Trimming Your Dogs Toenails… What You Need to Know to Do It Safely!


Toenail Trims…  Most dogs don’t like this task, as someone, at sometime has probably cut one too short and pinched the quick.. (the soft, nerve and blood filled core of the nail,) causing pain and a little bleeding. So I am here to tell you what you need to know to do it safely.

MaxShadow showing off his toy and his teeth

MaxShadow showing off his toy and his teeth

In Dogs with white toenails, it’s pretty easy to spot where the quick is… it’s kind of pinkish in color and the dead nail is really white. If your dog has black toenails, you can’t easily identify the quick.  However, if you can hold the paw in your hand with the pads facing up, you can easily locate a groove running along the bottom of the nail, from the tip, where it is very well defined to the toe where it becomes wider and more shallow until it disappears completely into the live nail. This groove, signifies the dead portion of the nail. i.e. the part you want to cut into. The part with the groove has no blood vessel and no nerve endings. The only way you’ll hurt your dog by cutting into the area with the groove, is if you accidentally pull his toe hairs. (Very easy to do on long coated dogs.)

It’s always a good idea to get your dog used to having his or her feet handled at a young age and to desensitize them to the clippers.  I prefer the guilottine clippers that have two blades that come together and meet in the middle, because they take less hand strength to operate. Make certain they’re sharp… if they’re not, throw them out… These things are inexpensive and trust me, you’d rather have new, sharp ones, that deal with a cracked nail caused by an old crummy pair.

Start off by having your dog sit next to you, holding his paws one at a time, firmly and feeding treats…. if this goes well… play with the toes during the next session (while still feeding treats.) Work your way up until you’re actually holding and activating the clippers without placing them on the nails. When you get to the point that you can do all of this and your dog is still relaxed, then it’s time to try the real thing.

It’s usually a good idea to have a partner there to help restrain the dog if needed, but if you’ve done your homework as stated above, you may not even need that. Of course always have some quik stop stypic powder on hand, (I like the kind with benzocaine,) just in case you clippers slip a little.

If you’re nervous, your dog will sense this and pull away… you may have to practice putting the clippers in position without clipping to build your confidence.  Having a friend there can help with moral support.

Don’t try to take too much off the first time… Note where that groove is and only take off the very tip of the nail… You can come back and do it again next week… it’ll help both you and the dog gain confidence in your ability to trim their nails. With repeated trimmings, the nerves will begin to recede in even the longest of nails, allowing you to trim them even shorter than you could’ve done on the first attempt.

Start with the back feet, dogs seem more receptive to having their back feet played with…  and even if you only get one paw or one toe done at a session, you’re making process!

Dremel tools also work great, but generate a lot of heat. If using a Dremel, only keep it in contact with the nail for about one or two seconds at a time…  and once again, watch out for toe and foot hair! Long hair and quick spinning objects do not mix well.

The other option is that you can bring the dog to us and during their regularly scheduled daycare, boarding or training session, we’ll sneak in a nail trim for only $10

This will be easier for us if you’ve done your desensitization exercises listed above…

Until next time, go play ball and have some fun!

Kerri — The Alpha Dogs’ Wife

About adventuredogs

I'm the "Alpha Dog's" wife... Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs! A place where canines socialize, exercise and have fun. You don't have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!
This entry was posted in Adventure Dog Ranch, dog behavior, Dog Toe Nails, Dog Training, Dogs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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