Nail trimming is an important part of a regular grooming routine. If your dog’s nails get too long, they can break, which is painful and sometimes results in infection. Long nails can also cause an irregular gait that leads to skeletal damage.
Despite its importance, many people can’t or don’t like to trim their dog’s nails. It’s a task that can make both people and dogs anxious. How do you know exactly where to cut the nail? What if you trim the nail too close and cut the sensitive quick? What if your dog seems worried? Although it can seem daunting, if you keep a few guidelines in mind and maintain a consistent schedule, nail trimming doesn’t have to become a stressful chore.
The Two Keys to Nail Trimming Success
No matter what age, size, sex or breed of dog you have, you can make nail trimming a pleasant part of your dog’s life if you keep two main ideas in mind:
- Teach your dog to associate nail trimming with things he loves.
- Take it slow and easy.
Associate Nail Trimming with Good Things
Many dogs find nail trimming unpleasant—and who can blame them? Some seem to naturally dislike the sensation of people handling their feet. Trimming can also cause discomfort when the clippers squeeze or slightly twist the nail. It can even cause pain and bleeding if you accidentally cut the nail too short and hit the sensitive quick.
Luckily, you can help your dog learn to tolerate, and maybe even enjoy, nail trimming. If he learns that it reliably leads to wonderful things—like special treats, brand-new chew toys, the start of a favorite game, a walk in the park or dinnertime—he can learn to love it. So whenever you trim your dog’s nails, immediately follow up with things he loves. For example, clip a nail and then feed your dog a delicious treat. Clip another nail or two and feed another treat. With repetition and a little time, your dog will probably decide that getting his nails done is fun, not frightening.
Take It Slow and Easy
If your dog isn’t used to getting his nails trimmed, the last thing you want to do is frighten and overwhelm him by rushing the process. Take a little extra time to slowly introduce the nail clippers, as well as the sensations involved in trimming. The first time you use the clippers, don’t plan on giving your dog a full pedicure. Instead, just clip one or two nails, and remember to give your dog treats or play a game right after trimming.
It will also help if you approach him calmly and speak in quiet, soothing tones. If you want him to relax while you’re trimming his nails, you’ll need to be relaxed, too.