Clipping & Trimming Your Dogs Nails

Trimming your dogs nails is just one of the regular dog grooming tasks that you need to do at home on a frequent basis. As in all other dog grooming tasks, you must reward your dog for positive behavior throughout the grooming session.

This is a very important part in your dog's grooming behavior. If you fail to do this your dog may never fully accept future grooming procedures.

Trimming your dogs nails is not painful when you use a sharp nail trimmer and when don't clip the nails too short. Trimming your dogs nails regularly will easily prevent any of the potential problems listed below.

Why should I cut my dogs nails in the first place?

All dogs need their nails clipped unless your dog is so active that it wears its nails down on it's own. When a dogs toe nails become too long they can interfere with the dogs gait. Later on, as the nails continue to grow, walking can become very awkward or painful. A few benefits of trimming your dogs nails include the following:

White GSD

* Toe nails help provide traction for the dog and help them to walk or run without slipping.

* Untrimmed nails can split resulting in a great deal of pain, bleeding, and /or a trip to the veterinarian's office.

* Dogs cannot walk correctly if their nails are too long. Dogs whose nails are excessively long can also be hurt hurt due to slips and falls.

* Torn nails can be extremely painful. Infection can occur as a result requiring long-term antibiotics, soaking and / or surgical removal.

* Overly long nails can grow into the bottom of the foot while dewclaws can grow into the leg if neglected long enough. Dewclaws don't touch the ground and don't wear down as fast as the other nails when your dog walks on rough surfaces.

These types of ingrown nail problems are very common especially on the dewclaws. Ingrown nails, as in humans, can often become infected and are very painful.

How do I know if the dogs nails are too long?

If you hear a clicking sound when your dog walks around, the nails are too long. It is a good idea not to wait that long – once or twice a month is a good habit to get into for trimming your dogs nails. Look closer for yourself - hold your dogs foot and press the dogs toe so that the nail is fully extended.

If you can see that your dogs toe nails curve beyond the bottom of the dogs toe pad, then the nails are too long and need trimming.

Don't forget the dewclaws if your dog has them. Dewclaws, located on the inside of the paw, need to be included in your dog's nail trimming routine.

If you regularly trim your dog's nails you should have no problem. Some dogs work regularly on rough surfaces and are able to wear down their nails, but overall most dogs will need some extra help from you. Even if you don't actually trim the dog's nails each time, regular inspection of your dog's feet and nails will help assure you that your dogs feet stay healthy. A good idea is to make nail inspection and nail trimming an important part of your dogs routine grooming procedure at least two or three times a month.

Keep this in mind - when the dog toe nails grow, the quick inside the dogs nail grows as well. When the nail is very long, the quick becomes very long also. Cutting overly long nails to the correct length would easily cut into the quick. The best idea for trimming your dogs nails is to cut the long nails slowly, a little bit at a time over the course of several days or weeks. The quick inside the nails will regress a little bit each time the dog's nail is clipped. Using this procedure, the long nails can be clipped shorter with little pain or trauma to the dog.

What exactly is the quick when trimming your dogs nails?

The quick grows along with the nail - it is the living part of the nail that has blood vessels running throughout. So if your dog’s nails are over grown you will not be able to clip the nails to the desired length without cutting into the quick. If the nails are overly long, you will need to trim the tips of your dog’s nails often. Over time the quick will shorten as you clip the nails bit by bit.

Nail illustration

Cutting into the quick during the dog nail trimming procedure is very painful for your dog and will easily result in bleeding. Cutting into the quick of the nails could also lead to an infection. If your dog has light colored nails you will be able to see the quick much easier. If your dog has nails that are dark in color, you will not be able to see the quick inside. To avoid cutting into the quick you''ll want to start by trimming small pieces, a little at a time, off of each nail, over a period of several days or weeks.

Trimming your dogs nails - When should I start?

If you have a puppy you should start trimming your dogs nails within a few days or weeks of when you bring your new puppy home. If you have an adult or an older dog the answer is pretty much the same – start trimming your dogs nails right away. If you get the puppy used to the procedure early on it probably will not take too long for it to adjust to the whole nail trimming routine.

Handling your puppy’s feet everyday will also get the puppy used to touch as well as helping to prepare it for future training, grooming and veterinary sessions. Nail trimming will be much easier in the future if your puppy doesn’t mind having his feet handled. Patience is very important here. Concerning adult dogs, you may need to spend a lot more time getting him used to the nail trimming procedure.

Trimming your dogs nails - What tools do I need?

The style of dog nail clipper that you choose is a matter of personal preference. It is also important that the clipper is the correct size for your dogs nails and also the right size to fit in your hand properly. Make sure that you keep your nail trimmer sharp so that it makes a fast clean cut. A dull clipper will do nothing but hurt your dog. A pet nail file is also good to have on hand as is some form of styptic powder and plenty of dog treats to reward good behavior. Dog treats are good to draw a dog's attention away from a bleeding nail.

Always make sure that you're using a sharp pet nail trimmer when trimming your dogs nails. It is very important to choose a nail trimmer that is the right size for your dog’s nails. Two common types of nail trimmers include the guillotine style and plier type.

Guillotine Nail trimmer

Guillotine style dog nail trimmers require that the dog’s nail be inserted through a hole in the top of the trimmer. When you squeeze the handle the blade comes down and cuts through the nail. The blade that must be changed frequently to maintain a nice clean cut.

Shear type nail trimmers

Plier type dog nail trimmers work much like shrub pruning shears. The two blades cut through the nail as the handles are squeezed together. This type of nail trimmer works great on thick nails. These pet nail trimmers don't have blades that must be replaced but they do have to be sharpened when they become dull to maintain a nice clean cut.

Trimming your dogs nails - How to cut a dogs nails

* Start small, one toe at a time, and use a sharp clipping tool.

* Work in bright light and be aware of where the quick is.

* When you clip the nails, if you see the black spot inside the nail, go no further.

* When starting out, clip one nail a day until you can do them all at once.

* If dog nail trimming is completely new to you, don't be afraid to ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you the correct way to trim your dog’s nails.

* Give your dog lots of praise and a great treat when each successful nail cutting session is over.

I’ve cut my dog’s nail too short and my dog is bleeding! Now what do I do?

First things first, do not panic. Stay calm and upbeat, do not baby your dog too much, and try to distract your dog with dog treats. One way to stop the bleeding is to take a pinch of styptic powder and press it against the bleeding toenail. Applying some styptic powder will help stop the bleeding.

When trimming your dogs nails other methods to use in place of the styptic powder are: styptic pads, flour, cornstarch, a bar of soap or styptic pencils. The nail will stop bleeding on it's own in about 5 to 10 minutes. Now, give your dog lots of treats while you wait. DonÕt be too tough on yourself, even professional dog groomers occasionally cut into the quick.


If you take the time to learn the tricks of trimming your dogs nails; use only the best SHARP tools for trimming; train your dog with positive feedback, praise and lot's of treats, and show patience throughout the entire dog nail trimming process, you will both learn to enjoy the time you spend together as well as providing for your dogs health and safety.

Article written and reprinted with permission of:

http://www.pedigreedpups.com/ Purebred Dogs, Puppies and Dog Breeders - "Your New Best Friend"

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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