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How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

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How to Trim Your Dog's Nails: Getting Started
Dog Paw Photo - Picture of Person Holding Dog Paw
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Yuriy Chaban

Nail trims are an important part of your dog's basic grooming needs. For many dog owners, the idea of trimming their dogs' nails is followed by a feeling of trepidation. Many dogs also dislike nail trims. It doesn't have to be this way. Any dog owner can learn how to properly trim dog nails, and most dogs can be trained to tolerate it.

Are you ready to get started? Put your apprehensions aside for a few minutes and learn how to properly trim your dog's nails with these step-by-step instructions. In addition to this tutorial, it may be helpful to have a vet tech, vet or groomer show you in-person how to properly trim your dog's nails. Soon, you might just be able to trim your dog's nails like a pro!

You probably have some questions that need to be answered before we begin. Here are some common ones:

Why Should I Trim My Dog's Nails?

Dog nails are constantly growing, just like human nails. Some dogs wear down their nails naturally from walking on pavement, gravel or concrete. However, the majority of today's dogs live indoors and don't spend enough time on these surfaces to keep the nails short. This is especially the case with small dogs (like Chihuahuas and Miniature Dachshunds - two breeds that seem to especially dislike having their paws touched). If left to grow, some dog's nails will curl under and actually start growing into the foot pads. This leads to painful sores and infections. Even if they do not curl under, long nails can make it difficult for dogs to walk, especially on slick surfaces. Finally, long nails can easily get caught on something and become partially torn off or split. This is very painful for your dog, and treating a torn nail may require sedation at your vet's office.

How Often Do I Need to Trim My Dog's Nails?

The answer here depends on your dog. The rate of nail growth versus the amount of natural wear can vary from dog to dog. To determine when it's time for a nail trim, a good rule of thumb is to trim your dog's nails if they touch the floor when he is standing. In general, most dogs will need a nail trim every month or two. The front nails tend to grow faster that the rear nails, so you may only need to trim the rear nails every other time you do the front (or just trim a smaller amount off the rear nails each time).

How Soon Should I Begin Trimming My New Dog or Puppy's Nails?

Right away! You should begin handling your dog's paws from the moment you bring him home. He should get used to the sensation and associate it with a positive experience (treats, toys, attention). Hold your dog's paws and play with his toes several times a day. Keep your demeanor upbeat. Praise him and reward him with treats when he tolerates the handling. Once you get comfortable with nail trims, begin trimming a tiny amount of the nail every week or two. Take care not to cut too short, or your dog will have a negative experience. Frequent, positive nail trims will teach your dog or puppy that there is nothing to fear. This will make nail trims much easier down the road.

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