Dog nail trimming: step-by-step

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nail trimming
Pet Nail Clippers

A dog’s nails grow constantly, much the same as yours do. While dog nails get worn down somewhat from walking on hard surfaces, most dogs require nail trimming to keep their nails in check. Without it, your dog will have a difficult time walking on floors and other smooth surfaces. They may even catch a nail on something and tear or split it. Left to the extreme, a dog’s nails can curl under and start growing into the footpad.

But when it comes to clipping a dog’s nails, many people admit they’re terrified. They worry about causing discomfort, or worse – making their beloved pet bleed. Well, have no fear! Here’s a step-by-step procedure that will help condition you and your dog so nail trimming is as easy as grooming or walking.

Getting Ready

Before you begin, it’s helpful to visualize the following procedure so you know what to expect. Be organized, confident and firm in your handling of your pet. Your positive body language will give your dog confidence in you. If you are nervous, he will sense this. Remember to praise and reward your dog after a nail trimming, and don’t expect to trim all four paws at once for the first few sessions. Trim only small amounts off each nail until you both acclimatize to the process. After a while, you’ll find you’re both more relaxed and confident.

Get the right equipment

Nail trimmers come in different sizes so make sure yours are of appropriate size for your breed. They should also be sharp and in good working order. Inappropriate sized trimmers can lead to clumsy handling whereas dull trimmers cause an undesirable crushing feeling for your pet. Sharp trimmers allow for a quick, clean cut.

Step 1

Pick a time of day when your dog is normally calm (not regular walk- or play-time). Before you get the nail trimmers out, have a generous supply of small food reward pieces ready. Lay your nail trimmers on the floor surface and allow your pet to sniff them. Put a food reward piece near the trimmer and encourage your pet to take the treat. I suggest putting your dog on a four foot lead and flat collar to ensure control, which will allow you to direct your dog’s attention to the trimmers if needed. Tell your dog, “good girl/boy” when approaching trimmers and treat.

While you have your pet on the lead, encourage her to come close enough to lead into you. Meanwhile, you are praising her and petting her to build confidence that something is good happening.

Step 2

Place your dog in a “sit” or “down” position.

Step 3

Choose a paw to trim, and hold it such a way that your thumb is in the underside center of the padded toes. This will cause the toes to spread apart naturally.

dog nail trimmingStep 4

Using only sharp nail trimmers, cut a small piece off the dog’s nail. When cutting black nails, trim a piece off and examine the end of the cut nail. If you can see a dark/softer
center, it means you have cut close to the quick so don’t cut any further. The quick is the vein that feeds the nail. White nails are easier to see where the quick ends, and to gauge how close to cut.

Step 5

After you have trimmed one nail, praise and reward your dog. Let her sniff the nail trimming so the she can figure out what you’re doing. Read the situation to see if you can manage to trim each nail on one paw, and remember to praise and reward her. Release her as necessary.

Step 6

Attempt another paw on another day, utilizing the same measures, one step at a time. Always end the chore on a positive note and praise with reward. Release your dog from the lead and give her a friendly pat.

By using this step-by-step process, you’ll be a pro in no time, and your dog will happily tolerate or even look forward to “having her nails done”.