Groom your dog from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail, and from the tips of her ears to the tips of her nails. But it can be difficult to trim the nails. Unlike grooming other regions of your dog’s body, grooming its nails can lead to your dog’s blood and pain if performed wrongly.
So, to help you trim your dog’s nails at home and give her the over-all grooming she deserves, here are some tips and tools for you.
Structure of your dog’s nails
Before we begin, let’s review the parts or structure of your dog’s nails (a.k.a. dog claws).
Your dog’s nail is made up of the following layers:
- The shell – this is the outer layer that we see. It is the part that grows long.
- The quick – this is a soft layer of nerves and blood vessels beneath the shell. It stretches from the base of your dog’s nail to close the curved portion of the shell. If your dog has whitish nails, then the quick is the pink-colored part underneath the shell. Determining where the quick ends and shell extends when the nails of your dog are dark or black is much tricky.
- The bone – the quick is wrapped around the bone of your dog’s paw.
It is important to know these parts, especially the quick, because if you nick or cut the quick then your dog’s nails will bleed.
If your dog has black nails, you may want to measure the set of nails of a different dog to know where the quick ends. Or, you may have your dog’s nails trimmed by a specialist groomer. Then you can measure the best length of the nails of your dog and use them as a guide for your future home trimming.
Importance of trimming your dog’s nails
If your dog plays outdoors frequently, it may not be necessary for her nails to be trimmed. But if she doesn’t participate in physical activity that trims her nails naturally, then you have to do it for her. Trimming the nails of your dog is essential for the following reasons:
- Hygiene – long nails will pick up dirt. So keeping her nails trimmed is important to keep your dog’s paws clean.
- Cosmetic – short nails always look better than long nails for dogs.
- Health – dogs walk on their toes so, long nails could become painful when they walk. The long nails push against the nail beds, which causes unnecessary pain or tension on your dog’s paws. The feet could then be deformed, the paws might lose traction, or the tendons of the feet might get injured. If left unchecked, the damage could become serious and even permanent.
Tools to use when trimming your dog’s nails
You have a lot of choices for tools when you want to trim your dog’s nails at home. The tools can be divided into two general categories: clippers and grinders.
These come in scissor and guillotine forms.
Scissors are double-handled straight blades. Guillotines have a hole the dog’s nails pokes through. The blades are triggered and cut off the nails when you squeeze the handles.
Clippers come in regular and large sizes since dog nails come in small, medium, and large.
Some highly recommended nail clippers are:
Pet Magasin Grooming Scissors Kit – the clippers have rounded tips, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally poking your dog’s foot.
Miller’s Forge Dog Nail Clippers – these are made from high-quality stainless steel. Each piece has non-slip handles and wide blades.
PetSpy Best Dog Nail Clippers – besides the standard stainless steel blades and non-slip handles, these have sensors that tell you when you are near the quick.
Safari Professional Stainless Steel Nail Trimmers – these clippers have built-in safety stops apart from the usual quality steel and ergonomic handles, which will reduce the risk of accidental occurrence while cutting the nail.
Dog nail grinders are electronic tools that have rotating emery wheels that file down nails.
Some highly recommended nail grinders are:
Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Pet Nail Grooming Tools – have two types of filing speeds, rechargeable batteries, and different filing heads that you can interchange.
Innopaw Dog Nail Grinder – can file down different nail sizes. The wheels have a cover, and only a small part of it is exposed, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally grinding the paw or fur of your dog. But you need AA batteries to operate it.
Amir Pet Nail Grinder – has a diamond grinder as the head. It has a quiet motor, so it will probably not scare your dog with its sound.
How to get your dog used to nail trimming and the tools
You need to get her used to the process of nail trimming and the tools you’ll use before trimming your dog’s nails. Let her get used to the process of preparing and training slowly. Do it day by day if necessary.
1. It is best to get your begin trimming dog’s nails while she is still a puppy. If you do this, she will be accustomed to having you trim her nails.
If you already have an adult dog, the process of getting used to the tools and the trimming procedure will still be the same. You will be able to gauge your dog’s response better because you already understand her quirks. So, you’ll realize immediately if moving to the next step is still alright or if you need to stop.
2. Prepare an area for the trimming.
It should be well-lit because you need bright light to see your dog’s nails properly. Also, it should be in a quiet area where your dog can relax and not get distracted.
There should be a piece of cloth or newspaper that will catch the cut-off nails so that cleaning afterward will not be hard.
Your tools should be near enough that you can reach for them easily but far enough that your dog will not play with them.
Also, you should prepare cotton balls and an antiseptic that is safe to use on dogs.
If your dog is a very frizzy pup, you may need to bring her on a leash and the leash wrapped around a pole to avoid running away. But make sure this process doesn’t stress her out.
3. Gently touch a paw. Pick it up with your thumb just above the pad and your forefinger over a nail at the bottom of the paw. If she allows you to do this, give a treat and verbal praise.
Touch another paw and pick it up if your dog continues to be calm. If she looks like she’s getting stressed, stop. You can do it again the next day.
Try to keep touching and picking up her paw until she lets you pick up all four paws, one at a time, in one session.
4. Let your dog get used to the grooming tools. Give a treat and a lot of verbal praises after each step.
Make her sniff the tools. Make her understand that it is not food.
Tap her paws gently with the tools when she is used to the tools close to her. Do this very gently so that she understands that these tools are not harmful.
Open and close the tools near her nails. Turn it on for a couple of seconds if you’re using a grinder. Do not cut a nail yet. You want her to get used to the sound of the tools you’re going to use at this step.
Tap the tools on the nails, not just the paws.
When you know that your dog will not be scared of the tools, then move on to the next step.
5. If you’re uncertain about using your chosen tool, you can practice first on a toothpick or any tiny pointy object, so when you go to the next step, you can manage the tool correctly.
6. Cut a very tiny tip of one nail. Just one give a treat if she lets you do this without too much of a fuss.
Cut one tiny tip each day until you are sure she will not mind you trimming her nails. Make sure you give her a lot of treats and praises.
7. Work to cut two nails at one time. Continue to increase the amount of nails per day session. But don’t get things rushed. If you feel the stress of your dog, go back to just one nail a day.
8. Even if you don’t have any nail tips to trim anymore, keep going through the motion of cutting a nail so that your pup can get used to the process.
How to trim your dog’s nails using clippers
1. Make your dog comfortable in the trimming area.
2. Now that your dog is used to you touching her paws, pick up a paw. Use your thumb to press the pad gently. Use your forefinger to stretch the nail at the same time.
3. Look closely at where the quick ends.
4. Start trimming from tips, particularly if there are black nails in your dog. Cut just 1-2 mm. Check the nail and cut 1-2 mm more. If you see the cross-section changing color from white or black to tan, you’re already close to the quick and should stop cutting.
5. Keep the cotton balls and antiseptic prepared in case of an accident. Do not panic if you clip the quick. Soak the cotton ball with antiseptic and apply it to the bleeding nail. Stop your dog’s trimming and comfort it.
Try again after a few days.
6. If the nails have rough edges, use a nail file to smoothen them out.
7. Give a treat when the trimming is successful.
How to trim your dog’s nails using grinders
1. Make your dog comfortable in the trimming area.
2. Collect one paw. Use your thumb to press the pad gently. Use your forefinger to stretch the nail at the same time. Take note of the quick.
3. Turn on the tool and grind the nail tip while counting to two. Lift it off the tip, look at the cross-section, and grind for another count again. Stop when seen the tan oval signaling the quick.
4. Keep the cotton balls and antiseptic ready in case of an accident.
5. Give a treat when the trimming is successful.
You must get your dog used to the process of trimming. You also need to get used to cutting the nails of your dog. So, slowly do every step. Being safe and stress-free is better than being sorry. And reward your dog and yourself after a trim session.