Jul 29, 2014
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Pet Savvy with Lara: Trimming your Dog's Nails

Some useful tips for keeping your dog's nails neat from a trained award winning groomer.

Pet Savvy with Lara: Trimming your Dog's Nails


Trimming a dogs nails is a nerve wracking task for many pet owners. With some practice and patience it doesn't have to be difficult. First it is important to have proper tools. A good nail trimmer for pets can be purchased at any pet store. It is also handy to have a nail file or a dremel with a sanding drum attachment. You can purchase one of the new nail sanders made for dogs, but from what I've seen those often do not have enough power and don't work quick enough. It is also a good idea to have some styptic powder on hand to use to stop any bleeding if you do get a nail too short. You can find this at most pet stores or get some from your veterinarian.

If your dog is small put it up on an area that makes this comfortable for both of you. This can be on top of a counter, table, or washing machine. One way to maintain control over the dog is to stand it in front of your body with its head facing to your left. Wrap your arm around its belly and flip up one rear foot, trim the nails and then repeat with the other foot. Then reach under the dog and flip up the front foot closest to you and trim those nails. Then reach over the dog and flip up the remaining foot and trim those nails. By holding the dog this way you have more control and can move it's paws in a normal and natural movement for them. This helps keep them calm and comfortable.

One big worry for owners is getting the nail too short. There is a quick or vein in the middle of each nail. On a dog with white and clear nails it is very easy to see this vein. On dogs with dark nails sometimes you can see it if you look closely. It is advisable on a dog with dark nails to start slow, and just take a little off at a time with the trimmer until you see a dark spot in the center of the nail. This is the quick. If you do get a nail too short apply a small amount of styptic powder. It's important to stay calm and try not to make a big deal about it. Our reaction as owners is how pets learn how to respond when the nail is cut too short. If you just move on without making a fuss your dog is more likely not to make a fuss.

For dogs that get upset about nail trims sometimes just using a dremel/sander may go over better. This is also a good way to ensure you do not get a nail too short.

If your pets nails are very long it is possible that the quick may be longer than what is normal. To get the quick to recede you will need to trim your pets nails weekly for a few months. You could also pick up some white or clear iodine at your drug store and place a dab on the freshly cut nail each time you trim or sand them. This will dry up the very end of the quick and help it to recede faster.

For dogs that do not do well for their nail trims it is important not to give up. If you are trying to trim their nails and they start being wiggly, biting and carrying on and you stop you have just reinforced that if they behave like that it makes you stop trimming their nails. It is important to only stop when they are behaving well.

Once the task is complete be sure to praise your dog and let him know he did great! Positive reinforcement is important to help make this an easy and painless process for both the pet and the owner.

Lara Latshaw is Chief Grooming Officer for HydroDog, the premier mobile pet grooming service and franchise. For more than 13 years, she has groomed and worked with animals professionally. She is certified in Pet First Aid and CPR, is a National Certified Master Groomer, and is an award-winning competition groomer. You can learn more about HydroDog at http://hydrodog.com or join the conversation on Facebook. You can reach Lara by email at lara@hydrodog.com.

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