Trimming Your Dog’s Toenails

Many people keep a dog as a pet. Allowing a dog’s toenails to grow without trimming can be damaging to the pet, as well as furniture and floors, if the animal spends time indoors. Part of good grooming for a pet dog, whether indoors or out, is trimming the toenails; a chore that many pet owners defer to their veterinary doctor.

If a dog spends much time outside, nature will help to maintain the toenails in an acceptably short state. Walking, running, scratching, and digging contribute to wearing the dog’s toenails down naturally. Sometimes, if a dog is inactive, whether outside or indoors, either due to illness, advanced age or just laziness, your pet will need to have its toenails trimmed by the owner or a veterinarian.

In general, there is no reason to avoid trimming your pet’s nails. This can be a time of valuable training for your pet and an opportunity for you to return your pet’s love and affection. Some animals can be particularly difficult because of their large size or surly temperament, but usually, even these can be trimmed without undue distress on the part of the animal or the owner if time is taken to train your pet accordingly.

It is best to start slowly, training your pet to readily accept the toenail clippers. You do this by using an element of play as you introduce the clippers. Hold your pet, stroking and playing with him or her in the usual manner, talking to the dog softly , using the same tone you would as you normally play with her. Now begin to play with your pet using the dog’s favorite play toy, a ball, a sock, a stuffed toy or animal, whatever it normally loves to play with.

As you play quietly with your pet, introduce the toenail clippers in a very casual manner allowing the dog to sniff them and look them over. Touch your dog with them, gently and slowly so as not to alarm or startle your pet. Stroke his or her forepaw up and down as the dog accepts the clippers. It is best to introduce the toenail clippers over a period of time, allowing the dog to associate them with you and play. Use pet treats liberally during this period as a form of reinforcement so your pet associates food, toys, and toenail clippers with you and play time as well. Each time your dog reacts to the introduction of the clippers positively, give him or her a treat with lots of verbal praise and physical contact, stroking and petting.

Now begin to handle your pet’s forepaws and hind feet, rubbing them and massaging them gently. Use the toenail clippers during this process but only if the animal has shown no fear of them during earlier training sessions. Don’t force their introduction or use at any time. If your pet shows any reluctance toward the clippers, go back to earlier lessons and repeat them until your pet once again shows complete acceptance.

If your pet has become accustomed to the toenail clippers and is relaxed and comfortable with them you may begin to attempt trimming the toenails. Here, your attitude is of utmost importance. If you are nervous or frightened, your pet will sense this and will mirror your feelings. If you are relaxed and calm, speaking to your pet in soft, soothing tones your dog will almost certainly pick up on that as well.

You should purchase a very good quality pair of toenail clippers designed specifically for trimming dog’s toenails. Cheaply made toenail clippers will only make the job more difficult and might injure your pet. If your pet has white or very pale toenails, trimming the nail will be easy for you can see the quick as a darker area a little further up the toenail towards the toe. Stay away from this darker area with your clippers as cutting into it will cause the toenail to bleed. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, don’t panic. And don’t use medical aids such as steptic pencils or attempt to cover it with a band aid. It will bleed for a while but it will stop eventually. If you are concerned about it, apply direct pressure to the end of the toenail until the bleeding stops.

If your pet has darker colored toenails, seeing the quick will be difficult or impossible. So trim a little off the end of the toenail and look at the trimmed end. If it is still white you may be able to trim another small amount. Be sure to look at the end of the toenail after each clipping. If you still see white, you are doing well. If you see the beginnings of a darker area, stop for you are approaching the quick of the toenail. Each time your pet accepts the trimming of a toenail calmly and quietly, praise the dog and give him a treat with lots of petting and affectionate strokes. It is best to trim a little bit more frequently than to attempt to trim a large amount from your dog’s feet at once. It may ruin all the progress you have made in training your dog to accept toenail trimming.
Now that you are done, praise your pet, stroking him or her and take time to reward them with a playful romp.

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