfortable place for both you and your dog. Some people prefer to trim their dog’s nails sitting on the floor, while others like to do so on a table or on the bed. Some may find it easier if there is another person around to help hold the dog still.
ALWAYS give lots of treats and praises to him during this testing session to help associate it with positivity and eliminate fear. If your dog is trying to bite you or is fighting hard, then the nail trim is a job best left to the professionals. Fortunately, most vet offices and groomers charge a minimal fee for basic nail trims. You may be surprised how much better your dog behaves for a couple of strangers!
Unfortunately, a small percentage of dogs will struggle too much even for the professionals. In the worst cases, sedation may be needed to trim nails. This is allthe more reason to work with your dog or puppy to get him used to handling and nail trims BEFORE it gets that bad.