When was the last time you trimmed your dog's nails?

Trying to trim your dog’s nails can be a tricky venture, even when treats are involved. The last thing you want is to end up chasing your sweet pup around the house with a pair of nail clippers, which is stressful for you both. Nail trimming can seem like such a laborious task for anxious owners and dogs — however, just like bathing, grooming, and brushing your dog, nail trimming is important for your furry friend’s health. Leaving their nails to grow too long will cause major discomfort to your dog. Not to mention, untrimmed nails can cause damage to your hardwood floors, carpets, and furniture!

Nail health is a great indication of your pet’s overall health and hygiene status, and it is recommended that their nails are trimmed every 3-4 weeks. We know taking your dog to the vet can be a stressful, costly, and time-consuming process. Having to lure your pet into the car, then out of the car and then into the vet’s office can be a rigorous and lengthy process that we know all too well. However, fear not! You can trim your dog’s nails at home with the right tools and information.

It is important to understand why so many of our furry friends despise this process — even some of the most well-trained dogs will show signs of anxiety when their paws are touched. This reaction is instinctive as dogs naturally feel the need to protect their paws as they contain sensory nerves that enable them to assess their surrounding environment.

What happens if I don't regularly trim my dog's nails?

Nail trimming isn’t just for aesthetic purposes, as a lack of nail trimming can cause irreversible damage to your precious pup. When their nails grow too long it creates unnecessary force on the nail bed, exerting pain on their delicate toe joints. When this happens over long periods of time it can realign the joints, making their foot look splayed and flat. This can shift your dog’s weight distribution and can create unnecessary pain when walking and running, making it more painful for them and even increasing their risk of arthritis.

Longer, untrimmed nails will often snag on carpets and various fabrics, which can wear at the nail enamel or, in severe cases, pull the nail off. This exposes the inside of the nail, making the dog more susceptible to further injury and infection.

In more extreme cases when left untrimmed, claws can curve underneath the paw pads and grow into their skin, causing severe pain. To avoid this, the dog will put more weight on the back of their paws, again shifting their weight distribution and causing backaches and muscle and joint pain.

Understanding your dog's nail structure

Just like our own nails, your dog’s nails are made from a protein called keratin. Each nail contains a ‘quick’, which is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels that provide a continuous blood supply to each claw. The quick is highly sensitive and will bleed if cut. It is easier to spot the quick if your dog’s nails are clear, as the quick will appear pink, however if your dogs’ nails are darker, the quick can be harder to spot. It is important not to trim past the quick as it can cause pain and discomfort for your dog, and if you are unsure where the quick starts just focus on clipping the tip slowly and gently.

Helpful tips for nail trimming

Use the right tools

Selecting the right tool is integral to your dog’s nail care routine. The right tool will ensure the process runs smoother for you and your pup.

Nail clippers: There are several styles of nail clippers on the market, but it is important to use one that is sharp and clean for effective nail trimming. Clippers are especially great for removing large thick portions, however, be cautious as it can leave the nail quite sharp.

Guillotine trimmers: Much like its namesake device, this tool functions with a guillotine trimming style — the nail is inserted into the device’s hole and is quickly sliced off by an internal blade when squeezed together. This method works best for dogs who are more cooperative and relaxed.

Grinders: These are the easiest tools to use, particularly for smaller dogs with thinner nails. They can also be used after clipping with nail clippers to prevent nails from having sharp edges. However, it is important to consider that your dog may have to get used to the noisy sound of the grinder, as well as the vibrations it emits when in use.

Trim regularly for desensitisation 

Create a routine for your dog’s nail care. This will allow them to get used to the process so they know exactly what to expect.

One of the reasons dogs hate getting their nails trimmed is because they are simply not used to having their paws touched. To make your dog more comfortable, it may be a good idea to slowly expose them to low level stimuli and increase it from there. You can start off by gently tapping your dog’s paws every single day for at least a few minutes and reward them with a treat. Over time, you can slowly increase the stimuli by holding their paws for longer periods of time, picking it up, moving it etc. and then rewarding them with a treat. Eventually, your dog will form a positive association with the action of handling their paw and should be able to tolerate you flipping it over and moving it to get the best trim.

Providing a safe and comforting environment

Just like humans, dogs are sensitive to their surroundings, so providing a safe and familiar environment is a must. It is important that your dog is calm and comfortable, so trimming their nails in a place that your dog feels safe is helpful. Whether that be their bed, a couch or in the backyard, take every op-paw-tunity to observe where your pup appears to be the most laid back. Make sure your chosen space also has good lighting and enough space to reach their paws.

Save your precious pup from pain and discomfort by trimming regularly and if you're still not confident in doing so, then head to your local vet clinic or groomer for a trim.