Clipping your dog’s nails
Part of a complete grooming program for dogs requires that their nails be regularly clipped. Different breeds of dogs grow nails at different rates and some need trimming more often. Dogs like Beagliers that run around outside more often, may not need clipping at all, as their nails are naturally worn down to a manageable level with wear and tear, while a Poochon who stays indoors for most of the day may need some trimming. It’s best to start your nail trimming routine quite early in the life of your dog as once your puppy reaches maturity (and full size) clipping dog nails can become quite the wrestling match if they are not accustomed to the process.
Nail care is an important part of grooming for a number of reasons. Long overgrown nails can become entangled in bedding and plush carpet. When allowed to grow to excessive lengths long nails can also curve right around and push into the tender flesh on the underside of the paw pad.
A puppy with overgrown nails may also change their gait in order to compensate. Dewclaws on the inside of the lower leg need close attention as they never get to wear down from contact with the ground and can become a problem if left unattended. It’s also possible a dog may split or tear the foot if they use excessive force in trying to free an entangled toenail, which can result in an unwanted and expensive visit to the vet.
You can tell if your puppy’s nails are too long by checking them while the puppy is standing still. Nails which are just clear of the ground are the perfect length. If the nails make an audible noise on the tile or linoleum while the dog is walking then it’s time for a trim. Vets are able to do nail trimming for you but it’s certainly possible – and cheaper – to trim them yourself. Tiny puppies can have their nails trimmed with human nail clippers while the older animals will need purpose-made trimmers with a guillotine or scissor style action.
Good commercial clippers are designed to cut the nail at the right length and angle while preventing splitting or crushing. Occasionally you will need to file off the nail after trimming which can be done with a specialized emery board or nail file purchased from your local pet supply store. This helps to keep the edges smooth so they won’t catch in carpet and bedclothes.
At first, puppies are going to resist having their paws handled. To get them accustomed to the sensation make sure you regularly touch their feet during play. Start by touching each paw in succession. Once the puppy lets you handle the paws without pulling away give them a treat for their good behaviour. When your puppy is comfortable with you doing this move to the next stage by gently touching a clipper to the nail. When the puppy shows tolerance give them a reward. If the puppy shows signs of getting fussy stop and try again later as you want to impress a good memory rather than a negative association.
When your puppy becomes accustomed to you holding her feet and touching the nails start with a trim of just the very tip of the nail. If the puppy starts to show signs of distress stop, and make another attempt later on, as you don’t have to do all of the nails in the same session.
If possible have another pair of hands to hold the puppy so you don’t accidentally cut the quick (the pink part of the nail containing the blood vessels and nerves) – a painful experience for the dog that will stay with them. You will need to pamper your pet if you do manage to cut the quick to show them that discomfort will always be compensated.
With clear nails it’s quite easy to see where the quick starts but opaque or dark nails will need extra care. Cut only the hook at the end of the nail as this will cause the quick to draw a little way back up the nail. With subsequent trimming you will eventually be able to trim the nails to the correct length.
When you’ve finally succeeded at trimming your puppy’s nails make a big deal about it by playing a game and laying on a bit of extra attention. Reserve a treat just for the occasion, but only if the trim is successful, and clipping dog nails will soon be an occasion both you and your puppy will look forward to – or at least one you don’t have to dread.