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How To Clip Your Dog’s Nails

No matter what kind of dog you have, all dogs need to have their nails trimmed regularly. Many owners hate the task of cutting or clipping their dogs’ nails — with good reason! Dogs may have had bad experiences when having their nails trimmed which means that they are “foot shy.” Trying to trim the nails of an uncooperative dog is a tough job for anyone. In addition, many owners are unsure about how to trim their dogs’ nails. They don’t know how much nail to remove and they may be afraid of making the nail bleed or hurting their dog. All in all, clipping a dog’s nails isn’t usually something that either the dog or the owner looks forward to.

However, clipping your dog’s nails doesn’t have to be such a terrible experience. There are some good ways to make trimming your dog’s nails a less tense experience, if not exactly enjoyable.

Before You Begin

You can help your dog be more relaxed about having his nails trimmed if you start doing his nails when he’s a puppy. Dogs are not born foot shy. Puppies have no fear of having their paws or nails handled. If your puppy never has a bad experience then doing his nails as an adult will be no problem.

Handle your puppy’s paws and nails often. Use small human nail trimmers to clip his nails as long as you can. These clippers are small, easy to handle and they don’t remove much nail at one time. It’s virtually impossible to hurt your puppy’s nails or quick when using these clippers. It’s a good way to get your puppy used to having his nails done and build some positive experiences. You can also learn to find the “quick” in his clear white nails and see how far you should cut.

If your puppy has some black nails these are harder to judge where to cut than the clear or white nails. You should use the clear nails, where the quick is easily visible, as your guide. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to leave the black nails a little longer than the clear or white nails. This way you know you won’t be cutting near the quick.

Make sure that you praise your puppy and give him treats as you do his nails. This will reinforce the idea that getting his nails done is something good.

If you follow these suggestions with your puppy then by the time he’s an adult dog and you are using nail clippers for adult dogs he shouldn’t fuss at all about having his nails trimmed.

Choosing Nail Clippers

There are several basic kinds of nail clippers for adult dogs. One type is a scissors style. These are fine to use for toy dogs but they are not usually strong enough to work for medium or large dogs who have thicker nails.

A second type of nail clipper for dogs is a guillotine style. These do work for medium and large dog but they have the drawback that they are imprecise. It’s hard to hold them in exactly the position you want and clip before they move. There is a high likelihood that you may cut your dog’s quick when you use these clippers.

A third type of nail clipper is a pliers style. These are similar in shape to a pair of pliers, with a nail guard behind them to prevent the nail from going through too far. They are strong enough to be used on medium, large and even extra large dogs.

Other Trimmers

There are other ways to trim your dog’s nails besides clippers. Nail grinding tools are very popular and they have the advantage that they don’t make nails bleed. These tools can include professional nail grinders for dogs, Dremel tools with small sanders, and products such as PediPaws for pet owners. They work by touching a small sanding drum against the dog’s nail and sanding down the nail. Most dogs don’t mind these sanders used on their nails once they are used to them.

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

Some dogs are relaxed enough about having their nails done that you can do them while they are taking a nap in the floor or while holding the dog in your lap. Other dogs may not be as cooperative. You may need to place your dog on a secure surface and have a friend hold your dog in place while you work on each paw.

If you are using clippers to trim your dog’s nails you should follow the same procedure used to teach a puppy to have his nails trimmed. Remove only a small amount from each nail and praise and reward your dog for each nail. If your dog is foot shy you may have to proceed very slowly. Try touching your dog’s paw with the clippers and giving a treat. Then move on to the next paw. And so on. You may have to work up very slowly before your dog allows you to actually use the clippers on his nails if he’s had bad experiences. Be patient and you will eventually be able to do your dog’s nails.

If you are using a sander you should let your dog investigate it when it is turned off. Give your dog some treats so he will associate the sander with good things. After your dog has decided the sander is no big deal you can turn it on away from your dog and gradually bring it closer for your dog to investigate. Again, give your dog some treats and encourage him. Show him that the sander won’t hurt him. Eventually you can tap the sander against his paw and give him a treat. Keep this up until you can place the sander lightly against your dog’s nail for a second. At this point it’s just a matter of using the sander carefully. Don’t expect your dog to stand still or like his first session too much. He has to get used to having his nails done with the sander. Just make sure that you don’t hurt your dog in any way or cause him to have a bad experience. And keep the treats coming.

Even the most foot shy dogs can be rehabbed so they don’t mind having their nails done. However, if doing nails causes you too much anxiety you can always take your dog to your vet. Veterinarians usually offer a nail trimming service which can make things easier for you and your dog.


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