Trimming your dog’s nails can be an intimidating experience for both you and your furry friend. However, it’s extremely important to do so, as untrimmed nails may lead to some possible painful issues for your dog. Fortunately, a little preparation can help you keep your pooch’s paws in prime condition. Here’s what you need to know about trimming your dog’s nails.
How Often Should I Trim Dog Nails?
The exact frequency varies depending on where your dog walks, how active they are, their diet, and other factors. However, there is a key indicator that your dog is due for a trim – your dog’s nails shouldn’t touch the ground when they stand.
Keep a close eye on your pup’s paws. If those nails are getting close to the ground, it’s time to bust out the clippers. One good indicator to check is if you start to hear your dog’s nails tapping on the ground.
Monthly trims are a good starting point, but some canine companions may need their nails trimmed on a weekly or biweekly basis. With a little vigilance, you can get a sense of an ideal routine for your dog.
Invest in Nail Trimmers Made for Dogs
In order to trim your dog’s nails, you’ll need the right tools. Human nail trimmers, regular scissors, and other tools aren’t designed to handle your dog’s nails. There are specific trimmers designed to clip dog nails that are available at your local pet stores.
There are a couple of different styles of dog nail trimmers you can choose from, including scissor-style clippers and guillotine clippers. The American Kennel Club recommends using scissor clippers for large dogs with bigger, thicker nails and guillotine clippers for small or medium-sized breeds. The right nail clippers will make it easier for you to cut your dog’s nails.
You should also have some other supplies ready. These include styptic powder, a styptic pencil, or some corn starch. More recently, battery operated or plug-in nail files, also known as grinders or dremels, have entered the market. This article will cover nail trimming using dog nail clippers.
Prepare Your Dog for the Nail Trimmer
The average dog needs their nails cut once or twice a month, but that’s difficult to do unless your furry friend is comfortable with the process. It’s important to take a few steps to prepare your dog for the nail trimming experience.
Introduce your dog to the nail trimmer
Let your dog see and sniff the trimmer. It’s good to let your dog get used to seeing this tool so that its sudden appearance isn’t a cause for concern. Reward your canine companion with a Bil-Jac Treat and some praise after they investigate and grow comfortable with the trimmer.
If your dog isn’t a fan of having a paw touched or held, they’ll need to get used to you interacting with their feet. To do this, start by calmly picking up one of your dog’s paws for a second or two before setting it back down. You should then quickly reward your dog with a treat and some praise.
Once your dog gets used to this initial action, try holding a paw for longer periods of time, building up to 10 seconds. After you hit that milestone, try to gently move that paw around. Reward your dog after every try to build that positive association with you touching your best friend’s paw pads, nails, and feet.
Some dogs can take longer than others to become comfortable with people holding their paws. Spend a few days practicing with all four of your dog’s paws. Teaching this behavior can make nail trimming much less stressful for you and your best friend.
Get your dog used to having the nail trimmer nearby
Start using the trimmer to interact with your dog. First, touch a paw with the trimmer and give your dog a treat. Once your pooch is comfortable with that, touch the paw with the trimmer and squeeze the tool without cutting a nail. This step will allow your dog to grow comfortable with the noise the clipper makes. Again, use a treat to reward your patient pup.
If your dog is comfortable with the noise, touch a nail with the trimmer and follow up with a treat and more praise. This process can take a few days, so be patient during the process and provide your favorite furball plenty of affection.
How to Carefully Trim Long Nails
Now that you’ve helped prepare your pooch for a dog pedicure, it’s time to trim some nails. Have the trimmer and some corn starch, styptic powder, or pencil on hand before you start. You can even put a little bit of powder onto a small plate so you are prepared if needed. Make sure you are relaxed and confident since your dog will sense how you’re feeling.
Holding the paw
Once your dog is okay with you handling their paws, it’ll be easier for you to make those nails more accessible for your trimmer. Gently pick up a paw with one hand and place your thumb right on top of the paw right behind the nail you want to trim. By lightly pulling back with your thumb and pushing up underneath the toe with your forefinger, you can extend the nail to make it easier to see and trim.
Cutting or filing the nail
The trickiest part for many pet parents is figuring out how much they need to trim off their dog’s nails. You don’t want to leave too much, but you also need to avoid cutting into the “quick,” which is the small, fleshy part inside the base of the nail.
This process is easier with dogs who have light-colored nails where you can see the quick when you trim. Dark nails typically don’t give you this visual guide. To avoid cutting into the quick, don’t trim past the curve of the nail. Cut the nail at a 45-degree angle so that the top of the nail juts out slightly farther than the bottom. Check each nail after you trim to make sure you have not cut the quick.
If you do happen to cut too far and see some bleeding, it’s time for some styptic powder, pencil, or corn starch (in a pinch). A Q-tip or cotton ball can help you apply the powder to stop the bleeding.
It’s also important to comfort your dog with a treat and some kind words. These actions will show that everything will be okay. In return, your dog won’t immediately think of pain the next time you need to trim some nails.
It’s always better to take your time and get used to trimming nails until you’re comfortable with the practice. The first time you go to trim your dog’s nails, only focus on one nail. Cut just a tiny tip off that nail and reward you dog.
Stop with that one nail for the day and do the same process each day for a different nail until they are all trimmed. The next time your dog needs some nails clipped, they should be conditioned enough for you to try multiple – or even all of them.
Don’t be Afraid to Find Help if You Need It
With a little practice, trimming your dog’s nails can be a pretty quick, easy process. However, there are some situations where you may not feel comfortable or need an expert. In those cases, you can always turn to a professional dog groomer.
You can call ahead to ask if you need to make an appointment to have your dog’s nails trimmed. Many pet stores that offer grooming don’t require an appointment, you may just have a short wait. If that’s the case, don’t worry – your dog won’t mind the occasional professional pawdicure.
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