Neglecting a dog’s toenails is not an uncommon thing, but if owners realized the consequences of such inaction, they might be more inclined to make the effort to trim them on a more regular basis.
One of the consequences of overly-long nails is painful feet (if you can hear them clicking on a hard surface, they are too long), which in turn leads to twisting of the foot when the dog is moving. The twisting results in over-use of joints and muscles, which leads to long-term infirmities that will reduce your dog’s enjoyment of life.
Trimming your dog’s nails isn’t rocket science, but it does take patience, continuity and the right equipment. Here are a few tips that will help you with this important task.
First and foremost, it’s important to choose the correct nail trimmer. There are many styles on the market, available through pet supply outlets. The guillotine style of trimmer requires that you get the dog’s nail right through a smallish opening before activating the cutting blade. These can be awkward if you have a squirmy dog or if your vision is less than perfect. This style of nail trimmer also makes it difficult to get the correct cutting angle on the nail.
Simple scissors-style nail trimmers are relatively easy to use. Some have a guard that pops up behind the cutting mechanism, which helps to prevent taking too much nail off and, possibly, ‘quicking’ the dog’s nail and causing it to bleed. ‘Quicking’ a dog’s nail means you have trimmed the nail too short and cut into the blood vessel and nerve that feeds the nail, causing pain to the dog and the nail to bleed profusely. Having styptic powder or cornstarch nearby to help stop the bleeding is important, because just about everyone who trims their dogs’ nails will at one time or another have this happen. On dogs with white nails, the quick is usually visible and easy to avoid, however dogs with black nails are harder to gauge.
Finally, some folks prefer to use a grinder with a sanding attachment. Grinders come in all makes and models, but we have found a simple corded Dremel to be the most reliable and accurate. Grinders are also great for finishing work if you want to put a smooth finish on your dog’s nails after clipping them.
Once you have decided on the equipment that will work best for your situation you need to consider a couple of other factors. Good lighting is imperative if you want to get this job done easily and quickly. You should also have some styptic powder or corn starch on hand in case you hit the quick and cause some bleeding.
Ideally, you want to start trimming nails on your dog when it is a baby puppy. He will be small enough to handle easily and will get used to the routine quickly. If your dog is older you need to consider the best way to make him relax before working on his nails. Some dogs are happy lying quietly on the floor or in your lap. Others do better on a raised surface, which makes them think twice about squirming for fear of falling off. A raised surface also makes for easier access to the dog’s feet for you. Whatever route you go, be firm and calm and don’t accept any resistance from your dog.
When using nail clippers, especially in the case of nails that are too long, hold the clippers at a 45-degree angle to the nail and make several small clips on each nail, rather than trying to lop off one big chunk. There will be less likelihood of quicking your dog this way, and therefore less trouble down the road. Speak soothingly to him and tell him what a good dog he is when he submits to your ministrations.
Use of a grinder is less likely to have you hitting the quick on the dog’s nails due to the slower process of grinding. But there is one special consideration in this case. If your dog has hairy feet, either trim the long hair from between the toes and pads, or carefully hold it out of the way while you are working. It’s easy to catch the hair in the grinder, causing pain for your dog.
If your dog is fidgety while undergoing this process, continue to use soothing words and praise when he is being good. Bribery works too – we once had an 80-pound Dalmatian who was notoriously bad about having his nails done, but putting him on a raised grooming table with one of us feeding him treats non-stop while the other trimmed nails soon ended the problem.
If your dog’s nails are clicking on the floor they need to be shortened, which will require a trim job on a weekly basis. Once the nails are back to a respectable length your maintenance routine should be to trim them every 10-14 days.
If, for some reason, you simply can’t get this essential part of your dog’s grooming done on your own, consider taking him to a groomer or your vet. There are even some pet supply stores that offer this service, so it’s worth asking around. If you persevere and do the job yourself, it should be a jackpot of treats for your pup when the job is done.
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