Can you hear your pet's footsteps as their nails tap on the floor? Have they unintentionally caused you pain with their playful jumps? It's high time to master the art of cutting your dog's nails. Nail trimming is a crucial aspect of grooming for all pet owners. Overgrown toenails not only detract from their appearance but can also affect their health and well-being. In fact, neglecting their nails can lead to a lifetime of discomfort.
While the thought of trimming your dog's nails may seem daunting, regular visits to the groomer can be both expensive and inconvenient. Don't fret! With 35+ years of experience as a dog groomer, I'm here to guide you through the process of how to cut your dog's nails, step by step.
How Often Should You Cut Your Dog's Nails?
As a general guideline, it's advisable to trim your dog's nails every couple of weeks. If your dog spends a lot of time running or walking on hard surfaces, you may need to trim their nails less frequently, excluding their dewclaws. On the other hand, dogs who primarily stay indoors or on soft grass may need to have their nails trimmed once a week.
Failing to keep your dog's nails at an appropriate length isn't a temporary issue. When the nails grow too long, the quick (the vein inside the nail) can also extend, making it difficult to trim the nails as short as needed in the future.
When Are a Dog's Nails Too Long?
Here are some signs that indicate it's time to trim your dog's nails:
- You can hear a clicking sound on hard surfaces or pavement when they walk.
- The nails have developed a long, slender curve.
- The nails are visible to extend far beyond the quick (only visible in dogs with white nails).
What Happens if My Dog's Nails Get Too Long?
The consequences of neglecting your dog's nail care can be both immediate and long-term, affecting their health and overall happiness.
- The toes are forced upward or twisted to one side, causing discomfort while walking.
- Overgrown nails can penetrate the paw pads, causing pain and increasing the risk of infection.
- They can become entangled in carpets, blankets, or collars.
- The quick can continue to grow, making it impossible to trim the nails sufficiently.
- Prolonged neglect can lead to arthritis in the feet.
- The altered gait caused by overgrown nails can lead to joint problems.
How to Cut Dog Nails: Step-by-Step Instructions
After your pet has already taken a nice bath with natural skin and coat care products, it’s time for nail trimming! Here's a simple step-by-step guide on how to cut your dog's nails.
- Gather Supplies. Before you begin, gather the following items to make the process easier:
- Dog treats for positive reinforcement.
- Clinoptilolite powder, like Tauro Pro Line Pure Nature powder for wounds
- Grooming tools, such as nail clippers or a nail grinder.
- An extra pair of hands (optional).
- Patience and a calm demeanor.
Types of Nail Grinders and Clippers
There are several options available for cutting a dog's nails:
- Guillotine-style clippers feature a hole to insert the nail and remain sharp for a longer period but can be challenging to use.
- Scissors-style clippers look like small scissors with indentations on the blades, making them ideal for small dogs and puppies.
- Pliers-style clippers resemble scissors-style clippers but have a spring that provides strength and makes them suitable for medium and larger dogs with thicker nails.
- Nail grinders can file the nails to a smooth finish and minimize the risk of hitting the quick.
- Ease Your Dog Into It. If you're new to trimming your dog's nails, begin with these simple steps:
- Introduce your dog to the nail clippers or grinder and reward them with a treat after sniffing it.
- Accustom your dog to the sound the tool makes by either turning on the nail grinder or cutting a dry spaghetti noodle and rewarding them.
- Trim one nail and reward your dog with a treat.
- Start slowly by only trimming one nail per day until your dog becomes comfortable. Gradually increase the number of nails trimmed per session until you can trim all four paws.
- Pick Up the Foot. When trimming your dog's nails, instead of picking up the paw from the front, consider these alternative approaches:
- Sit to the side of your dog, reach under and around their arm, and hold their paw while using the clippers with your other hand.
- Sit behind your dog, flip their paw backwards, and examine the bottom of the foot. This method provides a clear view of the task while keeping the leg in a natural position.
- Isolate the Nail to Cut. To begin, determine which toe to work on and uncover the nail. If your dog's feet are furry, you may need to clear any hair that is in the way by trimming or pushing it aside. This step is crucial, especially if you plan to use a nail grinder, as these tools tend to pull fur.
Once you have a clear view, place your forefinger on the toe's pad and your thumb on the top of the toe, above the nail. Then, use your forefinger to apply upward and backward pressure on the pad, while using your thumb to apply forward pressure. This will extend the nail from the foot, making it easier to trim.
- Decide Where to Cut. The objective is to trim your dog's nails to the shortest length without causing bleeding. Here are some suggestions to steer clear of the quick:
- For nails that are white, simply avoid cutting the pink section.
- The portion that can be trimmed safely is usually narrower compared to the rest of the nail in many cases.
- When trimming black nails, do it gradually by cutting small portions at a time. When you approach the quick, the interior of the nail will appear chalky and white. Cease cutting when you see a black dot in the center of the white region, as it indicates the end of the quick.
What to do when you cut the quick?
Cutting a dog's quick can result in pain and bleeding. This is not uncommon, even among professional groomers, as dogs may not always remain still during nail trims. So, don't be too hard on yourself if it occurs.
Have wound powder readily available. While flour or cornstarch can help stop bleeding, only clinoptilolite powder has antibacterial properties and can promote faster and safer healing of the nail.
The best way to prevent cutting the quick is to gradually cut small portions of the nail rather than a large piece. In case the quick is accidentally cut, remain calm and apply styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch to the affected nail for a few seconds.
If your dog has bleeding that reaches their fur after a quick cut, it's easy to clean it up with a hydrogen peroxide-soaked cotton ball.
- Cut at a 45° Angle. When trimming your dog's nails, the cut edge should be parallel to the ground. To achieve this, cut at a 45° angle instead of straight across.
- Don't Forget the Dewclaws! Many dogs have dewclaws on the inner side of their front legs. These claws are positioned higher up the leg compared to the rest of the toes and are loosely attached.
Some breeds such as Saint Bernards and Great Pyrenees even have double dewclaws on their hind legs, so it's important to examine all four paws.
- Nail Grinding. You have the option to either only use a nail grinder on your dog's nails or to use it as a final step after trimming with another tool, like nail clippers.
For better control, hold the grinder at the top of the nail. Ensure that both your dog's fur and your own hair are out of the way.
Most of the time, light to medium pressure is sufficient. Use short strokes to monitor the grinding and look for the pink dot (on white nails) or black dot (on dark nails) in the center of the nail tip.
If your dog has long, thick nails and the quick is far back, you may use firm pressure. However, always keep checking your progress and how close you're getting to the quick.
- Reward Your Dog. Always reward your dog with treats, playtime, or another positive experience after a successful nail trim. This helps establish a positive association with nail trimming for your dog.
With these tips on how to trim a dog's nails, you should feel confident in establishing a regular nail-trimming routine for your furry friend. Regular nail trims are crucial for maintaining your dog's health, happiness, and comfort, so start implementing these tips today.