5. Nail Clipping
Nail clipping can be another difficult task to achieve while dealing with dogs. It could be the fear of ‘losing’ a part of them that causes them to be worried about giving in to a nail clipping session. While some dogs simply squirm and yelp in anticipation of pain, some can become extremely violent and cry as if they are being assaulted.
Few dogs enjoy nail clipping but eventually with training, most of them will learn to allow their nails to be cut without a major struggle. In this respect it is best to start the exercise as early as possible; if they go through nail clipping sessions as puppies, chances are that they will get used to it by the time they are adults and it will be much easier to control them then.
You can get your vet to trim his nails or you else you can opt to do it yourself. Some of us might even consider the option of using tranquilizers to get the job done in peace but this must be a carefully thought out option. Since individual dogs vary a great deal in terms of their reactions to tranquilizers, the direct supervision of a veterinarian is imperative and must not tried at home in a casual manner.
Your dogs’ nails can grow quite long, especially if your dog is kept indoors most of the time. If he is kept outside then his claws get more worn out through digging and running and will not grow to an unmanageable length quickly.
The Nail Clipping Process
Ensure you are equipped with a sharp nail clipper and a helper whose pockets have been filled with extra-special treats and tidbits such as bits of hot dog or shredded cheese that have been proven to work very well! While most people use the single-bladed ‘guillotine’ type of nail clipper, a more functional variety is the kind that looks like a little pliers and has two blades at the top and bottom.
These cut faster with less effort. It is a good idea to replace your clippers every year to make sure they are always sharp. The sharper they are, the less they pinch the nail during the clipping process. The fact that they are inexpensive is another reason why this is easy to do.
Dogs feel most confident and in control when they are placed on the ground; this is quite understandable because that is their primary domain. It is best to place a reluctant or an uncooperative dog up on a grooming table or other raised surface with a helper supervising the dog’s head.
Your assistant need not necessarily hold his head still since this often causes dogs to struggle more; instead just keep him occupied by tempting him with treats thereby preventing him from turning around or jumping off the table and running away.
It is best to start with the rear feet since dogs seem to be easier to handle while clipping the nails on these, probably because they can’t see what we are doing!
Here’s a step by step guide as to how to go about the process:
- Stand at the dog’s side, next to his rump, with your back to his head.
- Grasp the dog’s ankle just above the paw from the front with your left hand (in case you are right-handed)
- Lift the foot and turn the paw backward so that the pads are facing up and the bend of the dog’s ankle is cradled in your palm.
Note: Your grip should be firm: the dog should not be able to pull his foot out of your hand.
‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’
In most cases, dogs fear nail clipping because someone has clipped their nails too short in the past and hurt them. Make sure that you only cut the ‘dead’ section of the nail so as to not hurt the dog.
Unlike our toenails, dogs’ toenails have a nerve and a blood vein inside them and when cut too short, it causes pain and bleeding. The entire nail is not sensitive, though and there is distinct demarcation between the ‘live’ part of the nail and the ‘dead’ section. The section with the nerve and vein is pink while the dead part is white.
Another sure shot way of identifying the safe length to cut is to look along the bottom side of the nail, for a groove in the nail. It begins at the tip of the toenail, where its outline is very sharp, deep and distinct and then continues toward the toe, becoming wider and shallower until its outline blends in with the rest of the nail and seems to disappear.
The part of the toenail with a deep, distinct groove is the dead area with no nerve or blood supply in that section and you may safely cut it off without harming the dog.
Nail Trimming Tips
Here are a few tips that you can use to help with the nail trimming process.
- Buy a sturdy pair of sharp clippers. Small flimsy ones may break after a few nail clipping sessions.
- Invest in a muzzle, especially for the first few times, as you both get used to the nail clipping process.
- Start trimming your dog’s nails when he is a youngster to avoid resistance later in life.
- The first few times trim a very small amount of nail off so that he gets used to the process on a more regular basis.
- Trim his nails every six to ten weeks on a minimum or more frequently for an ‘indoors dog’.
- Be careful not to cut into the live part of the nail.
- Make sure that you trim the pointed end of the dewclaw (the dog’s thumb).
- If in doubt, you can always consult with your vet or groomer for help with clipping your dog’s nails.