10 Dog Nail Care Tips: Do's and Don'ts
Author: Amanda Brahlek
When it comes to clipping your dog’s nails, you want to encourage your dog’s obedience and make it a rewarding experience for you both. Getting started on the right paw isn’t difficult, but it does take a bit of patience, planning, and plenty of treats. If you’re looking to eliminate the nail clipping battle and provide your dog with evenly clipped nails, follow these do’s and don’ts.
When Caring for Your Dog’s Nails, Do:
1. Set Your Dog Up for Success with High-Value Treats
High-value treats work wonders for dog in-training, especially when working on behaviors your dog may be reluctant to want to do. They increase the reward, and therefore, the motivation.
When getting your dog used to having their paws handled, seeing the dog nail clippers, and ultimately having their nails trimmed, be sure to use positive reinforcement with healthy training treats. Use them throughout the process and reward your dog immediately after the paw-touch exposure, sight of the clippers, or after snipping each nail.
What makes the best choice for a high-value treat?
High-value treats should:
- Have a strong scent
- Make your dog’s mouth water and be extremely flavorful
- Be bite-sized to prevent too much delay or distraction (pea-sized to grape-sized)
Turn Your Natural Farm Treats into High-Value Training Treats
Use our Gullet Bites to motivate your dog during nail trims. Simply cut them into pea-sized bits.
2. Give Your Dog Time
Patience is vital to your dog’s success. It may take a week before your dog lets you clip their nails--that’s ok. Most dogs have a natural sensitivity to having their paws handled. It takes trust, positive reinforcement, and time for dogs to overcome this sensitivity.
Working on “shake” leading up to nail care sessions can also reinforce paw-sitive associations with paw handling.
3. Prepare Your Supplies In Advance
When the time comes to clip your dog’s nails, set up in an area where your dog feels comfortable. This may mean sitting on the floor with your dog. Lay out all your supplies within reach.
In addition to a nail file, a pair of dog nail clippers, and Dremel, you may want to keep a towel nearby and styptic powder, should you accidentally cut into the quick.
4. Use a Second Pair of Hands for Extra Help
You don’t want to intimidate your dog, but if having a friend or family member lend a hand in the process will make you more comfortable, do so. If you choose to use a helper, make sure they’re present in the sessions leading up to nail clipping. This will disarm your dog and let them know that this is just part of the process.
One person should touch your dog’s toes and the clippers while the other rewards your dog.
5. Let Your Dog Walk Away and Take Breaks
Nail care can be stressful for dogs. While leading up to nail trims and during nail trims, it’s perfectly fine to let your dog get up and walk away. This allows your dog to get out some nervous energy and not feel trapped. Remember, like our trainer says, your dog is the boss during this process. They call the shots. You can always go back to it when your dog calms down.
6. Go in A Specific Order
One mistake many dog owners make when caring for their pup’s nails is that they cut the same nail twice, cutting into the quick in doing so. By keeping the same pattern, paw after paw, you can keep better track of which nails have been trimmed and which need to be.
When Clipping Your Dog’s Nails, Don’t:
1. Rush the Process
Like our trainer suggests, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to your pup’s paw care. Rushing your dog or going too quickly through the paw handling phase can create a negative experience and association for your dog. This can be very difficult to undo and make nail trims difficult and traumatic.
How Long Will It Take to Train My Dog to Let Me Trim Their Nails?
No two dogs are identical--it’s one of the reasons we love them so much. This also means that your dog may make more time than another dog. Always go at your dog’s pace and use the best treats to encourage your dog along the way.
2. Clip the Nail Too Close to the Quick
When cutting your dog’s nails, only clip off a little at a time. If your dog has light nails, you may be able to see the pink line that arches from their toe downward--this is the quick. Steer clear of it.
If your dog has dark nails, err on the side of caution. Using a file or Dremel makes trimming small amounts at a time easier. You can also use your file to smooth the nail as you go.
Cutting the quick results in a lot of blood and is quite painful for dogs. If you accidentally cut into your dog’s quick, apply your styptic powder and apply pressure with your towel.
3. Use Poor-Quality or Dull Clippers
Dull or poor-quality dog nail clippers can shred your dog’s nails or leave them with jagged edges. This can make the nail snag on carpet or fabric. It can also leave your dog with scrapes and minor cuts from scratching.
Furthermore, you want a clean-cut when you trim your dog’s nails to avoid pinching the nail and causing your dog pain.
4. Cut Your Dog’s Nails Too Frequently
Over-trimming or cutting your dog’s nails too often can leave your dog’s nails too short or expose the quick. Only trim your dog’s nails when there is visible white beyond the quick, if your dog is slipping on slick surfaces because of their nails, or you can hear your dog’s nails clicking and clacking across the floor.
Because your dog’s claws will naturally get worn down at varying levels on walks, you will want to examine each nail to determine how much length you snip off.
5. Forget to Celebrate
Your dog deserves praise, love, and lots of treats for having their paws handled and their nails trimmed. Throughout the process keep the praise going. Give your dog a reason to celebrate after all paws are done with one of our all-natural, long-lasting dog chews.
Give Your Dog a Hand with Proper Nail Care
Caring for your dog from toes to tail is one of the easiest ways to show just how much you care. Remember that patience and practice make perfect, and keeping your dog’s nails well cared for allows them to enjoy life to its fullest.
Providing your dog with beneficial treats that taste great is another way to express just how amazing you think your dog is. Learn more about how much your dog’s health depends on their diet.