The Fast and Stress-Free Way to Trim Your Dog's Nails

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Your dog is your baby, and if you are like most pet parents you hate to see them uncomfortable, upset, or in pain. This can make simple grooming tasks such as nail trimming an ordeal you might prefer to avoid. The problem with this is that nail trimming is essential to your dog’s health.

Long nails can cause serious issues with feet by putting pressure on toe joints. Deformities of the toe and nail are also possible, particularly in rapidly growing puppies. Left too long, overgrown toenails will also cause a strain to back and hip joints.  

Nail trimming does not have to be a stressful affair for dog or owner. If you feel intimidated by the idea of trimming nails or fear your dog’s reaction, there are steps you can take to make this process easier.

Essential Toenail Trimming Tools

If you do not already have them, you will need a few items before you begin. It is important that you have these items on hand. Being well prepared will ease much of the stress for both of you.

Nail Clippers – This is one item you should not skimp on. Consider it an investment in your best friend’s comfort and your peace of mind.

Sharp, strong toenail clippers with a replaceable blade are your best choice. This particularly true if you have a big dog with large nails. Cheap, dull cutters will make it take longer, create more stress, and increase the risk of cutting the quick (the part of the nail that bleeds).  

There are two different types of trimmers available. Guillotine type have a closed hole you insert your dog’s claw into. These are the easiest and safest to use. Only use scissor-type trimmers (these have open holes) if your dog has very large or overgrown toenails.

Styptic Powder – Accidents happen, and it is best to safe and prepared. Hitting the quick is not as bad as it sounds, and if you have something to stop the bleeding your faithful friend will forgive you quickly. Styptic powder is the choice of veterinarians and groomers and works well. You can also use cornstarch, either dry or as a very thick paste.

Treats –Having a few treats on hand might seem a bit obvious. However, treating your dog during nail trimming is a great way to distract him from what is going on. Natural peanut butter on a spoon will keep them preoccupied while you work.

Treats also work as a reinforcement. If you trim your dog’s nails frequently they will associate the process with getting a treat when it is over. Over time, your dog just might shock you by getting excited about the process.

Getting Ready to Cut

The part of the pedicure that scares dog owners the most is knowing where to cut and how to avoid causing their baby unnecessary pain. Fortunately, with a bit of know-how, you will be a toenail trimming expert in no time.

Clear nails are the easiest to cut. You can see the quick as a pink area in the nail. Cut just ahead of that area. Dogs with black nails are a bit more difficult. Instead of making one cut, you will need to make several smaller cuts. As you start to cut you will see two areas of the nail, the black outer casing and a lighter colored part of the nail that is the bottom curve. What you are looking for is a grey to pink oval that appears between these two layers. Once you have found it you have reached the quick and that is where you will stop cutting.  

Tips for Trimming Your Dog’s Nails:

  • Make sure your trimmers are sharp: dull cutters will damage the nail and make the process take longer.

  • Make sure your dog is comfortable and as relaxed as possible. If your dog is new to trimming, laying them down on their side is the best position.

  • Distract your dog if he is uncomfortable. Have someone else pet him, talk to him, or feed him treats.

  • Stay calm. If you are nervous your dog will be so as well.

  • File the nail after clipping to prevent your dog from snagging his nails or scratching you with them.

  • Dab a bit of styptic powder on the tip of your dog’s claw if it starts to bleed.

Tips for Dealing with Terrified Dogs

Starting young and trimming often is the best way to ensure your dog is comfortable with the process. But if your dog is older, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier.

Spend a few moments petting your dog and getting them relaxed before you bring out the clippers. Give them something to distract them, such as a spoon filled with peanut butter or a chew stick. Some owners find that wrapping their dog in a blanket works well.

Enlist a family member to help. Have your dog laying on their side and ask the family member to gently hold them down and place one hand on the dog’s elbow joint. This makes it more difficult for them to pull away.

Toenail Trimming Does Not Have to Be Traumatic

Above all stay calm, keep your pet calm, and be consistent. Over time, toenail trimming will just be another routine thing you and your furry friend do together. If you find that one or both of you cannot cope with the stress of nail trimming, you can take your pet to the vet to have it done. The vet can even sedate your dog if their anxiety is too high.

It is important to keep in mind that while you might be avoiding this dreaded chore to save both of you some distress, that the results of long toenails will cause your pet even more pain over time. If you absolutely cannot do it, your vet is there to help.