Most dogs are averse to having their paws handled, so nail trimming is rarely a pleasant task for either dog or owner. The best thing you can hope to do is make the task as quick and painless as possible. To properly trim your dog's nails, you need to know how much of the nail to cut so that you avoid injuring the quick, which is the blood supply within the nail. Cutting the quick is painful for your dog, and the bleeding can be hard to stop without the right resources, so it's essential to be conservative in your trimming estimates. You know it's time to trim when you hear your dog's nails clicking on a hard surface.
Guillotine Nail Clipper
Guillotine nail clippers are mechanically operated clippers that are commonly found in drugstores. Designed with two curved blades that come together when pressure is applied to the handles, guillotine nail clippers sever excess toenail from underneath and above the nail. Guillotine nail clippers are easy to use, and a toenail model for human use will also function for your dog's nail clipping needs. Since guillotine nail clippers don't create any noise, coax your dog to sit with you so that you can firmly grasp each of his paws, making sure you steady them before you apply the clippers. Clip only the portion of the nail that hangs over the paw and comes into contact with the ground. If you have to guess, be conservative so that you avoid cutting the quick.
Scissor Nail Trimmer
Scissor-style nail trimmers are also available. Models made for use on toenails are best for dogs because they are stronger and can cut through thicker nails. Many scissor-style nail trimmers have curved blades to minimize ragged edges that can cause painful snagging and tearing. While firmly grasping and steadying your dog's paw in your hands, using your arms for leverage if you need to, move the scissor trimmers in a semicircular movement around the tip of each toenail.
Nail grinders are designed exclusively for use on pets. Instead of cutting the nail, nail grinders file the excess nail down with a rotating head, leading to a smoother and more even result. Nail grinders are electronic, which can initially create problems because the noise they generate may frighten dogs. If this occurs, gradually familiarize your dog with the machine's sound and show them that it's not dangerous by the way you interact with it. After you manage to use it with your dog, he won't be as resistant in the future. Nail grinders work by placing the rotating head over the nail and allowing it to file the excess nail down. Many grinders also have an auto-stop function, which shuts off the machine after a certain number of rotations to further minimize the risk of injury. Nail grinders also don't carry the same risk of cutting the quick -- also known as quicking -- that guillotine or scissor clippers do.
Taking your dog to a pet groomer is the easiest way to cut your dog's nails, because you don't actually have to do anything. While they can be expensive, if your dog's nail-cutting needs are infrequent, groomers are good options. Make sure your pet groomer is a qualified professional who has extensive experience cutting different dog breeds' toenails. In the event your dog is injured, pet groomers will have the necessary resources to stop bleeding, prevent infection, and adequately bandage the wound.
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Goody Clairenstein has been a writer since 2004. She has sat on the editorial board of several non-academic journals and writes about creative writing, editing and languages. She has worked in professional publishing and news reporting in print and broadcast journalism. Her poems have appeared in "Small Craft Warnings." Clairenstein earned her Bachelor of Arts in European languages from Skidmore College.