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Trimming Your Dog’s Nails – Best Practices

Trimming Your Dog’s Nails – Best Practices

Trimming your dog's nails is one of those annoying but necessary chores that has to get done. Depending on how fast your dog's nails grow, this task should probably get done between once a week to once a month.

Even if your dog is very active running around the backyard, it might not be enough to grind his nails down like taking walks or runs on pavement would be. Nail trimming doesn't have to be a hassle as long as you use positive reinforcement with your dog and be patient with her.

If you want to trim your dog's nails yourself, the ideal situation would be to train him from a young age not to fear the nail clippers. If you have an older dog whose nails you would like to trim without visiting a groomer or the vet, there are a few things you can do to help the process. 

Knowing Where the "Quick" Is

The quick is the portion of the nail that includes a nerve and blood supply, so it is important to know where this is in your dog's nails and not to cut it too short as to make your dog bleed. The quick is easier to see in dogs with lighter nails versus dogs with darker colored or black nails, but it is not impossible to detect in dogs with dark nails. You just have to look underneath and see where the quick ends. It is a lighter color than the nail itself and tapers off in a triangular shape before the nail ends. 

Cutting the Right Angle

Holding the clippers right underneath the paw pad and clipping straight across the nail is the safest way to cut. This will ensure that the nail will rest right above the ground when your dog is standing and that you won't cut the quick. If you want to try to get it a little bit shorter, mark where the quick is first, and then make the cut at a 45 degree angle. 

Using Treats as Incentive to Clip the Nails

Treats are a great motivator to trim your dog's nails. Getting your dog used to the clippers is the first step - clicker training works wonders here. Start by introducing the clippers to your dog. If he sniffs them and doesn't back away, reward him by giving him a treat. After he is used to the clippers by itself, start holding his pay in one hand and the clippers in the other (it might work best for a friend to help you with this step). If he reacts calmly to you holding the clippers and his paw, reward him again.

Keep this positive association going until you can slowly bring the clippers to one of his nails and trim a bit off of the end. Make sure to do a cut very close to the end of the nail, as you don't want to hit the quick and make him bleeding. Pain during this process will ruin the progress you've made thus far. As soon as you cut the nail, click the clicker and reward him. If this is all you dog can handle at this time, then that's fine. Come back later when you've both had a break. The more you do this with him, though, the more nails you should be able to cut in one sitting. 

If your dog is struggling too much when you try to clip her nails, it might be a better alternative to see a professional so you don't hurt her or yourself. Use your best judgement and don't beat yourself up if you can't trim her nails yourself. You know your dog better than anyone. 

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