One of the biggest obstacles when starting out either grooming professionally, or trying to maintain your dog at home, is trimming nails. It can be a daunting and scary task, because no one wants to make the dog bleed. However, once you get the hang of it, trimming and grinding nails ends up being a piece of cake. If the dog is really well behaved, I can trim the nails on all four paws in under a minute, no exaggeration.
When a dog has white nails, it feels a lot easier, because for the most part, you can easily recognize the quick, the blood vessel that resides in the nail. Your goal is to trim as close to the quick as possible without injuring the blood vessel, causing it to bleed. In the video I am correlating with this post, you will see me use a grinder or dremel. I prefer this method just because I can get closer to the quick and smooth out the nail so that it isn’t sharp. However, I am going to be talking about trimming, because that is the easiest way to ease into nail trimming.
First, you want to find a good, sharp pair of nail trimmers. Right now, I have been using the Safari brand nail trimmers for Small/Medium dogs, which can be purchased on Amazon, Ryan’s, and other pet supply stores. Image is shown on the side. I do NOT recommend ANY Guillotine style nail trimmer, EVER. The reason for this is because you have to put the dogs nail through a hole in the tool, then you squeeze the tool which then trims off that nail guillotine style. Why do I not recommend this? You can trim off a lot more than you intended to, causing serious damage to the dogs nail. Dogs feet are constantly moving and twitching. It is immensely rare for a dog to hold perfectly still like a statue. I have had someone come to me, because they tried trimming their dogs nails at home with a Guillotine trimmer, and cut the nail down to the foot, leaving a small nub, because the dog moved when trimming. When a nail is cut that short, and you cannot stop the bleeding with Styptic powder (I’ll explain what this is in a moment), the dog needs to be taken to the vet and the quick cauterized to stop the bleeding. That can be a traumatic experience for the pet. Sometimes, experiences of that type of nature, can cause dogs to be extremely fearful and aggressive when their feet are being handled. One bad experience can “ruin” a dog for its nails, unfortunately.
The second item would be Styptic Powder. Styptic powder is a type of cauterizing agent in powder for, that if you slightly quick the dogs nail, you put a small amount on, and hold for about 15 to 20 seconds. This usually stops the bleeding, Fair warning, do not open this product after it has been shook around. You don’t need to shake this product around to use it, but if it drops on the floor, give it a few minutes to settle because the cloud of powder that emerges is very potent, and will more than likely make you cough. Also, this product stains. I would recommend putting a towel down below where you are trimming your dogs nails, so that way if you do accidentally quick the dog, the styptic powder falls on the towel. It stains your fingers, floors, clothes, and it does not want to come out. If you do not have styptic powder, and you are at home, some cornstarch or flour will suffice, just use the same method of placing a little product on the bleeding quick and hold for 15 to 20 seconds to stop the bleeding. If you slightly quick the dog, it can be upsetting, but quicking a dog lightly stings almost like a hang nail for us, and a majority of the time, dogs don’t make any sound or movement that you quicked them. Your goal is not to quick them, but things do happen. Some dogs have immensely long quicks, and sometimes you feel you can trim more, but sadly cannot.
Now that we got the tools out of the way, let’s talk about holding the foot and trimming the nails. You want to find a position that is comfortable for you as well as the dog. You also want to be careful of the placement of the dogs limbs. You want to be holding the dogs feet and legs in natural positions. If a dog is kicking or fighting to get out of your grasp, and this dog is known for being really good at getting their nails done, then you are probably pulling their legs into an unnatural position, causing discomfort. I like to have my dogs about hip level on me on a table, so that way I can reach my arm over and under them to grasp which ever leg I need. I tend to lift the leg and bend it straight back at around a 45 degree angle, I don’t want the foot and leg completely perpendicular to leg naturally.
Now it is time for the trimming part. While holding the foot firmly but still comfortably for you and the dog, you want to take your trimmers and lightly tip the nail. You want to just trim a little bit off at a time. If the dog has white nails, you are looking for the pink quick amongst the white. It is always better to trim a little bit off at a time, then to go in all Wyatt Earp. If the dog has black nails, you are looking for the black dot inside the white part of the nail. See the picture on the side. I know it is a little hard to see, but right at the tip of where the arrow is pointing is the black dot amongst the white part of the nail. That is the quick. At the bottom, I will have a video showcasing myself grinding Xandria’s nails, and showing you the quick.
Like I said previously, just trim the nail a little bit at a time. It is going to take some time getting use to holding the feet, holding the trimmer, figuring out how much pressure and grip you can use. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months for new bathers to get fully comfortable with trimming nails, because it can be scary and intimidating. However, with enough practice and confidence, you’ll be able to get to a point of trimming dogs nails in under a minute. The frequency of how often a dogs nails need to be trimmed honestly depends on the dog. I can do my own girls once a month, and their nails are still nice and short. If a dog has really long quicks, I would recommend once every two weeks to help expose the quick, meaning you trimmed down to the quick without making the dog bleed, and to help the quick recede. The process of getting a quick to recede also varies on the dog. Sometimes it takes only a few months, sometimes longer. I would recommend every 2 to 4 weeks for nails to be trimmed on dogs. The longer pet parents or you wait to trim the dogs nails, the higher chances of the quick growing with the nail, and more chances of injury, such as getting caught on objects, and either breaking a nail or completely ripping out the nail, which I have seen both. If you are a pet parent, and this still seems a bit daunting for you, most grooming facilities either offer walk in services for nail trims, or appointments for nail trims. Either way, call the facility and ask about any paperwork you might need to bring, and any policies they have.
Well, I hope all of this was helpful. With enough time and practice anyone can become a pro at trimming nails. Some dogs will be more difficult than others, and if it is your own dog, they can sense when you are nervous about trimming their nails, and I guarantee you they will use that to their advantage. Worse case scenario, you will need to take your dog to a groomer, or have the nails done by the vet. One more tidbit of information, some vets offer nail trimming that can be painful to the dog, but on very rare occasions it is necessary. What some vets offer to do is trim the dogs nails all the way down to a nub, and cauterize the nail. The dog is sedated for this procedure, but imagine someone taking 3/4 of your nail and removing it. Your nails will be extremely sore, and painful. Then imagine type and doing everyday tasks with your nails. It will hurt. That is how it feels to dogs to have this procedure done, because they have to walk on their feet. However, like I said, it is extremely rare, but really only done when truly necessary. Usually when a dogs nails are so long, and even trimming them regularly the quick is not receding, and the dogs nails are becoming injured. This is also possible for dogs who are extremely aggressive over having their nails done, so that way they don’t have to get their nails done often. I never recommend this procedure unless I feel the procedure would greatly benefit the dog. Always, always, always consult with your vet in regards to this procedure.
Okay, well, this was an extremely long post, but I wanted to try and get as much information as possible on this subject. If there are any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave them in the comment section down below and I will try to get back to you as quickly as I can. Till next time!