How to Trim a Dog's Nails
One of the most frequently asked question of any pet professional is how do I trim my dog's nails. It can seem scary as you can hurt your dog and even cause bleeding if you don't cut the nails correctly, and many dogs act as if the mere act of touching their foot is a cataclysmic event. As dog walkers an pet sitters neatly trimmed nails are important in the pets we take care of as too long of nails can make walking uncomfortable and too long of nails in the home can get snagged in blankets or sweaters. So without further ado a very short guide on how to cut your dog's nails and what to do if they won't let you.
To the left are Riley's nails. They were just trimmed and filed. The quick is very apparent. The most important thing is to not cut the quick. If your dog has black nails then take small cuts until the center of the nail is mostly black and then stop. That means you are close to the quick and another cut will cause bleeding.
Cutting the nails is really the easy part if your dog is well behaved and used to the procedure. However if they are not used to it or you have tried before and cut the quick or hurt them in another way they may not be so ready to let you have another go, and there is always the chance with dogs that they aren't desensitized to the nail clippers and will run from anything unfamiliar.
Animal husbandry training does not differ in anyway from other forms of behavior modification. Take each step at a time and move at the dog's pace. This can be used for give ear or eye drops, shots, fluids, or any other type of animal husbandry procedure as well as nail trimming. If your dog is afraid of the nail trimmer or has a negative association with them then you need to turn it into a positive. That means treats and space from the object that is causing the animal stress. You need to change their mind about that object. If the nail clippers only come out when it is time for the nails to be trimmed then the dog is going to be afraid. However if they are placed out on the counter and no nails are trimmed and when the dog acts as if nothing is happening and is rewarded with treats soon you'll be able to handle the clippers with no reaction. Then you can let your dog sniff them, place them on his or her paw without clipping a nail, and finally clip the nails with your dog in complete comfort and without fear of the nail clippers. Remember to reward the dog every step of the way whenever they show no reaction to the presence of the nail clippers.
And once your dog is no longer afraid of the nail clippers then the instructions are as simple as don't cut the quick.