Most dogs need their nails trimmed regularly, but few of them enjoy it. Worse yet, a clumsy snip could cut into the quick, causing profuse bleeding. I quicked my own fingernail recently after I was startled by a loud noise while cutting my nails, and believe me, it hurts! Here’s a quick guide to trimming dogs’ nails.
Dogs’ nails are fairly easy to trim if the dog cooperates. If not, they can be very difficult to trim accurately. If you start manipulating your dog’s paws and toes every day when he or she is a puppy, you’ll likely get an adult dog who stands politely for nail clipping. However, if you’ve already got a wiggly dog who hates the nail scissors, you’ll need a helper. If it’s a large dog, you’ll also need an extra tool.
For a well-behaved small to medium sized dog, simply lift each paw and clip the nail, angling the cut so that the nail will be flush with the ground and wear evenly. If the nail is white or clear, you should see a thin pink line. That’s the quick. Trim the nail at least 1/8 inch in front of the quick. On black nails, either trim a very small amount at a time, or get a professional to show you how to decide where to trim. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to do it yourself.
For large dogs, well behaved or not, a dremmel-type tool is best. These nail grinders shorten big, thick canine nails without the grunting and squeezing that comes with trying to clip a Mastiff’s nail with guillotine clippers. Accustom the dog slowly to the nail grinder. First, hold it near him, turned off, and feed him a couple of treats. Then turn it on, and move it close to the dog, continuing to feed treats. Only when you are sure your dog is comfortable with the sight, sound, and vibration of the grinder should you use it on his nails.
Naughty Little Dogs
If your small dog misbehaves during nail clipping, sometimes just lifting her off the ground may solve the problem. Have a friend lift her around the chest so her legs dangle, and snip away as quickly as possible. If this doesn’t make trimming easier, you’ll need to go back to the beginning and accustom your pet to clippers, using the same process described in the above paragraph. For dogs with a long-held aversion to nail trims, it may be weeks before you can even touch their body gently with nail scissors without triggering a fearful or aggressive response.
Don’t give up and simply muzzle the dog to trim her nails unless they are so long that they’re causing your pet physical harm. Muzzling a dog to clip its nails manages the problem temporarily, but does not help at all in the long term, and makes fearful associations with nail trimming much worse. Not only is the dog being forced to tolerate discomfort and confusion, but her natural defenses are restricted. That would trigger fear aggression in any dog.
If your dog continues to refuse to allow his nails to be trimmed or ground down even after you’ve made a good-faith effort to accustom him to the process slowly and with lots of treats, consider hiring an Animal Behaviorist or professional dog trainer to help you teach your dog to accept nail clipping.