Dog Breed Info

Nail Trimming

Nail trimming is an essential part of almost every dog's grooming routine. When not trimmed, the nails continue to grow. Eventually, excessively long nails can result in discomfort, pain and even injury to the dog. Overgrown nails affect the dog's ability to move properly. Gait, posture and balance are affected, eventually causing the feet to splay. If neglected for a long enough time, the nails can splinter, break or cause an infection and/or lameness.
How often the nails are trimmed depends upon the physical activity and the environment of the dog. Dogs that live outside file their nails naturally by digging and scratching and do not need nail trimming as often. Dogs in this type environment require trimming about every 6 weeks. A working dog that guards sheep all day may never require a nail trimming simply because the dog is able to maintain the length of his/her nails by constantly moving on rough terrain while other working dogs may require a nail trimming at least every 6 weeks. A pet that lives primarily indoors can require nail trimming as frequently as every 2 weeks because they spend most of their time walking on carpet and sleeping on the sofa or the bed.

Nail Trimming Schedule For Man's Best Friend
  • The House Dweller - 2-6 weeks
  • The Yard Lounger - 6 weeks
  • The Working Pet - 6 weeks

Why
Nails should be trimmed to avoid discomfort, pain and injury to the pet. Routine nail trimming also helps overcome the dog's resistance to having his/her nails trimmed.


When
How often the nails are trimmed depends upon the physical activity and the environment of the dog. Dogs that live outside file their nails naturally by digging and scratching and do not need nail trimming as often. Dogs in this type environment may only require trimming the tips. A pet that lives primarily indoors can require nail trimming every 2 to 6 weeks.


Where
The dog should be placed on the grooming table with a safety loop on and secured properly to trim the nails.


How
The nails are trimmed utilizing a nail trimmer or nail dremmel. The type of tool used by the professional to trim the nails depends on the size and temperament of the pet.


Be Prepared for the Pet's Reaction
The professional must be prepared to react to the pet's reaction during this procedure. More dogs react to the nail trimming procedure than they do any other grooming procedure. Always begin at the rear to assess the reaction of the pet. The pet should be positioned correctly on the grooming table with a safety loop on. Make sure to stay within your safety zone. This is especially important if the pet reacts in a negative manner. Lift the rear leg, raising the foot slightly off the table. Do not lift too high to throw the dog off balance. Give the dog time to adjust to standing on three feet before you start the procedure. If the pet begins to struggle, check your technique. Check the trimmer blade. Is it dull? Are you twisting the nail? Are you splintering the nail? Are you applying too much pressure on the foot? Are you raising the foot or leg too high? If the pet continues to struggle, ask for a salon buddy to use a diversion technique such as massaging the ears. Do not continue to allow the dog to struggle and do not get into a tug a war, attempting to hold on to a foot. Nobody wins in this situation.


Size of Dog Determines the Type of Trimmer
The size of the dog will determine the type of nail trimmer to use when trimming the nails. Plier-type trimmers can be used on all size dogs due to the design. Guillotine-type can be used on all size dogs except for the extra large dogs. The scissor-type, due to the design, is limited to small dogs only.


Nail Trimmer Versus Nail Grinder (Dremmel)
Deciding which tool to use for the job of trimming the nails normally depends upon the temperament of the dog during the nail trimming procedure. Many dogs react to the nail trimmer simply because the tool has not been maintained. It is very difficult to change man's best friend's opinion on nail trimming after the dog has had a bad experience with the nail trimmer such as splintering or twisting the nail due to nail trimmers being out of alignment or blades that are not sharp. In fact, this category of pets recognize the nail trimmer in the hand and react before the procedure begins. The alternative to using the nail trimmer is the nail grinder (dremmel). Many pets that react in a very negative manner toward the nail trimmer are fine utilizing the nail grinder (dremmel). If not used properly, over time, we will see the same reaction toward this tool. Great care must be taken when using the grinder (dremmel).


Plier Type Nail Trimmer
Hold the plier-type trimmer in a horizontal position using your entire hand to grasp the handles for more control. Apply firm, smooth pressure by closing your hand, applying pressure equally with your thumb and four fingers. Trim the nail with steady and accurate precision to prevent bending or splintering the nail.


Guillotine-Type Nail Trimmer
Hold the guillotine type nail trimmer in the palm of your hand with the blade facing away from you. The guide arm rests against your thumb while the blade arm is positioned and held with all four fingers. Hold the nail trimmer in a vertical position and use the guide arm to set the blade to the nail at the desired trimming spot. Apply firm, smooth pressure to the blade arm with your four fingers by closing your hand, keeping your thumb in a stationary position.


Scissor-Type Trimmer
Hold the scissor-type nail trimmer in a horizontal position using your entire hand to grasp the tool for more control. Place your thumb and ring finger in the openings. Apply firm, smooth pressure, moving only your thumb to close the trimmer.


Nail Grinder (Dremmel)
The size and weight of the nail grinder regulates how you should hold the tool. Larger grinders are held using the whole hand. Complete control of this tool is a must to prevent serious injury to the pet. The grinder is turned on and then placed on the tip of the nail and held until the nail is filed to the desired length.


Nail Files
The block type design is held using as much of your hand as needed to control and balance the tool and to prevent squeezing the tool, placing your hand in an uncomfortable position. The metal rectangle file is held by your thumb and fingers on one end of the file. The other end of the file is used on the nail.


When is the Best Time To Trim the Dogs Nails?
There are various opinions as to when to cut the nails. Typically, the nails are trimmed during the prep phase, before the bath, because if the nail is quicked it is easier to clean the nail, foot and hair around the foot during the bath. This is not, however, etched in stone. Nail trimming can be very traumatic for certain dogs for a variety of reasons. The following must be considered when determining when to trim the nails for certain dogs and the professional must use his or her best judgement:
  • If a dog does not like his/her nails trimmed and you trim the nails first, the dog is upset during the entire grooming and styling session.
  • If you wait until the pet is finished to cut the nails, the dog will quickly understand the new routine, and will anticipate the nail trimming and will react each time you pick up a foot.
  • If the nails are trimmed before the bath and one is quicked, the water during the bath can start the nail bleeding again.
  • If you wait until the pet is completely finished to trim the nails and quick one, you will have to clean the foot and nail with a waterless shampoo or peroxide.
  • If you wait until after the bath, the nails are softer on larger breeds, making it easier to cut the nail.

How Short Should the Nails Be Trimmed?
The nails should be short enough so that they do not touch the grooming table or the floor when the dog is standing. Nails that are trimmed short on a regular schedule maintain a short quick. Nails that are not trimmed on a regular schedule have longer quicks, which make it impossible to trim the nails short without quicking them. The best solution to this problem is to schedule the dog every 2 -3 weeks for a nail trimming. Trim the nails as close as possible without quicking during these sessions. Frequent nail trimmings will result in shorter quicks.


Locating the Quick
It is extremely important to locate the quick prior to trimming a nail. The quick is the fleshy center of the nail that contains the blood supply and nerves. If the quick is cut during the nail trimming procedure, it will begin to bleed. While it does not cause any permanent injury to the pet, the foot does become very sensitive. To locate the quick, look at the side of the nail. The quick is at the base of the nail so you do not want to cut this portion. On a clear nail you can see the quick. It is usually gray or pink in color. The tip of the nail forms a hook that is hollow. This is the portion that is trimmed. It is more difficult to find the quick on a dark nail. If you trim the hollow tip you will see a chalky center. Take another cut and check for the moist center. This is where you stop. If you take it closer, the nail will bleed.


Trimming the Nail Too Closely
If you accidentally cut the quick, immediately apply a small amount of coagulant to the tip of the nail. Hold for 20 seconds. Check for bleeding. If the nail is still bleeding, apply a little more coagulant and hold for another 20 seconds. Keep the pet as calm as possible because the more the pet struggles, the more the nail will bleed. Use soothing sounds or tones with an ear massage, but do not over react. You do not want to alarm the pet by your own reactions.



Pet's Position: Standing
Professional's Position:
Front/Side/Rear
Trimming Nails with the Guillotine-type Nail Trimmers
  • Adjust safety loop to the proper position.
  • Begin at the rear of the dog.
  • Calm the dog in soothing tones as you begin to lift the foot off the table.
  • Make sure the dog is in his/her safety zone, with a bend in the knee.
  • Make sure the pet is secure in this position.
  • Continue to praise the pet for standing still in this position. Do not extend the leg too far forward, outward or backward.
  • Secure the foot between your thumb and four fingers. Do not hold too tightly.
  • Gently massage the paw and draw the hair back to expose the nails if necessary.
  • Locate the nail quick.
  • Place your nail trimmer in the palm of your hand in a vertical position with the blade facing away from you.
  • Use your entire hand to grasp the handles for maximum control.
  • Position your nail trimmer with a slight angle toward the pet so that the nail is shorter on top.
  • Place the tip of the nail in the opening and trim.
  • Praise the dog as you repeat this procedure for each nail.
  • Check the inside of each back foot for a dewclaw.
  • After completing the procedure, use both hands to again massage the ear area, praising the dog for allowing you to complete this task.


Pet's Position: Standing
Professional's Position:
Front/Side/Rear
Trimming Nails with the Pliers or Scissor-Type Nail Trimmers
  • Adjust safety loop to the proper position.
  • Begin at the rear of the dog.
  • Calm the dog in soothing tones as you begin to lift the foot off the table.
  • Make sure the dog is in his/her safety zone, with a bend in the knee.
  • Make sure the pet is secure in this position.
  • Continue to praise the pet for standing still in this position. Do not extend the leg too far forward, outward or backward.
  • Secure the foot between your thumb and four fingers. Do not hold too tightly.
  • Gently massage the paw and draw the hair back to expose the nails if necessary.
  • Locate the nail quick.
  • Place your nail trimmer in the palm of your hand in a horizontal position with the blade facing away from you.
  • Use your entire hand to grasp the handles for maximum control.
  • Position your nail trimmer with a slight angle toward the pet so that the nail is shorter on top.
  • Place the tip of the nail in the opening and trim.
  • Praise the dog as you repeat this procedure for each nail.
  • Check the inside of each back foot for a dewclaw.
  • After completing the procedure, use both hands to again massage the ear area, praising the dog for allowing you to complete this task.

Pet's Position: Standing
Professional's Position: Front/Side/Rear

Filing the Nails After Trimming with a Nail File
Taking a few minutes extra to file the nails after using a nail trimmer creates a much smoother finish to the tips of the nails of man's best friend. Pet families often times ask the professional to trim the nails shorter to prevent the dog from scratching their legs when the pet jumps up on them. Most of the time, this request is due to the length of nail, but it can also be due to a jagged tip caused from using a dull or too small nail trimmer on the pet.
  • Adjust safety loop to the proper position.
  • Begin at the rear of the dog.
  • Calm the dog in soothing tones as you begin to lift the foot off the table.
  • Make sure the dog is in his/her safety zone, with a bend in the knee.
  • Make sure the pet is secure in this position.
  • Continue to praise the pet for standing still in this position. Do not extend the leg too far forward, outward or backward.
  • Secure the foot between your thumb and four fingers. Do not hold too tightly.
  • Gently massage the paw and draw the hair back to expose the nails if necessary.
  • Place your nail file in your hand in a horizontal position and file the tips of the nails.
  • Praise the dog as you repeat this procedure for each nail.
  • After completing the procedure, use both hands to again massage the ear area, praising the dog for allowing you to complete this task.

Pet's Position: Standing
Professional's Position: Front/Side/Rear

Trimming Nails with the Nail Grinder (Dremmel)
Electric and battery operated nail grinders are very efficient, but great care must be taken when using them. The dog must be secured properly on the grooming table with the safety loop and arm. Any long hair must be pulled from around the foot area and secured out of the way of the grinder. Caution must be used to prevent the pet from putting his/her head, ears or tail too close to the nail grinder. Long hair can be pulled and wrapped around the bit, pulling whatever is attached to the hair into the grinder, causing severe damage. A dog with a long beard or long ears, that is not properly positioned and secured with the safety loop and arm, that decides to investigate the grinder is at great risk.
  • Adjust safety loop to the proper position.
  • Begin at the rear of the dog.
  • Calm the dog in soothing tones as you begin to lift the foot off the table.
  • Make sure the dog is in his/her safety zone, with a bend in the knee.
  • Make sure the pet is secure in this position.
  • Continue to praise the pet for standing still in this position. Do not extend the leg too far forward, outward or backward.
  • Secure the foot between your thumb and four fingers. Do not hold too tightly.
  • Gently massage the paw and draw the hair back to expose the nails if necessary.
  • Locate the nail quick.
  • Place your nail grinder in the palm of your hand in a vertical or horizontal position.
  • Use your entire hand to grasp the tool for maximum control.
  • Place the nail grinder on the tip of the nail.
  • Hold until the nail is as short as possible.
  • Praise the dog as you repeat this procedure for each nail.
  • Check the inside of each back foot for a dewclaw.
  • After completing the procedure, use both hands to again massage the ear area, praising the dog for allowing you to complete this task.

Safe & Gentle Handling
Never use nail trimmers that are not designed to handle the size of the nail. They will not cut the nail cleanly! They will bend and splinter the nail causing a fast negative reaction from the dog. Using improperly designed nail trimmers can result in dogs that are out of control during the nail trimming procedures.


Pets with Special Needs
Lifting just one foot off the table to trim the nails on pets that are overweight can cause a lot of stress on the dog because the pet is simply not able to stand on just three feet due to its weight. Overweight dogs often have additional disorders of the back and legs, making it even more difficult for you to raise the back foot. Trim the nails on an overweight dog with the dog in the sitting position--the feet can be lifted slightly, even the back feet. Another method for trimming the nails on the front feet of overweight dogs is to slide the front foot right up to the edge of the table, so that only the nails hang off the edge, so that you can trim them.


Professional Image
Quicking the nail on a dog is not the end of the world, however, it you quick a nail and it bleeds profusely all over your clothing and your grooming table and you do not immediately clean it up, it can be a very alarming picture for the average pet family. Keep a cleaning cloth or paper towels readily available at your grooming station so that you are prepared for these situations and are able to efficiently clean you station.


Safety Policy
Always use the right size nail trimmer for the job to prevent twisting or splintering the nail. Always start out on the back feet so that you can evaluate how the dog will react to this procedure and keep your safety zone at all times during this procedure.


Sanitation
If you quick the nail during this task, clean the table and tools up immediately especially if the coagulant spills on your tools.


Time Management
Excellent time management for this procedure means starting with one foot and finishing the nail trimming on each foot before going to the next. Time management means not struggling with the dog. Take the time to massage the pet before and afterwards so that the pet allows you to accomplish this task efficiently. Tug of wars during the nail trimming procedure not only wastes time, but it also creates an very unprofessional scene in the salon.


Client Relations: Notification to the Pet Family
If you quick the nail and have trouble stopping the bleeding, the pet owner must be notified because it could start bleeding in the car or after they are home.


Explain to the pet owner that you have trimmed the nail a little short and the foot could be sensitive, much like cutting your own nails too short. Explain that you have applied a styptic powder to stop the bleeding but the pet must refrain from running and scratching for approximately 4 -6 hours, especially on concrete and other rough surfaces. Give the owner a little bit of styptic powder and explain how to apply it in case the nail starts to bleed after they are home.
If you forget to tell the pet owner or if the dog's nail starts to bleed at home due to a romp in the backyard after a great day in the salon, be prepared for a frantic phone call from the pet family. Recommend that they keep their pet as quiet as possible, apply corn starch or flour and use peroxide to clean up after the nail bleeding. Also expect a bill for cleaning their carpet or car interior!

Client Relations: Recommendation to the Pet Family
For pets that have extremely long nails with long quicks, it is impossible to trim the nail short enough to prevent the nail from catching on the carpet and spreading the foot out, preventing the dog from moving properly. Discuss the option of frequent nail trimming appointments to shorten the quick to create a healthier foot.


Client Relations: Pet Family Education
Nail trimming is part of your pet's grooming routine. When the nails are not trimmed on a regular schedule, they continue to grow, resulting in discomfort and pain to your dog. Neglected nails impact the overall appearance of your pet and can cause infection, lameness, and problems with movement. Nails that are allowed to grow very long make it difficult for your pet to walk on a slick floor. They can cause the feet to splay (toes spread far apart) and affect gait, posture and balance. If you let your dog's nails grow too long, it will be more difficult to trim them short because of the longer quick. Frequent nail trimming will be required to gradually shorten the nail and the quick. If your dog has dewclaws (the little nail above the foot), they also must be trimmed to prevent them from growing in a circle and sticking into the pad, causing pain or infection.


How often the nails should be trimmed depends upon the physical activity and the environment of the dog. A pet that lives on carpet and spends most of his/her time on the sofa will have rapid nail growth, requiring a nail trimming about every 2 to 6 weeks. A dog that lives outside files his/her nails naturally by digging and scratching, and may not need them trimmed as often. Outside dogs may wear their nails down unevenly, or get a crack or split that will need to be trimmed and filed. As a general rule, inside pets need their nails trimmed every 2-6 weeks and outside pets require a nail trimming about every 6 weeks.

Nail trimming is a simple procedure that will prevent these problems. Schedule your pet's grooming appointment to maintain short nails for maintaining the pet's overall general health.
Pet Grooming Training