Trimming your dog’s toenails is an important part of their regular maintenance. Some dogs require toenail trimming only occasionally and naturally wear down their nails during play and exercise, while others require nail trimming every few weeks. It is easiest to familiarize your dog with nail trimming if you start as young as possible. Puppies should begin having their nails trimmed as soon as they are long enough (for most puppies this is around 6-8 weeks of age).
- In order to trim your dog’s toenails at home you will need a high quality pair of nail clippers. These come in many different shapes and sizes, and they all work equally well, though we prefer the standard variety as opposed to the “guillotine” variety. Regardless of the type of nail clipper you choose it is important that they are clean and sharp. You will also need a form of styptic powder or gel (such as “Kwik-stop”) and lots of tasty treats.
- When you are first learning how to trim toenails it is important to be able to see the underside of the nail. This means that your dog should either stand on all fours and you can lift one foot at a time in order to see their nails, or you can get them to lay down on their side.
- Your goal in trimming your dog’s nails is to remove the excess nail growth at the tip. The blood supply and nerve endings in the toenails are found in the quick. If you cut the toenail too short you will cut the quick which will bleed and be painful for your dog.
- Clear or white toenails are much easier to clip than black toenails as you are actually able to see the quick, which looks like a pink/red area inside the nail. In some dogs you are able to see where the quick ends by looking at the underside of the nail. The area that contains the quick will be solid while the tips are hollow or empty looking. If your dog has nails that are black and do not appear hollow when you look at them from the bottom the best thing to do is start slowly and trim a small amount off of the end.
- If you happen to cut the nail too short and it begins to bleed, use a paper towel to clean up the excess blood and apply the styptic powder or gel to the bleeding area. Try to apply a generous amount, apply pressure and keep your dog still for several minutes. This can sometimes be a scary experience since it can seem like a lot of blood is coming from the quick. It is important to remain calm and remember that your dog will not lose a significant amount of blood from their toenail. With pressure, styptic powder and time the bleeding will stop.
- Training your dog to accept nail trimming is best done in short training sessions that are paired with lots of tasty treats, praise, and positive reinforcement. Having an extra set of hands around to gently but firmly hold your dog and provide treats is often helpful. Patience is key as some dogs can require months and years of training before they accept having their nails trimmed- and still others will never accept nail trimming and may require sedation at a veterinary clinic to accomplish the task.
- Remember that the more often you trim, the less the quick will be allowed to grow out and the shorter you can keep your dog’s nails. Although nail trimming may seem like a purely cosmetic grooming task, keeping your dog’s nails short can help to give them increased traction as they age, and help to prevent their nails from getting caught and breaking or splitting.