Trimming a dog’s toenails can be next to impossible without knowing what you’re getting into. With proper restraint and trimming techniques it can be an easy task that you may be able to do at home.
Some dogs will simply be too difficult to do at home and will require the assistance of the staff at the veterinary clinic. Reasons include the dog’s size, individual personality and many times the owners simply don’t want to be the ones to perform the task.
However, many dogs can very easily be done at home with a few guidelines.
1. Laid back, docile dogs may have their nails trimmed by just one person. Many times an owner can cuddle up with their dog or sit next to her while she rests in her bed. While talking to and petting the dog, grasp one foot in your left hand with your nail trimmers in the right hand (if you are right handed). With very tiny dogs, large human nail trimmers will work. With all others, be sure to have a set of dog nail trimmers on hand.
2. Clip each nail to an appropriate length. Some dogs have white toenails. In these cases, it’s easy to see the quick, or vein, that carries the blood supply. Do not cut this pink part of the nail. If it is cut, you will get some bleeding. However, applying Kwik-Stop or other styptic powder, or even flour, to the cut end of the nail will slow down and stop the bleeding. Black nails are more difficult. Many times you can visualize the quick by looking at the underside of the nail. This isn’t always the case however so it can end up being a guessing game. Typically, the hooked end of the nail can be cut off without bleeding. If cutting is done slowly, the dog will usually alert you if you are getting too close to the quick. Squeeze the nail trimmers slowly and if the dog flinches, you might be too far up the nail. Similar situation occurs when you try to grind your dog’s nails. You must be very careful to not grind too deep.
3. Keep the dog busy and relaxed when tackling the duty while she’s lying down and you are on your own. If you have to back off for a while and try again later, then so be it. Take your time.
Sometimes, it takes more than one person to restrain a dog enough to clip the toenails.
1. The restrainer will need to give the dog a big hug around her neck, stabilizing her head preventing her from jerking her head around and potentially biting. The other arm is wrapped around her body to keep her still. Try to keep one hand behind the leg that is being worked with to keep the dog from jerking her foot back. Both the standing and sitting positions work fine with small dogs on a table top and large dogs on the ground.
2. If there are only two people, a restrainer and a nail cutter, and the dog wants to back up to get away, back the dog’s butt into a corner and make her sit down. The restrainer can then straddle the dog, stabilizing her head, keeping her in position. If another person is available, they can push on the rear end to keep her from backing up rather than backing her into a corner. Sometimes just knowing someone is behind her will keep her from attempting to escape.
3. Trim the nails as described above. Always remember that patience is the key to success. Make it seem fun and keep the dog distracted. Know that every dog can bite even if she never has before. Sometimes a light fitting muzzle is enough to distract her if you’re feeling uneasy.
Lots of praise and treats afterwards are a definite must when the duty is done. The dog needs to think that she’s just done something really awesome by letting you play with her feet.
If the task seems too daunting and too much stress is involved, don’t push it. Simply call the veterinarian’s office and they can get it done for you for a minimal fee. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t get it done yourself. As long as it gets done, that is the important thing.