How to Clip your Dog's Nails Safely
Nail Trims: Does your Dog Hate Them?
If nail trims are much dreaded from your canine companion's standpoint, you need to find a way to trim those nails and make the process safe. This is easier said than done. There are many dogs who fear nail trims and their lack of collaboration may turn a pedicure into a nightmare. Not only does a dog fearful of nail trims make the chore extremely difficult, but it may put your dog's safety at sake. If your dog pulls his paw away right when you are trimming, there are risks you may not see where you are cutting. Also, if your dog hates nail trims, you may feel compelled to rush up and risk cutting through the quick. Worst of all, if your dog is very fearful, you may exacerbate the fear if you do not work on the problem and this may ultimately trigger defensive aggression which may cause your dog to bite or escape at the sight of the nail clipper (fight or flight).
Why do dogs hate nail trims? There may be several reasons. Some dogs are very sensitive to having their paws touched and trimming requires much more than touching the paws. Dogs can be very fearful of novel experiences and if they never had their paws touched or nails trimmed they may react in a fearful manner. Restraining a dog for a nail trim may also be intimidating from a dog's standpoint. If you ever cut through the quick (the tender area above the dog's nail) this may have caused bleeding and pain which may have cause your dog to start disliking nail trims.
Interestingly, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell on her blog ''The Other End of the Leash" claims that many of her clients' dogs appeared to be significantly more accepting of nail trims after becoming deaf. What does this mean? According to Dr. McConnell, it appears that what many dogs particularly dislike is the clipping noise. So how to make nail trims more pleasurable? Following are some tips.
Dog Nail Clipping Tools
There are many different tools to use when it comes to trimming your dog's nails. The choice you make can really make a difference. Following are some models of nail clippers on the market and some pros and cons of each.
This type of nail clipper is quite common. It is quite easy to use and dog owners may like them for the fact they can secure the nail within the clippers' hole making them easy to trim. While this type of trimmer may work well with small to medium sized dogs, it is not the best solution for dogs with thick nails. This may cause the handles to bend together without cutting through the nail. Dogs who dislike nail trims may not be very fond of this type of clipper since it may take time to cut through thick nails. Lower quality trimmers may also not trim with a clear cut but may rather splinter the nails leaving them with a jagged surface. Cheap trimmers may break apart. However, on the pro side these are often quite affordable.
Miller's Forge Variety
These type of trimmers manufactured by Millers Forge are ideal for small to medium sized dogs. They work in a similar fashion as pliers but unlike pliers they have semi-circular indentations. When the blades are opened, the nail can rest on the circular opening and the nail can be trimmed once the handles are closed. Unlike the guillotine clippers, these are made of sturdy materials. Because the blades are sharp, they are more likely to leave a clean cut. These clippers are often preferred by groomers and veterinarians. However, they are a bit noisy and this may bother sensitive dogs.
This type of nail clipper may not be too common, but it has handles which makes them look like scissors and they have notched ends so to make the nail clipping easier. The way this type of clipper is built, makes it suitable to small dogs with transparent nails with the quick visible. They are not ideal for dogs with thick nails. The scissor grip makes these clippers easy to handle and comfortable to use.
These are one of the newest inventions for trimming dog nails. They may be a good solution for dogs who dislike the "clipping noise" of nail trimmers and the feel of the toenails being clipped. However, it takes some time for dogs to get used to the noise and vibration produced. These products produce very smooth nails because layers are removed as they are filed.
How to Clip a Dog's Nails Safely
The following tips will help your dog learn how to accept nail trims. This takes both effort from your side and your dogs'.
- Choose the most appropriate nail clipper for your dog based on how thick your dog's nails are and your dog's personality. Fractious dogs may do better with a certain type of nail clipper than another.
- Learn how to recognize the quick. If your dog has light-colored nails, work in a well-lit area and look for the pinkish area inside the nail. Avoid getting too close to the quick. If your dog has dark nails, you will have to pay careful attention to avoid cutting the nails too short. If you trim the nails on an ongoing basis, the quick will eventually recede.
- Keep on hand some styptic powder should you mistakenly cut through the quick. Alternatively, you can pack the nail with some flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. For more on treating quicks read:vet approved methods for dealing with dog broken nails.
- Be careful with nails that haven't been trimmed for a very long time. For more on this read about how to make the quick recede.
- Desensitize your dog. Desensitization means gradually getting your dog accustomed to something it fears or dislikes. This would mean getting the dog gradually used to getting his paws touched. You would start from barely touching the paws up to lifting them and handling them as in a nail trim in several small steps. Avoid going too fast and work under the threshold or you may flood the dog causing sensitization (an increase in fear), the opposite of what you want to accomplish..
- Counter-condition your dog. Counter-conditioning means changing a dog's emotional response. Your dog will go from fearing nail trims to tolerating them or even enjoying them because they are paired with positive events. When added to desensitization, counter-conditioning brings powerful results. In this case, you would barely touch a dog's paw and then give a high value treat, put more pressure on the paw, then treat, lift the paw and treat, handle the paw and then treat, clip one nail and treat and so far.
- "Clipper train" your dog to love nail trims. If you have ever clicker-trained your dog, you can also "clipper-train him". Read how to train this following the steps in the article below:
- Some owners find that walking their dog on hard surfaces on a frequent basis reduces the need for trimming down the nails. This may offer a win-win situation: you get more exercise, your dog gets more exercise and the nails are better trimmed over time. Use caution: do not over exercise a puppy during its growing phase. Consult with your vet.
- If you are still having problems, have a groomer of veterinarian trim the nails for you. Most vets will happily do so for more or less than $20.
Disclaimer: if your dog is aggressive, use extreme caution and consult with a professional. A muzzle can help protect yourself or the person handling your dog's paws for the trimming.
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