Good claw health is imperative, so here’s how to keep your dogs claws at a good length at home!
Not all dogs wear down their claws at the same rate, not all claws grow at the same rate, so it’s important to keep on top of maintaining them. Long claws are more likely to split or break which can result in a dreaded vet appointments. And even if it doesn’t get to this stage, it puts a lot of pressure back into the foot which can be causing your dog unnecessary pain and result in tendon injuries.
Desensitising clippers as a puppy is really important.
Dogs use their claws for gripping, for both terrain and toys. They’re used for digging dirt! And for snagging that rotten itch… So, let’s keep our claws nicely maintained! In order to do that? I’ve approached Holistic Dog Stylist, Stephanie Zikmann, from Scrub a Dug Dug in Kilmarnock to give you guys the best, step by step guide to keeping your dogs claws healthy, and your dog happy!
What do I need?
- A good set of clippers! Such as these
- Warm water bath
- Trimmex or other styptic powder
- High value treat & plenty of praise!
Trimming Claws Step-by-step
- Bath your dog or soak the paws in lukewarm water before you clip. This softens the nails and makes them easier to clip. It also doesn’t make as harsh a noise or as hard a sensation to the dog, therefore isn’t as uncomfortable.
- Hold onto the toe and the root of the nail you are clipping, this ensures the nail stays in place when you clip. If you don’t, the nail can twist with the mechanics of the nail clippers and it can really hurt for your puppy.
- Sit to the side of the dog while clipping the front paws – this is the least confrontational way to interact with a dog first of all, but it also gives you better control and vision of the paw and the nails.
- For the front legs, hold the dog’s foreleg gently and firmly but do not yank if the dog resists. We want him to feel relaxed and trust that we aren’t going to force him into anything he doesn’t want. Put a little pressure behind the knuckle to extend the claw, and clip at a 45° angle! Try and make sure it’s one smooth motion that you do confidently and quickly. Initially you may want to lavish with praise and treats after each claw, but as you get quicker and you both grow more confident, you can treat after each paw.
- With a helper, place your dog comfortably on a solid surface like your dining room table with a cosy towel. Prepare a licky mat or a ladle with some peanut butter smeared on it and let him enjoy the treat while you simultaneously clip each of the back paws carefully. Again, you are standing side on to him and making sure you aren’t extending his leg in an unnatural way, back works quite nicely!
- If your dog does resist, counter-condition the process using food. You can follow Dr. Sophia Yin’s video on how to do this successfully, below.
If you don’t feel confident, work with a helper (preferably someone your dog knows and loves) and follow the steps used by Dr. Sophia Yin. You want to do this at the dogs own pace.. so every dog is different. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to take loads off… you want to take small bits off each session. It is really difficult to know when the quick begins, especially with black nails. So less is more. You want the nails to sit just above the ground.
Remember the dew claws!
Most dogs only have these at the front, but some have a set at the back, and some have double sets also! The dews are the only nails that can’t be naturally ground down on the concrete. Therefore, need manually clipped every now and then to avoid curling and puncturing the pads.
You know I love to include an FAQ for you guys! So here are the common questions dog parents ask about claw maintenance.
Do I have to cut my dogs claws?
The lowest risk of injuring a dog through nail clipping is to allow them to grind naturally. Walking fast-paced on concrete, daily should allow them to maintain a healthy length. If you and your dog are fit and well, this is the best way! Though, you will have to trim the Dew claw.
What if I cut the quick?
Keep some Trimmex and cotton wool handy. If you do cut into the quick, stay calm and apply some Trimmex immediately to stop the bleeding. It will stop. Plenty of praise and as you do this. You may have to revert to Dr. Sophia Yin’s steps when it’s time to clip them again.
What angle should I clip at?
Again everyone does it differently. Some groomers will cut from the top, down and others from the bottom to the top. I go from the bottom up but always at a 45 degree angle
What clippers would you advise?
Clippers are all very much personal if you ask me! And groomers have mixed opinions… but for me, I would always go for ones WITHOUT the safety guards because I feel the guard just gets in the way and blocks my vision! Such as these clippers.
Would you use a Dremel or other rotating grinder?
I have a Dremel but I don’t recommend them! Only because they are quite noisy and are a very odd sensation for the dog. If you’re working with a dog who is quite uneasy to begin with, this is going to make them worse. So I’d say, stick to the traditional. You can file with an emery board to remove any sharpness or uneven bits of the nail though.
How do I tidy up my dogs claws after clipping?
Sometimes your dog’s claw might not cut cleanly, so try using a regular nail file to smooth it off, this also works for easing the sharp edges!
My dog has weak claws, what can I do to help improve the quality of them?
Nutrition-wise, I checked with Dr. Isla Fishburn, and she recommends Rosehip powder which helps with hair, skin and keratin growth.
How often should I trim my dog’s claws?
It depends on each individual dog and how active they are too. Many groomers will clip the edges off at every grooming appointment to keep on top of them, so probably between 4 and 8 weeks.
How can I tell if my dogs claws are overgrown and what do I do if they are?
If you notice that your dog is beginning to walk funny, or position his paws unnaturally, then look at the feet. The paws are highly sensitive so it may be that he has overgrown nails that are preventing him from standing properly, or he has another issue like sore/cracked pads or a foreign object stuck in between his toes. If they are extremely overgrown, or puncturing the pads, go to the Vet for assistance. If you aren’t sure, pop into your dog groomer for their advice.
And that is pretty much it! With regular claw maintenance, you can avoid a number of issues, easily keep your dog fit and healthy, and you can do it in such a way that it doesn’t stress out either of you. Where’s the downside? Well, there isn’t one. And, if this is only something that happens whilst we’re in lockdown, then that’s fine too! Your local vet nurse will still perform it for you, as will you awesome groomer!
Remember! Set your dog up for success! You both want to leave this happy. Take some time and see how things go, lots of treats and lots of praise. If that means you only get one paw done? That’s fine! Try again tomorrow.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021’s worlds’ best pet blog!