How to Groom a Small Dog's Nails

Easy
15 - 20 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Many small dog owners take their pups to the groomer every time their nails need to be trimmed. Most are afraid of hurting their pups, but for many, it is simply that they don't know how to do the job the right. 

What you may not realize is that letting your dog's nails grow too long can have disastrous results. The nails can break or split, which in turn can lead to infection. Long nails can also cause your pup's toes, feet, ankles, knees, and hips to be painfully twisted out of line and cause permanent injury. It is essential to keep your small dog's nails trimmed, but it is a job you can do safely at home.

Dog's Perspective

Can you imagine how it would feel if someone put toothpicks under your toenails and then told you that you had to walk on them? This is exactly what it is like for your pup to try and walk around on nails that have been left untrimmed. He counts on you to take care of things like this. Trimming his nails should only take a few minutes once or twice a month--don't be afraid, just do it!

The Rotary Grinder Method

Effective
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Pin Brush
Comb
Dremel
Step
1
The right tools for the job
It all starts with the right tools for the job. To groom your pup's nails, you will need a small rotary grinder. You can use a Dremel® but it needs to be set at the right speed, or you can use a battery powered grinder designed for the job such as the Pedi-Paws®. You should also have a comb or brush handy.
Step
2
A place to groom
Find a spot in your home where you and your pup will be comfortable while you groom his nails and there is room to work.
Step
3
Power up the grinder
Turn on the grinder and let your pup get used to the noise before you try to put it to use.
Step
4
One paw at a time
Lift one front paw and apply the grinder in short bursts to each nail, grinding them down to just before the quick. Do each nail and the dew claw before moving on to the next paw. Short bursts are needed to reduce the risk of painful heat buildup.
Step
5
Don't forget the treats
Don't forget, it's perfectly okay (and your pup won't complain) to give him a nice treat between each paw. This should only take a few minutes, and your pup is certain to appreciate it.
Recommend grooming method?

The Paw Handling Method

Effective
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Nail Clipper
Nail File
Step
1
Handle his paws first
The best way to get your pup to let you start trimming his nails is to start handling his paws from birth. Most dogs don't like having their feet handled, but if you start from the moment you bring your pup home, they will easily get used to it.
Step
2
Choose the proper clippers
If you have been shopping for dog nail clippers, you probably noticed there are many different types and styles on the market. The only ones you should be using are the guillotine style as they are specifically designed for smaller dogs' nails and won't damage them.
Step
3
Grooming white toenails
Dogs who have clear or white nails are easier to trim as you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. You simply cut the nail back to a point just in front of the quick and repeat for all four paws, not forgetting to trim his dew claws.
Step
4
Grooming black toenails
It can be a little harder getting comfortable trimming black nails since you can't see the quick. Before you start trimming black nails, you need to have some way to stop the bleeding if you happen to cut into the quick. You can use styptic powder or cornstarch. In most cases, you can see the quick before you hit it, it will appear as a pink or gray spot in the center of the nail. As soon as you see this, stop cutting the nail.
Step
5
Cleaning up
The last thing you need to do is use a hand file to shape the end of each nail and take off the sharp edge. This will keep him from scratching himself or anyone else by accident.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Be sure you choose the right size clippers to fit your pup's nails. Too small and they won't fit, too large and they may crack the nail instead of cutting.
  • Take your time and work at your pup's pace, this will make everything go more smoothly.
  • Keep plenty of your pup's favorite treats on hand to reward your dog as you go.
  • If you decide to use an electric grinder, be sure to keep the speed down to avoid overheating the nail.
  • Never let the heat build up on your pup's nails as this can cause serious injury to his nail, toe, and foot.
  • Don't forget those dew claws, they can hurt people and other animals.
  • Be sure the cutters you choose have sharp blades, dull ones may crack or shatter the nail.
  • Be sure you file or grind the tips of his nails to remove any sharp edges. 

Conclusion

There is no reason why you can't learn to use clippers to trim your pup's nails. This should be part of your regular monthly grooming plan. It doesn't take long, but not keeping up with trimming can seriously affect his ability to walk--it can also lead to permanent injury. Why risk this when it takes less than 20 minutes to groom your pup's nails? 

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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