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Ripped upholstery, torn furniture, scratched floors…you look at your dog’s nails and want to nip the problem in the paws.
Follow this simple list of how-tos, and ready yourself for everything from choosing your clippers to how to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding (just in case).
Should you feel selfish for wanting to clip those nails? The answer is no: domesticated dogs need their nails trimmed for healthy living. Very active dogs may wear nails down naturally, but it’s not the norm. They need your expertise—which means it’s time to become an expert.
Perhaps your nightmare consists of a whimpering dog, trembling human with clippers in hand, and blood everywhere. Do you fear hurting your precious pooch? It’s understandable to worry about the responsibility of cutting a canine companion, but overcoming this skittishness is essential for caring dog lovers.
Nail trimming involves a lot of paw handling, so the more accustomed a young pup is with someone holding their ankles and touching their toes, the better. This acclimates them early and makes nail trimming seem less intrusive later.
By Bruce from San Francisco (living hand to paw) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Not only will your pooch appreciate some attention and activity beforehand, it sets a happy mood and uses up lots of energy. An exhausted dog is less restless and resistant.
Best practices suggest you, on the floor with your furry friend, is the ideal arrangement. Sitting in a chair and having them hold up paws isn’t as successful. Sitting alongside allows you to be closer and be reassuring.
Flat clippers for human nails aren’t just the wrong shape for your dog, they more easily hurt and damage your dog’s nails. Guillotine clippers are the perfect size and shape to cleanly cut through a dog’s nail.
You’ve got the right clippers, now make sure they’re sharp. Dull clippers squeeze and cause unnecessary pain—something no dog lover wants. Learn how to sharpen your clippers or replace them periodically.
For a dog that has had one too many bad experience with trims, or if you feel like you aren’t comfortable with clipping yourself, try one of the many dremel-like rotary sanders to painlessly grind excess nail away.
If you look annoyed, that frown might turn the experience upside down. Supplies for trimming should include treats, for the end of the session or perhaps after each paw. If mild irritation ends in reward, they’ll be more likely to endure.
Two paws in and your four-legged friend is frustrated: what do you do? Give them a treat and call it a day. This is a case where it’s better to leave a job unfinished, end positive, and resume later. Focus on the long game and keep trimming time as a positive (or at least neutral) experience.
If your dog has dark nails, you can’t see the quick: a bundle of nerves and blood vessels inside the nail. The pinkish-colored quick inside the nail may be visible in lighter nails, but in either case it’s not hard to nick it. If this happens, take a deep breath and be strong for your dog. Punishing yourself with negative talk or attitude will negatively impact your pet, who needs you to demonstrate a cool disposition.
Plan for this as a matter of course before you start each nail trimming session
- If a nail bleeds, apply styptic powder. This will sting, so be ready to comfort your dog for a second “ouch.”
- No styptic powder or pencil? Home remedies abound: you can use a little corn starch with baking powder. Dipping in flour also works in a pinch, helping staunch bleeding and promoting coagulation.
- It should cease bleeding in about five minutes, after which you can examine and see if you should bandage, or put a doggy sock on to prevent licking or infection. Clean with a damp cloth.
- If bleeding persists, contact your vet.
Most dogs have dewclaws around one to four inches up on their leg, but if you’re focused on the paw you might forget. Make sure these are trimmed as they are the most likely to snag, tear, and bleed.
After the first trim, check weekly to see how your dog’s nails grow. Most dogs need nail trimming every 2-4 weeks, so you’ll need to customize this for your canine and keep a calendar of clipping.
Though it might seem contrary to nature, don’t apologize! Seriously, if you make a big deal about discomfort and use that apologetic tone, they’ll start associating negativity with the general experience. Be strong and remain reassuring, confident this routine maintenance for your dog is an act of loving service.