Most dogs naturally wear their nails down by walking, running, and playing. If you regularly walk your dog on hard surfaces like cement or asphalt, those walks will do a lot for keeping his nails in check. However, inactive dogs often don’t wear their nails out as quickly, nor do inside dogs or elderly dogs with less incentive to run around the house.
Maintaining your dog’s nails is an important part of keeping him healthy and is a concept with which you should become familiar no matter what type of dog or activity schedule you have.
How Long Should My Dog’s Nails Be?
If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the ground when he walks, his nails are probably too long. This depends on the way in which your dog walks — dogs with bouncy gaits sometimes click the floor regardless of their nail length. But generally, nails on the floor are a good indicator that a trim is in order. If your dog’s nails touch the ground while he’s standing still it’s definitely time to trim them back.
Teaching Your Dog to Handle Trimming
Trimming dog nails is different from trimming human nails. First, many dogs do not like having their feet handled. Second, dog nails contain a sensitive quick that will bleed and cause pain if nicked. Thus, you have to learn to carefully trim your dog’s nails while still making the experience positive. One of the easiest ways to do this is to clip one nail and then give your dog a small treat. Clip another nail and provide another treat. If your dog learns that getting his nails clipped results in tasty treats, he’ll be much more willing to participate.
It’s also important to work with dogs and puppies on proper handling. You should be touching your dog’s feet, ears, mouth, legs, tail, and every other part of his body so he’s not afraid to be handled. This is for more than nail clipping; it also makes vet visits and other important examinations much easier.
How to Cut Dog Nails
Begin by purchasing a nail clipper made for dog nails. Human nail clippers are not the right shape or size for the task. Guillotine clippers are by far the easiest solution, but plier clippers work as well. It’s all about what feels best for you and your dog’s nail size. Next, get your dog calm. Give him some time to run around and play so that he’s feeling de-stressed, and provide him with some relaxing physical attention to put him in the right mindset. Choose a nail to trim. Take your dog’s foot with your hand and hold it firmly in place. Line up the clippers with the nail and squeeze them quickly to clip off the excess material. Be careful not to clip the quick! With clear nails the quick is clearly visible under the exterior nail material, but with dark nails you’ll need to trim just a little bit at a time, then stop trimming when you see a small grey or pink oval appearing in the nail.
The best way to make your dog comfortable with nail trimming is to take it slow and steady, one step at a time, and to perform the process often. The more frequently you clip your dog’s nails, the more he’ll consider it part of his normal life. Plus, well-maintained nails help prevent infections, ingrown nails, and other health complications. Keep your dog healthy from his head to his toes!