Mention “dog nail trim” and some people turn white as a sheet.
I usually hear a variety of sentiments including:
- I have no idea how to trim my dog’s nails.
- My dog hides when the trimmers come out.
- My dog hates to have her paws fooled with.
- I don’t know what tools I need to trim my nails.
- What if I hurt my dog?
I started a series on dog nail trims recently, and the first article is about the anatomy of your dog’s nail. This second article will talk about the typical mistakes people make when they trim their dog’s nails.
- People don’t condition their dog to nail handling early, as puppies (or for rescue dogs, when they first get their dog).
- People force their dog to have their nails trimmed. I’ve heard stories about “four people just sit on my dog and we get the job done.”
- People are stingy. They don’t want to reward a dog for allowing nail trims.
- People are impatient. They want the job done now, yesterday really, and don’t really care how it gets done.
- People cut the nail too far and hit their dog’s quick.
Condition your dog early to nail and paw handling.
If you’re starting with a puppy, pet your dog all over — including his paws. Make it fun, praise your dog, play with him and love him up for allowing you touch his feet. The more you make paw handling part of regular petting, the easier it will be to handle his paws for nail trims. If you’re starting with an older dog, you can still incorporate the paws into your petting and playing routine. You may have to go more slowly, as the dog may have had unpleasant experiences involving his paws. In the end, though patience and conditioning will go a long way to your dog’s tolerance of nail trims.
Allow your dog a choice when trimming his nails.
If your dog isn’t comfortable with a medical or grooming procedure, forcing him to endure the process will lead to him hating it more the next time. The more your dog dislikes something, the harder he’ll work to avoid the situation. You can see how quickly you can create a horrid and frightful situation that your dog is willing to work to avoid. By allowing your dog the choice to have his nails trimmed, you’re allowing your dog to feel comfortable with the process and with you. A dog who trusts you will allow a lot more than one who doesn’t. Earn your dog’s trust — you can’t force it.
Reward your dog handsomely during paw handling.
By pairing spectacular food treats with paw handling, you’re helping your dog look forward to the process. Too often, people will give a single piece of dog food and think that they’re spoiling their dog. Those people who are generous will make the fastest and easiest progress. It’s very easy — simply save some leftovers from dinner: a little bit of chicken, a smidgen of a steak, some pieces of salmon… You want the reward to really get the dog’s attention to get the best results. The tastier the treat, the better and faster the positive association will build.
Patience will get you faster results.
If you’re going to rush through the process, you might as well not even start. By giving the dog the choice to walk away, you are telling the dog you’ll go at his pace. Rushing the pace will shut the process down quickly. Rushing will actually make the process take longer than if you’d just taken your time in the beginning. Also, if you’re using nail clippers, you’re much more likely to nip the quick when you’re in a hurry.
Use a grinder, not clippers.
Experienced groomers and veterinary technicians make good use of clippers. But for people who don’t trim dog nails for a living, it’s safer for us to use a grinder like the Dremel. By grinding the nail, you’re much less likely to nick the quick because you’re taking a little bit of the nail off at a time.
The third article in the series will explain how to get your dog used to paw handling — with a step-by-step process, including a video! Stay tuned for the next installment.