For some people, trimming their dogs claws can be a nerve wracking experience and if you’re one of those people, try not to worry, we’re here to guide you through the process so you can be as cool and confident as a professional dog groomer.
It’s when you hear or read about cutting the “quick”; the blood vessels and nerves contained within the nail that your own nerves might start getting the better of you. But ultimately if you don’t try, then you won’t succeed, all you need is some guidance on the best way to trim your dog’s claws and you’ll be absolutely fine!
Why Trim the Dogs Claws?
If your dog gets a lot of exercise and stays quite active, it’s likely you will not have to trim the nails as often, as they wear down naturally from walking and running on rough surfaces. Dogs that spend more time indoors are most likely going to need their nails trimmed at least once a month to keep them from becoming too long and sharp.
As you can imagine, if your dog’s toe nails are too long they can get quite painful for your poor pooch. As they get longer, they become uncomfortable when your pet walks on hard surfaces, the nails can be pushed back against the nail bed.
It gets worse if they are allowed to curl inwards, becoming ingrown. In this case the nail could potentially curve back inwards and penetrate the skin. This is an extreme circumstance though as pet owners usually take action before it comes to that, even if it means paying a groomer or vet to trim the nails for them.
It can even be a nuisance for yourself and others if your dog is particularly excitable and likes to hop up onto you for hugs and attention, accidentally scratching your skin and getting caught on your clothes!
Dog Nail Structure
It’s easier to know what you’re doing if you get an idea of the structure of your dog’s claw beforehand. The only two details you really need to pay attention to is the outer wall of the claw (the part you are going to trim) and the quick.
The quick appears to be a darker shade than the rest of the claw, typically dark pink and if the claw is translucent enough, you should be able to see it to avoid it. It is very sensitive and if cut can bleed and cause your dog pain.
Additionally, it’s key for you to note that the quick grows as the nail grows so it won’t be as simple as trying to predict where the quick will be based on a photograph of another dogs nails. Pay close attention to the coloration of the claw.
On the underside of the claw there is a ridge just before the curvature called the notch, this is going to be used as a rough guide of where the quick is which is not as easy to see in darker colored nails.
Choice of Equipment
It’s always wise to make sure the equipment you choose is up to the job as it’s important that it’s done as efficiently as possible to ensure that your dog will be less anxious when done in the future. Take note of the following characteristics so that you make the best choice of trimmers.
This means that no matter what type of clippers you choose, ensure that they are sharp. The scissor or plier style clippers are always best for the job as opposed to guillotine style, as the guillotine style can split or crush the nail making it a bad experience for the pooch.
- Ease of Use
Again, scissor and plier style clippers feel just as familiar as a pair of scissors, pliers or secateurs to most people and are therefore easier to control. The plier clippers have extra grip and more resistance making them even more controllable making the process easier for you and your canine companion.
- Blade Shape
Ensure the cutting edge of the blades is concave. This is really important as it greatly reduces the likelihood of the nail getting crushed or split. If your dog’s nails aren’t really long but are just sharp you could just as well file them down with a file if you feel less confident with clippers.
Trimming the Claws
Before you make a start, just remember, there’s no need to trim all the nails in one sitting if you are finding it difficult. Some dogs get excitable and make it a challenge to confidently cut the nails properly whilst other dogs are overly dramatic and react badly, even if you cut nowhere near the quick! If you need a break, take one and come back to it, even in a couple of days.
Now that you’ve eased your own mind, grab some treats and give them to your dog for behaving how you want them to; that is in a relaxed manner. Make sure to always exert a positive attitude as your dog is not going to feel good about the experience if you don’t.
Hold the handle of the clippers up against the pad which is the bottom of the toe and cut the tip of the claw directly across from the handle. This is the easiest method to achieve a cut that’s short enough whilst greatly reducing the risk of causing your dog’s nails to bleed.
This is probably the best method to practise with until you can gain confidence, and of course, gain the confidence of your dog too! You’ll also find that the quick reduces as the nails are kept shorter, allowing you to then over time, trim them shorter than before.
Once you are both more used to the situation and you would like to trim the nails shorter, find the quick and cut at a 45 degree angle just past it. If your dog has black nails, pay attention to the notch area where the tip of the nail separates into a triangle shape and cut on the safer side of that.
Check out the video below for more guidance on the best way to trim your dog’s claws with confidence and efficiency.
- Hyper Dogs
If your dog is just too excited, playful and won’t sit still to let you get a clear cut they are going to need some behavioural training. You could get your groomer or a friend to help you hold your dog still. Your groomer may be happy to help you learn to do the trimming yourself and teach you to restrain your dog properly.
You may just be unlucky or misjudged the location of the quick; it’s not such a big deal but it may have hurt. Make sure to shower your dog in affection and give them a treat to try and alleviate the negative connotations that claw trimming may have for them. Staunch the bleeding by using corn flower, septic powder or run a bar of soap over the cut.
Separating the toes with the fingers you are not using to handle the trimmers just makes it easier to find the clear cut but avoid squeezing their toes! It may take some dexterity training to get used to doing this but it’ll come to you.
- Trimming Hair
Sometimes longer hairs around the toes can get in your way. Don’t risk it, use some dull edged children’s nail scissors to trim that hair instead of the trimmers, after all, you want your trimmers to remain sharp so that they can do their job effectively.
Carl Mclean is a dog owner, wildlife enthusiast and blogger who’s other works can be found on Animal Mentor.