How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Home
While it's tempting to go to the pros whenever your dog needs his nails trimmed, this is definitely something you can learn to do at home. Especially if your dog's nails tend to grow quickly and frequent groomer visits turn into a hassle.
How long should your dog's nails be? Short enough to keep from tapping on the floor. As soon as the nails touch the ground and grow past the pad of your dog's paw, it's a sign they are too long and you should reach for the dog nail clippers. Long nails can also snag on carpet or affect the joints in your dogs' paws, making it more likely that he will slip and hurt himself. Want to keep your dog's feet in good running order? Keep the nails trimmed.
You can do it yourself with the right tools and a little patience. Dogs don't love having their paws touched; they like having their nails trimmed even less. At first, your dog may jerk his paw away or start to cry when he sees the clippers. But don't worry; you can condition him to accept a proper pedicure without stress (for him or you).
Make Nail Trimming a Positive Experience
Whether it's introducing him to the trimming tool or picking the right environment, "make everything a really positive experience for your pooch," certified trainer Mikkel Becker says.
To get your dog used to having his feet handled, play with his paws regularly and give him special treats-such as small cubes of cheese.
Next, teach your dog to get comfy with clippers. "Let treats rain down from the sky" every time you pull clippers out of the drawer, Becker says. Anytime your dog approaches clippers, he should get a reward. To condition him to the sound of the clippers, clip something hard and crunchy—like pasta—in his presence. Reward him again.
Finally, make sure the environment he'll be in when his nails are trimmed is comfortable and offers a stable grip for his feet. Try a counter topped with a nonslip mat or even his dog bed. Add calming smells, like lavender or a pheromone such as Adaptil. All of that prep helps him feel secure.
When you start trimming his nails for the first time, do it slowly. Trim just one nail a day, barely cutting off the end. Your goal is to get all nails even with the corresponding paw pad and then keep them that way with regular trims. Trim every two weeks to maintain the optimal nail length. The more you trim overgrown nails, the more the blood vessels will retreat back into the claw.
How to Trim Your Dog's Nails With Clippers
If you cut the quick, stay calm and reassure your dog. Press stypic powder firmly onto the end of the nail until the bleeding stops, which may take a few minutes.
Once you're done for the day (one nail or all of them), reward your dog with treats and praise so he associates nail trimming with happiness, not stress and discomfort. Never force your dog to let you trim his nails, says Debbie Martin, KPA, CTP, LVT, VTS (Behavior). "Let him walk away if he' s uncomfortable."
A version of this article first appeared in Happy Paws Spring/Summer 2020.