Monday, January 05, 2009

Nail Trimming - Nothing to Fear

Like our fingernails, dog's nails need to be trimmed. Some groomers and veterinarians recommend trimming at least once a month to avoid getting long nails that can cause your dog to have problems walking or lead to toe injuries during play in the yard. Long nails can get caught in carpet and injure a dog when he pulls to free himself. The dog's nails should just clear the floor when standing on a solid surface floor such as tile or linoleum. A good test is that you can slide a piece of paper under the nails when the dog is standing on a hard floor. If the nails block the paper slipping under them, they should probably be shortened.

There are special clippers designed to cut our dog's nails. Please do not try to do this with human clippers. Many stores carry guillotine clippers, claw or scissor action clippers, and Dremel style rotating nail files (sanders or grinders). Which you choose depends on personal preference. I like the Dremel because I can work down slowly, but the sound can be disturbing to some dogs.

Hopefully from the time you got your dog to the present, you have been handling her feet and petting her toes. This will help remove concern about you holding her paws. Stoke the toes and feel between the pads gently. Clean between the pads to remove mud or other debris that may have accumulated; this makes the foot more comfortable. As you and your dog become more comfortable with you handling his feet, try "pretend clipping" the nails so that the dog becomes accustomed to the clippers or dremel and to the sound made.

Have someone instruct you in the process if you have not done nails before. Your veterinarian, a groomer, another dog owner who cares for her own dogs' nails are all good resources for help in learning the procedure. Once you are comfortable with the process, you are ready to try it on your dog. Stay calm. Your dog will pick up on your anxieties if you do not remain tranquil.

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Like our nails, dog nails will soften with soaking. Some groomers recommend that dogs have a bath first so nails are soaked and softened before trimming. This may also cause the clippers to snip more quietly.

Start by removing excess hair from the toe and pad areas of the foot so that the hair does not become entangled in the dremel or clippers. Trim the hair from between the pads on the bottoms of the feet. Besides making nail trimming easier, this will help keep the dogs feet clean and more healthy. In the winter, trimming this hair out will also help prevent ice balls from building up in your dogs' feet. In the rainy spring or fall, trimming this assists in mud control besides comfort for the dog.

If you have someone who can help you by talking quietly to the dog and rubbing his ears while you work, it is an excellent distraction that keeps you and the dog calm. Rubbing the ears gently seems to sooth dogs and distract them from their feet. Feeding small bits of treats also helps make this a positive event for the dog.

Work from the underside of the nail. Work slowly and do not jerk. Sand or clip the nail down until you see a slight color change or small circle on dark nails. You should stop now. On white or light nails, you should be able to see where the pink area starts; stop before you get there. This is the quick or live section of the nail which contains blood vessels. If you should accidentally go too far and the nail bleeds, apply a styptic pencil or a bit of flour or baking soda to the wound. Hold it firmly in place for a minute or two. The bleeding should stop. If the bleeding continues for more than three or four minutes, we suggest you call your veterinarian.

You may follow up with a nice paw rub much like we use lotion on our hands. It helps moisturize the pads and keep them from cracking. Many different types of paw conditioner rubs are available, but be sure to remember dogs lick their paws so it must be safe if "consumed" by your friend.

Just as a side note, some dogs wear their nails down naturally and do not require much trimming if any. Dogs who walk on concrete or gravel may not need nails trimmed as often as dogs that are kept mostly in the house on carpeted floors.

Does your dog scratch at the door to get in? I heard a trainer discuss putting up small strips of light sand paper in the areas the dog scratch. The dog's front nails then become self filed and remain short.

Do you have tip you could share on nail care? Your tip may show up in a future article that helps other responsible owners care for their best friends. Please send it to the author through the contact link at or

Related Articles:

Help with my Chocolate Labrador Retriever's Nails - part I

Help with my Chocolate Labrador Retriever's Nails - part II

Trimming Your Labrador Retrievers Nails

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