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How to Cut Dogs’ Nails (Guidance on a Delicate Process)

There’s something comforting about hearing the clickety-clack of your dog's nails as he walks through your home. But when you have to cut these nails, you may be worried that your dog's nervous yelping may fill the air. However, nail cutting doesn't have to be a rough ordeal.

In fact, the sooner you start exposing your dog to nail trimming and making it a positive experience, the sooner they will begin to enjoy the time with you and the easier the process becomes for you.

The Importance of Trimmed Nails

It’s essential that a dog’s nails remain trimmed to a manageable length. If your dog’s nails become too long, they can cause a wide variety of problems for your pup. 

Nails can snag and break which is very painful for your dog. Poor nail care over a long period of time can even cause joint damage and arthritis.

Imagine your own toenails for a moment… If they were to grow out and down, effectively lifting your toes off the ground and forcing you to walk that way you would be very uncomfortable.

That’s why the ideal time to trim your dog’s nails is when or before the nails touch the ground. The interval of time in which this occurs depends on the size and lifestyle of your pooch. A smaller, indoor breed may need to have a trim much more frequently than a larger dog that enjoys oodles of rugged, outdoor activity.

The Steps You Should Take When You Trim Your Dog’s Nails

It's imperative that you take the time to prepare properly to trim your pooch's nails right. For instance, you should take the type of nail trimmer you buy into careful consideration. A proper trimmer will be sharp, concave at its cutting edge, and specifically designed to treat the appropriately sized dog.

Properly trimming your dog’s nails should never be a fast process. You should always trim the nail gradually and carefully, as being too aggressive may lead you to cut it too deeply, hitting the “kwik” (living tissue part of the nail) and causing pain to the dog.

You will get faster that this over time but always take your time and make it a positive experience for the dog.

Also, be prepared to provide positive reinforcement with your dog at the end of each nail trim. Don’t wait until the entire process is complete, as this may cause your dog to be a little extra squirmy. Constant praise will do wonders to calm him down, which will naturally make the process much more pleasant for both you and your pup.

Choosing The Right Tools for The Job

As you can tell already, trimming a dog’s nails is a bit of a process but it’s nothing to shy away from. In fact, most people who have a bad experience with the process do so because they didn’t have the right tools for the job to begin with.

Trimming your dog’s nails should be down with one of two tools, a clipper or a grinder. There are specially designed clippers and grinders for the job as well as the size of your dog.

As you can imagine, the grinder makes a bit of noise and requires your dog to be a bit more comfortable with the whole routine before breaking one of those out but a grinder does have some advantages as well.

Let’s look at the tried and true clipper first…

Clippers are quick, quiet, and inexpensive. They require no electricity, make no noise, and allow you to cut your dog’s nails anywhere you like.

Unfortunately, clippers also make it more likely to cut into the kwik on dark colored nails. Clippers also get dull and can pinch the kwik or crush and break the nail instead of cutting.

Now Let’s Look At Nail Grinders...

Nail grinders are also a great option and just like clippers, they have some goods and some bads.

For example, grinders work great for dark nails, thick nails, or tiny nails. It really doesn’t matter, the grinder just works.

The grinder is also great at trimming a nail just right and not leaving any sharp edges like you often find when finished with a clipper.

On the flip side, grinders also make noise which is not always good for a timid dog. They also make smoke and as with anything you grind, tend to make heat. Not enough heat to harm the dog but they do notice the change in temp and will react to it if they are not comfortable.

There are several other differences between these two tools but your dog’s comfort level above all should help you decide what’s right for you.

Avoiding the Kwik: The Most Important Aspect of Nail Trimming

How to Cut Dog Toenails

It's no secret that the biggest reason trimming your dog's nails can be so difficult is due to the quick. This hidden part of the nail contains the nerve and the blood that provides proper nail nourishment. Nicking this part of the nail could cause bleeding, discomfort, and a frightened pooch that may end up being extremely uncooperative the next time the need for nail trimming manifests.

If you do cut to the quick, you will see quite a bit of blood. Don’t be too alarmed - that’s perfectly normal when the quick is nicked and a little blood looks like a lot more than it actually is. You should always have a styptic pencil or styptic powder nearby just in case this happens, as the substance will allow the blood to coagulate with greater efficiency.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Vet

Of course, if you are still a bit nervous about trimming your dog’s nails, you can always take your pooch to your vet to get the job done. While it will cost you a little extra money and time by going this route, this may be a small price to pay in exchange for the peace of mind you may obtain. Besides, they tend to make it look rather easy.

Whether you choose to go the vet route or tackle this on your own, the important thing is that you take care of your dog’s nails. Allowing them to become too unruly would cause your pooch to experience some pretty nasty discomfort, which would ultimately be cruel and unfair to him. By keeping his nails trim, you’ll have a happier dog to share your time with, which should be enough of an incentive to carry out the process in the first place.

Author

Cory Eckert

Cory Eckert grew up working at a family dog kennel and training facility in South Dakota. Looking after the dogs and watching them develop in their training forged a love for animals that's still alive 35 years later. Cory is now a co-owner and writer at GoldenRetrieverLove.com and enjoys being a dog enthusiast who gets to share that passion with others every day.

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