During these unprecedented times, we are trying to minimise our movement and exposure to the outside world. This may mean limited walkies and as such, your dog’s nails won’t be wearing themselves down. Going to the vet for nail trims may also take a back seat. But fear not, with the right guidance and tools, you’ll be a master in no time and your dog will very soon have their own personal beautician!
How do I cut my dog nails at home?
Step 1 – Get your dog use to having their paws touched!
The best way to get your dog comfortable with their paws being touched and nails being trimmed is to train them to accept it. If your dog is still a puppy, you’re in luck! If your dog is older, more time and persistence may be required. But fear not… it is possible! Never force your dog as this may cause more harm than good and make them stress. Instead give them time, take a break and/or do it over a few days to get them used to the process. Make sure you reward them with treats to ensure a positive experience.
Step 2- Buy some nail trimmers
Nail trimmers come in different sizes and types. It is important to buy good quality nail trimmers that are sharp and fitting to the size of your dog. Scissor style trimmers/pliers are the most common types of trimmers we see used in the clinic and pet stores. Examples of these are shown below:
Scissor style – good for small dogs
Larger scissor plier style – ideal for all sizes
Step 3 – How to clip technique
1. Pick up your dog’s paw and hold firmly but gently with one hand – do not squeeze the paw. Make sure the nails are easy to see with their fur out of sight!
2. Use the quick of their nails (pink in colour) to guide you in the nail clipping journey – you want to avoid the quick!
3. With your other hand, grab hold of the clippers and position them 45 degrees at the tip of the nail. Slowly trim from the tip of the nails down to the quick. It is better to clip less than more to minimise the risk of cutting the quick and making the nail bleed!
4. Reward, reward, reward – always have treats on hand to ensure a positive experience!
What if my dog has black nails?
Visualising the quick on dogs with black nails is difficult and unfortunately there is no sure or easy way to trim them. However the more you trim them, the more practice and experience you gain. For black nails, start clipping at the tips conservatively and since we can’t visualise the quick, take note of the cross section of the nail. If it’s black, it is best to stop as the next clip will likely be the quick!
What if I accidentally cut the quick?
Just like humans, if you cut your nail too short and hit the nail bed, it’s painful and in some cases we start bleeding! The same holds true if you accidentally cut the quick as it contains a big blood and nerve supply. So as you can imagine, by accidentally cutting the nail too short and hitting the quick, the dog will likely flinch and squeal from pain. Shortly after it may look like a crime scene with blood dripping uncontrollably from the nail! Don’t panic – to stop the bleeding, many vets have and use a styptic powder. However if this is something that is not readily available at home to you, alternatives such as corn starch should do just the trick! A clean tissue, cloth or cotton ball can also be of use by placing and holding it over the quick as long as your pooch allows!
There is no general rule of thumb as to how often you should trim your dog’s nails.
Routine inspection of the nails can prove helpful and may indicate when your dog needs a trim. If the nails are touching the ground, it is very likely they are too long (especially if you can hear a clicking sound as they walk). If you see any nails that are beginning to curl or are fully curled and even penetrating the paw pad, they are too long and need to be trimmed! Don’t forget about the dew claw also!
If in ANY doubt, have your vet or vet nurse demonstrate how to best trim your dog’s nails on your next visit! Before then, get them comfortable with their paws being touched and always make it a pawsitive experience!