Trimming your dog’s nails is not only a cosmetic necessity, it is an essential part of your dog’s health, as well. Just like in humans, dog’s nails continuously grow. Wild dogs naturally wear down their nails due to the amount of exercise (walking, running) they do on uneven and rough terrain. Our domestic dogs don’t normally get enough exercise on harsh surfaces to file their nails down. (I personally like to retrieve with my dogs on pavement to keep their nails filed down; even with this method, dew claws still require clipping.) Long nails are more likely to split, which can lead to all sorts of issues, including nail infections. Furthermore, long nails can compromise the health of the paw and leg. Left untrimmed or not trimming often enough, nails start touching the ground as the dog walks.As a result, the paw can become splayed, leading to deformed feet and tendons. Keeping the dew claws trimmed is especially important as they are unlikely to naturally wear down on their own, even if your dog does a lot of walking or running. If dew claws get too long, they are more likely than the toes nails to get caught on things which can cause breakage or even rip the nail out. Many times this damage leads to a vet visit to have the nail surgically removed.
One way to know if your dog’s nails are too long is to listen to his footsteps when he walks on tile or wood floors. Can you hear the click-click? Then, chances are, his nails need trimming. Make sure to check on that dew claw regularly, also. The best way to keep the nails in check is to tip them weekly – that is to clip the bitter end. By doing it weekly, you will keep the quick short. The “quick” is the “vein” that supplies blood to the nail. Keeping it short will cause the quick to recede, thereby minimizing the risk of cutting it. This is important as you don’t want blood splattering all over the living room causing a crime scene reminiscent of “Carrie” every time you trim his nails. It is especially important if your dog has black nails like mine does – you’ll have to be more careful and stick to a once-a-week nail tipping routine. If your dog has white nails, thank your lucky stars. This means that you can see the quick and ensure that you don’t accidentally cut it. I know what you’re thinking, trimming nails is a stressful endeavor for both you and your canine companion. Make it less so by desensitizing your dog to the feel of the clipper as soon as he moves in.
Desensitize your dog to his feet being touched by touching them for a minute or two every day. Give him a treat during and after touching them. Once he is comfortable with you touching them, introduce the nail clipper. Gently touch the clipper to his nails once a day as you give him treats. He’ll quickly see that there’s nothing to panic over, and should soon be ready for a trim when needed. When the time comes to trim, further desensitize him by trimming one nail per session and giving him treats, until he shows he is ready to move on to two nails, then three, then—you get the picture. Do not, I repeat, do not grab and squeeze his paw or put him in a choke hold to trim his nails. Allow your dog to pull his paw away if he’s stressed and make sure to give him treats if he doesn’t pull it away. If at any point, you or your dog are getting frustrated, end the session and try again tomorrow. Don’t make a big deal of it. Let’s face it, he will probably never enjoy his weekly manicure appointments, but he will learn to cooperate and look forward to the reward at the end of the session.
There is no ideal length of nail that fits every breed. The type of foot your dog has is a contributing factor to the desirable length of the nail. The different types of dog feet are webbed feet (no, he will not think he’s a duck), hare feet (again no identity crisis), and cat feet (do I need to repeat it?).The feet vary according to what the breed was originally bred for, so trim accordingly.Regarding what tool you should use, I am not a fan of dremels. It takes longer to file down a nail than it does to give a quick clip with a dog clipper. Dremels make noise, while clippers do not. That said, you should use whatever method you and your dog are comfortable with.If you are inexperienced in nail trimming, enlist the help of a vet, a groomer or a more experienced friend to show you how to trim without causing discomfort or extra stress to your dog.