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All About Nail Trimming

A fairly common theme among pet dog owners is the challenge of trimming their dogs' nails. Nail trimming is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy and happy dog as well as preventing long nails from scratching up floors and furniture.

Keeping your dog's nails short is important for many reasons, but the most important is actually for your dog's overall health. When our dog's nails become too long and overgrown, they can actually effect and alter the ways our dogs stand, walk, and run.

Imagine wearing shoes that are too small for your feet. Now imagine that you had to wear those shoes all day long. Or maybe you bought a cute pair of heels, but they give you blisters after you wear them all evening while out with friends.

When we wear footwear that is uncomfortable or give us blisters, you'll notice that you start walking differently to compensate for the discomfort. Luckily for us, we can just take our shoes off at the end of the day. Our dogs don't have that option.

Our dogs rely on us to provide them with everything from healthy food, to exercise, as well as health and wellness needs. Our dogs live in our home and aren't allowed to do many of the natural behaviors that would normally wear down their nails in the wild such as digging, scratching, and running or walking long distances in search of food.

As dogs have evolved to spend the vast majority of their lives in our homes with our carpeted or smooth wood floors, their nails don't have the same abrasive activities that would naturally file them down.

That's where we as owners and caretakers come in!

It is our responsibility to maintain our dog's nails throughout their lives. Many owners rely on their annual vet visit to get their nails trimmed, or the occasional trip to the groomers. However, our dogs' nails should actually be trimmed at least every two weeks.

Most of our clients rely on the professionals to trim their dogs' nails because it can definitely be a challenging task at first.

Tips For Easier Nail Trims

1. Frequency!

The first time you try to cut your dog's nails could be very challenging. This is to be expected, especially if you've never cut your dog's nails before. Don't worry, it gets easier! Just taking the time to cut your dog's nails on a regular schedule will make the process become more familiar and less stressful over time.

With that being said, don't worry, we have some tips to make even the first time a little less stressful!

2. Use High Value Food!

Using some really tasty treats or food can help make the whole experience worth it for your pup! I like to reserve a really special doggy ice cream that my dog only gets when he gets his nails done. While he may not like have his nails trimmed, he sure does get excited for that special ice cream treat!

Tips for Using Food: When you are using food for nails trims there are two field of thought for this. The first method is by using the food as a distraction while you cut your dog's nails. For some dogs this may work really well. However, for some dogs it may only work for the first nail or two until they realize what is going on and may even become averse to the special treat you offer them.

The other method is by giving them some of their special treat after each nail is cut. This way the dog begins to learn that the only way they get to have some of their favorite treat is by allowing at least one of their nails to be trimmed.

3. Prevent Your Dog's Escape

Some dogs may try to run and hide the moment they see the nail trimmers come out. Using a leash or a small enclosed area for your dog's nail trims will prevent them from escaping to the far reaches of your home in the middle of trimming their nails.

4. Let Your Dog Choose Their Body Position

I personally have 6 dogs, so it usually takes a while to finish everyone's nail trims in the same night. The interesting thing is that each dog prefers to have their nails trimmed in a different way. One dog likes to remain standing, and the location doesn't matter as long as he can have his face in his favorite doggy ice cream throughout the process. My other dog likes to lie on the couch and take a nap while she has her nails done. My small dogs prefer to be cradled in my arms while I trim their nails. And one basically needs a big bear-hug to stand calmly for her trim while I pick up each foot as if she was a horse.

If your dog continues to squirm and fight, try changing up the position that your dog is in and encourage them to either lie down, roll over, or stand up. Some dogs prefer to keep their feet on the ground while you trim their nails but don't like having their feet picked up. If that is what they prefer, try to work with it!

5. Keep The Clipper Out of Sight

Many first time nail trimming owners will pick up their dog's front paws and hold them basically right in front of their dog's face while they try to cut their nails. From the dog's point of view this can be very scary!

Try folding your dog's front feet backwards up under their body to cut their nails. This prevents the dog from watching what you are doing, and can actually be a bit more comfortable for the dog. You can also similarly pick up your dog's back feet behind them to trim their rear nails as well.

6. Having a Partner Helps!

Sometimes it takes more than two hands to be able to maintain your dog well enough to cut their nails. Having a helping set of hands to feed your dog treat, hold them steady, and reassure them through a likely stressful situation is helpful.

7. You Don't Have to Cut All The Nails at Once!

Especially if it is your first time cutting your dog's nails, or if your dog finds nail trims particularly stressful, don't feel obligated to cut all 16 - 20 nails in one sitting. If it is your first time, and/or your dog has a particularly hard time with nail trims, its completely acceptable to cut just one nail.

Even if you just cut one nail each day, by the time you have trimmed all of the nails, its the perfect time to start from the first nail again. This also helps with tip #1, Frequency! Keeping nail trimming sessions short and pain-free is the best way to get your dog use to the process quickly.

8. You Don't Have to Cut Them Short The First Time

One of the biggest reasons why some dogs have such a strong aversion to nail trims is because at one point or another, someone accidentally cut their nail too short and cut the quick. The "quick" is the nerve ending and blood supply on the inside of the nail, that when cut is exceptionally painful.

The best way to prevent cutting your dog's quick by accident, is by trimming very small portions of the nail at a time. You can cut each nail as many times as you need too, so their is no need to cut them as short as possible on your first attempt.

Especially if your dog particularly hates nail trims, it is in your best interest to leave the nails a bit long at first just to be sure not to hit the quick.

9. Trim Foot Fur First (If needed)

Many dogs with longer fur and coats also have have long fur on their paws and in-between their toes. This can often obscure their nails and make it harder to see what you are doing while you are trying to trim their nails. Trimming their paw fur first can actually make it a lot easier to trim their nails as well as prevent the possibility of cutting their nails too short.

10. Use Lots of Light!

I personally like to trim my dogs' nails in a very well lit room, and I even wear a headlamp to help me see even better. Having the ability to see what you are doing very clearly will help prevent accidentally cutting the nails too short.

The Problem of Long Nails

When our dog's nails get too long, it can actually affect how our dogs stand, walk, and run. When our dogs' nails touch the ground, it prevents our dogs from standing naturally on their feet. In the diagram below you can just one of the ways long nails can effect our dog's posture.

When our dogs' nails are too long they can also cause their toes to turn to the sides in an often very uncomfortable position.

And in really severe cases, where the nail has grown so long that it actually has curled all the way back around the the dogs foot, the nail can actually begin to grow back into the dog's foot. When this occurs, it becomes extremely painful for your dog and it often requires a fairly invasive and expensive vet visit to fix.

Nail trimming can be challenging at first, but your dog will thank you!

For more tips and information about your dog's health, training, and all things dog-related, don't forget to check our!

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