A “Quick,” Easy Guide to Nail Trimming

Many dog owners avoid trimming their dog’s nails because it can be a stressful experience for both owner and pet. Owners are afraid of cutting their pup’s nails too short, causing pain, and making them hate the procedure even more than they already might. However, cutting your dog’s nails is a practice that, if done correctly, doesn’t need to be nerve-wracking or traumatic!

Why It’s Necessary
Why is it so important to trim your dog’s nails? For one, toe nails that are too long can cause discomfort while walking. Hard surfaces push long nails upwards into the nail bed, putting pressure on the toe joints. Over time, this makes the toes very sore, and will make your pup even more unwilling to let you touch his feet. In addition, long toenails can affect your dog’s posture which over time will change to compensate for sore feet and sensitivity from their toenails touching the ground.

If your dog doesn’t tolerate you touching his feet/toes, get him comfortable by running your hands up and down his legs and gently holding his feet. Do this “pawssage” every day for a week or two, and chances are that he will be significantly more relaxed about letting you touch his feet. It’s a good idea to start this routine practice at a young age if you’re raising a puppy!

Once your pup is prepared, have these tools ready:
– “Scissor” style clippers are best for clean cuts. Stay away from “Guillotine” style clippers, which crush the claw and can be painful.
– Emory board (to smooth rough edges)
– Cornstarch or styptic powder to stop bleeding (just in case!)
– Treats to reward your pup and to make nail trimming fun
– Optional: an electric nail grinder. This tool has a rotating Emory board that allows you to file down your dog’s nail or smooth your trim quickly and easily.

The Trim
– Hold your dog’s paw gently (don’t squeeze!), using your fingers to separate his toes. Trim toe hair with scissors if need be.
– Identify the “quick,” or blood supply. On pigmented toes, the insensitive nail will be the dry, chalky part surrounding the quick at the center. The quick is more glossy, like living flesh. On white toes, the quick will appear pink, and in black toes, the quick will be a bit harder to see, as it is also dark in color.
– Keep the clipper blades almost parallel to the nail and cut. Make sure you are cutting around the quick, and won’t hit it with the blades.
– Use your emory board to clean up the trim.
– If you need to, you can cut one nail or one paw a day. You don’t necessarily need to trim all 16 toes in one day – do whatever works best for you and your pup’s schedule. Create and adhere to a schedule that keeps all of his nails short and both of you happy!
– If you’d like to maintain your dog’s nails at a short length, trim them once a week. Once the insensitive nail is trimmed, the quick will recede, allowing you to cut the nail even shorter the following week. Shortening is a gradual process – do not try to cut the nail short in one cut, as you will almost certainly hit the quick.
– Remember, make trimming an enjoyable experience. Give lots of praise, kisses and cookies so your pup associates nail trimming with rewards!

Don’t Panic!
nail-trimming-thumbnailIf you accidentally cut the quick and your dog’s toe starts bleeding, dip it into the cornstarch or styptic powder you have ready. Alternatively, use a cotton swab or Q-tip to apply the powder to the bleeding area. The powder should stop the bleeding quickly. (This method is only useful for small, superficial wounds. Do not attempt to stop bleeding from a large wound in this way).

Keep it Up
Dog nails need to be maintained, just as human nails do; it’s best to give them a trim every two weeks or so. As a general rule of thumb, if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor, they are too long. Make sure you either sharpen or replace your clippers if you sense they are getting dull and aren’t working as effectively.
Don’t forget, it’s not the end of the world if you accidentally quick your dog. If you’d like to, talk to your groomer or veterinarian for a nail trimming demonstration or advice.