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Posted on 07-26-2017

How to Trim your Dog's Nails

By Ashley - Assistant, Bellalago Veterinary Hospital

Ever tried attempting to trim your dog or cat’s nails at home? I’m sure a majority of you have tried clipping your pet’s nails but they might have squirmed too much or you might have cut one too short causing them to bleed. Don’t worry, we have all been there before! As a matter of fact, I recently have been able to trim my own dog’s nails at home. I remember taking him to our clinic a few times to clip his nails and he would absolutely hate his paws being touched. One day I finally decided to try working with him on making this less of a terrifying experience. Here are some tips that I used in working with my Yorkie for his mani-pedis and hopefully they may help with your fur baby as well!

Okay, so before we start talking about the trimming portion of the training we shall begin with the counterconditioning portion! Getting your pet more comfortable with nail trims might not happen overnight so please be patient. First, you want to begin with treats! Begin by giving small bite sized portions of the treats before any handling is involved. Do this for a minute or so then move on to touching your pet’s paws at the same time a treat is given. This should also be repeated for a bit of time before moving on to touching your pet’s paws with the nail clippers while a treat is being given at the exact same time. The idea of this is to have them focused on the treat rather than the handling of their feet. Once you feel that your pet is doing well you can then take the nail clippers and just gently place it over the nails while they are eating a treat. Again, this might have to be repeated for quite some time before trimming. If your pet seems to be taking the training and handling well you can then attempt to trim the nails but make sure to trim only at the same time a treat is being given until they finish it!

If your dog has clear nails it is much easier to see their quicks. If your dog has dark nails, don’t worry, there is still a way you can trim them without being as nervous. The quick contains a nerve and a blood vessel which is why our pets react and bleed when we cut too short. With clear nails you do not want to trim right at the quick, also known as the pink area of the nail. You want to start by trimming less than that so you have less of a chance to cut too short, which goes the same way for dark nails. If you do so happen to cut too short you can apply a small amount of flour or corn starch to the bleeding nail and apply pressure with a tissue for a minute or so. It can be very hard to get a dog or cat to sit still for a nail trim again after their quicks are cut, so take your time!  That is why, with my dog, I am never looking for the prettiest or shortest trim but by getting him to remain used to the clippers as I just cut small amounts each time. He actually has dark nails and the way I notice if I am cutting too close to his quicks is by, what I call, a bullseye as shown in the picture. If you do happen to see something like this do not cut any further. Some dogs’ bullseye may seem a bit harder to notice than others so please be careful. 

I understand that all pets are different and some might take a bit longer than others to become more comfortable with nail trims. I heavily recommend owners who have puppies and kitten to start this training process at an early age so they do not become as frightened as they get older. Even clients with older dogs or cats can try this idea! My dog is 12 years old and, like I had mentioned earlier, has just recently become more comfortable with nail trims. I even show you in a little home video I made with him! In the video, you’ll notice my dog gets rewarded at the end rather than constantly getting treats during his nail trim. As you work with your pets more and more they should not need as many treats but will expect one after the nail trim is done since they have now related nail trims with cookies! 

Here are some links with information on nail trims for your pet by Sophia Yin!:

https://drsophiayin.com/videos/entry/training_a_dog_to_enjoy_toenail_trims/

http://www.polandvet.com/sites/site-1402/documents/Nail%20Trims-%20dogs.pdf

http://redmondkirklandveterinary.com/clients/15087/documents/Training_Cats_and_Kittens_to_Love_Having_Their_Toenails.pdf

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