Do you dread trimming your dog's nails? Do you avoid it altogether by relying on your vet or groomer to do this task for you? Most people I know would answer yes to one or both of these questions, but you don't have to! I'm writing this article to help you get a better grip on this grooming task. A really important part of your relationship with your dog, in my humble opinion, is being able to groom him.
I almost always start my grooming sessions by massaging the dog. This is an invaluable way to solidify the bond between you and your dog because it floods both human and dog with oxytocin (the natural hormone that increases trust and reduces fear). You should massage your dog even when you're not grooming, and in Natural Dog Training we call this "rub-a-dub." It softens the dog and helps increase his emotional capacity (and yours!). For me, it is an especially important part of the grooming session, especially when I need to trim my dog's nails.
For tips on the best tools and technique for nail trimming, you can watch this short video I made:
The important thing is to stay relaxed! Your dog will most certainly be nervous if you are. The second most important thing is to avoid cutting the quick. On one of my dogs (Sophie, who is in the video) it is very easy to identify the nail bed, or quick, by the shape of the nail. She also has some white nails which allow me to see the pink quick inside the nail and then judge where the quick is in the other nails. For my other dog, Eva, almost all of her nails are black, and they don't have the same distinct nail bed that Sophie's do. This is because the quick of her nail grows extremely close to actual tip of the nail (learned this the hard way). So I VERY carefully clip only the very ends of her nails and I usually see the greyish center of the nail which is the beginning of the quick. If I clip beyond this point, I will see blood.
Photo from "Outlaw Chinooks"
On the left, you see the end of the nail with the very beginning of the quick, which in a black nail will look greyish. On the right, you have cut too far, and you exposed the quick! In this case, you can use a bar of soap to stop the bleeding. Read further about toenail care for dogs: Outlaw Chinooks.
I hope you have the confidence when grooming your dog to trim his or her nails. It will be infinitely rewarding when you have developed the trust between you and your dog that is required for this task.