A dog’s nails actually grow very quickly: Unless the dog is very active outdoors, then you may well find that you need to trim its nails as regularly as once per week.
It can be expensive up-bringing a dog and no one looks forward to the task of clipping a dog’s nails. Some dogs are flighty and resist getting their nails clipped, and even with the best-behaved dogs, you’ll worry about clipping the wrong thing and hurting your pet. However, it is an essential part of grooming for the health and well-being of dogs.
What happens if I don’t clip my dog’s nails?
In the wild, dogs are constantly digging at rough surfaces and using their nails for survival. This helps to keep their length down. Your domestic puppy or dog is likely playing on softer surfaces, whether indoors or on grass fields. Comfortable, yes, but it’s not going to naturally file the nails down.
Long nails are a problem for your home, as they will start to scratch the floor, rip furniture, or scratch the skin of someone that the dog is playing with. If you take your dog traveling, the nails will cut deeply into the seats and tear up the carpet, causing expensive damage to repair. As inconvenient or destructive as that is, it’s mild compared to the health risks it poses to the dog.
First comes the discomfort. The constant pressure of long nails on the ground is akin to the pain humans feel at ingrown toenails. Over longer periods, the dog will need to adapt their walking and running habits, which can cause muscular or skeletal shape issues, and they’ll get more tired, more quickly, from this unnatural activity.
There’s also a much greater chance that the nails can get caught on something and rip off, causing massive damage that only a vet can assist with.
How to trim the nails
According to PupJunkies, a good rule of thumb is that if you start hearing your dog’s nails clicking on a hard surface, they need a trim. It’ll be scary at first because you’re not going to want to hurt the dog, but the process isn’t as dangerous as you might think.
The steps to clip nails is simple:
1) Hold the paw firmly, but gently. Especially if this is a new process, the dog’s going to feel uncomfortable. Don’t try and force things if it starts to look like the dog will hurt itself trying to get out of your grasp.
2) Using either a guillotine or scissors-like pair of clippers, place a tiny bit of the nail in the clipper and snip cleanly.
3) Watch out! If the nail feels spongy while you’re clipping, stop what you’re doing, because you’re probably cutting the quick, and that’s the part of the nail inside which will bleed out if you cut it (and cause discomfort to your dog).
4) If you do actually cut the quick, then don’t panic. There will be a lot of bleeding, so immediately use either a nail cauterizer or styptic powder that can be applied with a cotton swab. Be aware that this does cause a lot of pain and your dog will resist any further attempts to clip its nails.
Most importantly, only go at the pace that the dog is comfortable. You might only get one paw done in a session, or you might be able to take a break before moving to the next one. The younger you start clipping your puppy’s nails, the more comfortable they’ll be with you doing it as adult dogs.
One alternative to learning how to do this on your own is to get your vet to show you how to properly clip nails when the dog is a puppy. They’ll need to make regular vet visits early on anyway, and the vet will be able to show you how to avoid snipping the quick, and how to keep the dog as comfortable as possible through the process.
Some people even try and outsource the nail clipping to their vets in its entirety, asking the vet to clip the nails with every visit. This is generally not advisable, for a couple of reasons:
1) The frequency with which you need to cut a dog’s nails makes this an impractical idea – the expense of a vet’s visit every week, let alone the time consumed, makes this prohibitive. Even dogs that have good, rocky areas to play or spend a lot of time running on concrete paths and roads still need to have the nails clipped every month or so, which is still a big imposition if it requires a vet visit.
2) A trip to the vet is stressful for dogs, and in the long term, it’s better to get them comfortable with the idea of their owner clipping the nails from the comfort of home.
Don’t worry! It’s only the first couple of times that this will be a truly unpleasant experience for both yourself and your dog. After that, it’ll never be as fun as playtime, but it’ll be a standard part of the weekly routine.