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Learning how to trim your dog's nails can be intimidating.
Some dog owners choose to have their dog's nails trimmed at a pet store, professional groomer or their veterinarian. If you have chosen to tackle your pooches paws, deep breath. It's not as challenging as you may believe.
Why It's Important To Trim Your Dog's Nails
Does your dog go for frequent walks or are they mostly indoors? This will determine how much and how often you need to trim their nails. Keeping your dog's nails from becoming overgrown is more than cosmetic, it's an essential part of caring for your dog.
If their nails become too long, the nails come in contact with the hard floor or ground putting pressure on their toe joints which can be painful. The consequences of this can lead not only to affecting their gait but can damage the nail bed.
Trimming your dog's nails should be done as often as it takes to prevent their nails from touching the ground.
Anatomy Of Dog Nails
Your dog's nails are very different from human's and if not trimmed properly can cause discomfort for them. The nail of a dog consists of the nail itself and the quick which is the blood supply and nerve that nourishes the nail.
As with human nails, the dog's nail itself does not have feeling but the quick will cause pain and bleeding if cut because of the nerve and blood supply. The key to trimming is to stay away from the quick. For dogs with white or tan nails, it's easy to see where the quick begins which is the pink part of the nail. For dogs with black nails, there is no way to see the quick so learning how to cut black nails is more difficult but doable. This is the challenge I have with my dachshund, Rocket.
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Tools And Supplies
Dog nail trimmers come in different styles and types. The most common are nail clippers which are guillotine style, pliers style and scissor style. I use the pliers type and recommend the style that comes with a safety guard to help avoid cutting the quick.
For some dogs, a nail grinder may be the easiest. You may want to purchase one that is not only quiet but has variable speeds. You can begin with a low speed, taking a little off at a time, which will reduce the chances of cutting the quick.
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How To Begin
If you're new at this, whether it's a puppy or mature dog, you will want to introduce the tool of your choice slowly. You can start by touching your dog's paws often and then introduce the tool without cutting their nails.
To introduce the tool, you can touch their paws with it and praise them as you are doing this. You may also want to give your pup treats. This routine may take several times before you and your dog become comfortable with the idea of trimming their nails.
At some point, you can squeeze the clippers to make the sound of the tool or turn on the grinder. Once you feel your dog is comfortable with you touching their paws and the trimmer, you should be ready to begin.
Trimming White or Tan Nails
White or tan nails are easier to trim because of the ability to see the pink part of the nail where the quick shows through. To begin, place the clippers on the nail just below the pink from underneath the nail. Once they're positioned, you want to make a swift and steady squeeze on the handle.
If using a guard on the clippers, you can trim a little at a time. If using a nail grinder, it's important to trim the fur on their paws so that it doesn't get caught in the moving rotary. As with the clippers, be cautious of how much of the nail you trim.
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Trimming Black Nails
Due to the fact that you can't see the quick with black nails, the best way to trim them is to take a little off at a time and then check the cut surface. You will first see a flaky and white surface, then with the next cut, a gray surface will appear and if cut further, the center is black and no longer flaky. It is at this point that you should stop trimming.
You can also find where the quick is by gently applying pressure with the trimmer, without cutting, but where you think you should cut. If your dog reacts negatively with a cry or flinches, you are probably too close to the quick.
Again, if using the nail grinder, be sure to trim the fur from his paws and check the surface to see how much you've taken off.
As an option, you may use the clippers to trim and then use the nail grinder to smooth their nails.
What Do I Do If I've Cut Too Short?
First of all, don't panic! It has happened to many owners and professionals, including “moi.” If you cut a nail too short, you'll want to stop the bleeding. You can start by applying pressure to the tip of the nail. If that doesn't help, you should use styptic powder, an antiseptic clotting powder or even cornstarch.
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Begin by pressing it onto the nail or dipping their paw into the powder until the bleeding stops. It's important not to wipe away the blood before applying the powder because the blood aids coagulation.
As with everything else involved with training your dog, it takes time and patience. If it's possible, try to trim your dog's nails as often as possible, perhaps every two weeks. This should help alleviate any stress you may feel when trimming their nails and reduce your dog's stress as well.
If you have tried and still feel stressed or feel skeptical about tackling this task, a good rule of thumb is to have your veterinarian or groomer show you the correct way of trimming your dog's nails.