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Get Answers To Important Questions About Dog Nail Trimming
by: Teresa James
Trimming your dogís nails is not usually considered sharing ďquality timeĒ with your beloved pet. But when done often enough, with the proper technique, and rewards for your dogís good behavior, it should be one of those regular grooming events that your dog will tolerate if not look forward to.

If not done often enough, with proper technique, and reward- training, it can be frightening and even painful for your dog. In this article are answers to many common dog nail clipping questions as well as tips on proper equipment and technique that will give you the advantage when you approach this simple home dog-grooming necessity.

Is dog nail trimming painful to my dog?
Dog nail trimming is not painful if you use a sharp nail trimmer and donít clip the nails too short. A dull trimmer can put a lot of pressure on your dog's toenail before it actually cuts through the nail. If this happens your dog may feel an uncomfortable pinching sensation. This is because the vein in the toenail is being squeezed. To avoid this always make sure that you're using a sharp pet nail trimmer.

What tools do I need to trim my dogís nails?
You will want to have a sharp clipper designed for dog nail trimming. Dogs come in all sizes so choose a nail trimmer thatís right for the size of your petís nails. The most common types of nail trimmers are the guillotine, pliers and scissor styles.

Guillotine style dog nail trimmers - require that the dogís nail be inserted through a hole in the top of the trimmer. As the handles are squeezed together the blade comes down and cuts through the nail. Many people find guillotine style clippers more difficult to use on large breed dogs. Thicker nails can be more difficult to insert into the guide hole in the clipper. These dog nail trimmers have a cutting blade that must be changed frequently to maintain a nice clean cut.

Pliers style dog nail trimmers - work similar to pruning shears. The two notched blades surround and cut through the nail as the handles are squeezed together. Some people like this style because they can see exactly where the blade will cut through the nail. If you have a large dog this type of trimmer works great on thick nails.

Just make sure to select a heavy-duty clipper designed to cut through the thick toenails of your large breed dog. Pliers style trimmers are available for small, medium and large dogs. These dog nail trimmers donít have blades that need to be replaced but they do need to be sharpened when they become dull.

Scissor style dog nail trimmers - work just like a pair of scissors. The two scissor-like notched blades surround and cut through the nail as the handles are closed. These clippers are for light duty jobs only. These are not actually dog nail trimmers. They are best used for cats, birds and other small animals. Some people do use them on small dogs. Theyíre usually labeled as cat/bird claw clippers.

The style you choose for your dog nail trimming needs is a matter of personal preference. If the clipper is the correct size it will get the job done. Just remember to keep your nail trimmer sharp so that it makes a fast clean cut. A dull clipper can pinch the nail, which will result in discomfort to your dog.

In addition to good quality nail trimmers, it is also recommended to have a pet nail file. Youíll find that it is much easier to file down any rough edges with a nail file that has been designed for the shape of your dogís nails.

Next on the list is styptic powder. Itís always a good idea to have it on hand for those occasional mishaps. A nail clipped just a little too short tends to bleed a lot. Applying some styptic powder will help stop the bleeding.

Finally, keep plenty of dog treats on hand to reward good behavior. You can also use dog treats to distract your pet during dog nail trimming. Treats work great to draw a dog's attention away from a bleeding nail.

Why do my dogís nails need to be trimmed regularly?
When a dogís nails become too long they interfere with the dogís gait and as the nails continue to grow, walking will become awkward and painful. Untrimmed nails can also split resulting in a great deal of pain, bleeding, and a trip to the veterinarianís office. In severe cases a dogís nails can curl under and grow into the pad of the dogís paw causing a very serious and painful infection. These types of ingrown nail problems are most common on the dewclaws.

The dewclaws are the nails located on the inside of the paw. Many breeders have the dewclaws removed shortly after puppies are born, so not all dogs will have dewclaws. If your dog has them remember to include them in your dog nail trimming routine. These nails donít touch the ground, so they donít wear down as fast as the others as your dog walks on rough surfaces. Trimming your dogís nails regularly will easily prevent these problems.

How do I know when my dogís nails need to be trimmed?
When your dogís nails are beginning to curve is one indication that your dogís nails need a trim. And if you hear a clicking or tapping sound as your dog walks across a bare floor itís definitely time for a nail trimming. But it is best not to wait that long Ė once or twice a month is usually a good rule of thumb for dog nail trimming.

If you let your dogís nails grow too long then it could take some time to get them back to a healthy length again. Regularly trimming the tips of your dogís nails is the best approach. Some dogs walk and run on rough surfaces and are able to wear down their nails, but most dogs will need some help. You will get to know how fast your dogís nails grow if you routinely inspect your petís nails.

Even if you donít actually trim them each time, regular inspection will help assure that your dogís feet stay healthy. So, make nail inspection and trimming an important part of your dogís routine grooming.

When should I start trimming my dogís nails?
If youíre starting with a puppy the answer is as soon as you bring your new puppy home. If you have an adult or an older dog the answer is pretty much the same Ė right now. If you start early it probably will not take too long for your puppy to adjust to a nail trimming routine. Make a habit of handling your puppyís feet everyday. Nail trimming will be much easier if your puppy doesnít mind having his feet handled.

Adult dogs, just like people, are usually set in their ways. So if your adult dog initially resists getting his nails trimmed you will most likely need to spend a lot more time getting him used to the procedure. As with a puppy, itís a good idea to start getting your dog used to having his feet handled before you attempt to clip your dogís nails. Be very patient and donít rush into the procedure.

Bring out the clipping tools ahead of time and let your dog become familiar with them. It is important that you remain calm. If youíre nervous, your dog will sense it and associate fear or uncertainty with dog nail trimming. If your dog is nervous use gentle reassurance, but donít coddle your dog. Let your dog know that you expect him to behave, but donít push it too far.

If your dog can only manage to tolerate getting one toenail trimmed thatís all right. Just be persistent and try for another nail at another time. And always remember to reward good behavior with your dog's favorite treat.

How can I cut my dogís nails when he doesnít like his feet touched?
Have patience and start working on getting your dog used to having his feet handled. This must be done gradually, so donít rush it. Try gently touching one foot while your dog is asleep. If your dog wakes up be very casual about it. Just remove your hand and act as if you didnít even notice that you were touching his paw. Anytime your dog resists donít react, just ignore the fact that you were even holding his paw and try again another time. Repeat this process and over time your dog will adjust to having his feet handled and you should even be able to start touching individual toes without an adverse reaction.

Whenever your dog allows you to touch his feet always remember to praise your dog and give him a dog treat. Your dog will begin to associate having his feet handled with a pleasant experience. Bring out the nail clippers when your dog is very comfortable with you handling his feet and you are confident that you have gained your dogís trust.

Will my dog ever adjust to getting her nails trimmed?
Many dogs may never like to get their nails trimmed, but if done regularly over time, dogs can learn to sit through this routine grooming procedure. Other dogs may never sit still. If you canít get your dog to sit still you may need to recruit the help of another person to hold your dog while you trim her nails. While some dogs can be distracted by dog treats alone, others may also have to be held. You may want to try clipping your dogís nails after a full day of exercise when your dog is looking to take a long nap. Tired dogs tend to be less resistant.

If you know that your dog tends to bite when stressed out, for safety sake you should muzzle your pet before you begin a dog nail trimming procedure. If the task of trimming your dogís nails proves to be too much, find a professional dog groomer or veterinarian for this part of your dogís routine grooming. If you canít get your dog to cooperate itís better that your dog doesnít associate you with this negative experience. If you know that your dog tends to react in an aggressive manner, be sure to let your groomer know what to expect so that the necessary safety precautions can be taken before they begin a dog nail trimming session.

What is the quick and what do I need to know about it?
The quick is the living part of a dogís nail and has blood vessels running throughout. Cutting into the quick during dog nail trimming is painful for your dog and will result in bleeding. If your dog has light colored nails your job will be easier since you will be able to see the quick. It will be impossible to see the quick if your dogís nails are black or dark in color. If your dog has at least one light colored nail you can usually use that nail as a guide for the others. If dog nail trimming is completely new to you, ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to trim your dogís nails or consult a good dog care book.

Another important fact to note is that the quick grows with the nail. As a dogís nails grow longer the quick will also lengthen. So if your dogís nails are over grown you will not be able to clip the nails to the desired length without cutting into the quick. You will need to trim the tips of your dogís nails often and over time the quick will shorten. To avoid cutting into the quick youíll want to start by trimming small pieces of the nail until you get the hang of it.

Help, Iíve cut my dogís nail too short and now my dog is bleeding! What do I do now?
Donít panic. Your dog is in a little pain but the prognosis is good Ė your dog will live! Youíve cut into the quick, the blood-filled tissue in your dogís nail. To stop the bleeding take a pinch of styptic powder and press it against the bleeding toenail. Now give your dog lots of treats. The nail should stop bleeding in about 5-10 minutes.

Try not to baby your dog too much. You donít want to bring a lot of unnecessary attention to the injured nail. Youíll be surprised at how easily your dog will be distracted by the dog treats if youíre not making a big deal out of the bleeding toenail. So just stay calm and upbeat and you may be able to finish your dog nail-trimming task.

If your dog is calm and enjoying the treats it's best to continue trimming. If you didnít finish with the paw that you were working on you may want to continue on another paw and come back to that one after you have finished the rest. If your dog is too excited you may need to try again at a later time. Donít be discouraged, even professional dog groomers occasionally cut into the quick.

If my dogís nails are over grown how can dog nail trimming get them back to a healthy length?
You will need to trim your dogís nails regularly. Start by clipping very small pieces of the nail tip until you can see a dark, round, kind of moist looking disk appear in the middle of the nail. This means youíre approaching the quick and the nail will bleed if you cut it any shorter.

Try trimming this far every week or two and the quick will gradually recede. Over time the length of the nail can be shortened. Cutting into the quick to shorten a dogís over grown nails could lead to an infection. If your dogís nails are extremely over grown and this condition is causing health issues consult your veterinarian immediately.

Trimming your dogís nails is one of the regular home dog grooming tasks that helps to keep your dog healthy and active. As with most dog grooming tasks, rewarding your dog for positive behavior is an important part in your dogís acceptance of the activity. Itís always best when your dog can associate the attention you lavish on him or her with a positive, happy memory. Learning the tricks to proper dog nail trimming, training your dog with positive feedback, and showing patience and love will make the time you spend together a reward in itself.

About the author:
Teresa James is the Webmaster of a site dedicated to providing dog care advice on a broad range of dog-related topics. Includes articles, frequently asked questions, recommendations, and tips for dog owners. Free subscription See more related articles at

Copyright 2004, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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