Thursday, September 24, 2009


I think one of the things that most pet owners dislike doing is cutting their dog’s toenails. As much as they might dislike it, the dog dislikes it even more! The dog picks up on the owner’s anxiety which in turn escalates his own anxiety and the battle begins. Once a dog’s quick (live tissue that grows inside the toenail) is cut, he never forgets it. It’s very painful and he’s not going to easily cooperate while he’s in pain and bleeding.

Like anything else, it’s always a good idea to get a puppy used to regular grooming so he becomes comfortable with it. We want to make the experience a pleasant one and not one that has him running for the hills when he sees the grooming table set up.

If you own a dog, we all have our stories to tell about grooming their nails. A good friend of mine who might be reading this right now always made me laugh every time that she would tell me about her experience of trying to cut one of her well known Champions toenails. Now we’re talking about a big boy here. Just picture this dog who would rule his kennel with his “macho strutting” back and forth in his kennel. Now picture this same dog who would pull a “sissy fit” every time he saw the nail clippers. My friend would put him in a dog crate and crawl half way in there with him with her butt sticking out the door trying to coax him into giving up one of his paws to her. He’d moan, groan, whine and complain while she’d tried to convince him that she wasn’t going to hurt him. Did it work? Hell, no! So she’d call up his breeder/co-owner and ask her if she could clip his nails. Well I actually seen her do it one time. She had this big boy up on the grooming table. He’d try to get away with the same antics with her, but it didn’t work. I’d hear her telling him to “Cut it out.” Long story short, she always won!

There are a few different instruments that you can use to cut your dog’s toenails. Most people are familiar with the nail clippers. There are the scissor style and guillotine style. What they both basically do is it squeezes down on the nail to clip it. These are both inexpensive and can be bought at most pet stores. There are a few disadvantages to these types of clippers. They can get dull quickly and it becomes harder to cut the nail. Another disadvantage is that they squeeze the nail and quick and this can become uncomfortable for your dog. With dog’s that have a black or dark toenail, it is very difficult to impossible to see the dog’s quick.

Another type of instrument you can use to cut the dog’s toenails is the Peticure. This is a relatively new product on the market but has become extremely popular with the pet public. This device uses a rotating file to shave off the dog’s nail. With this instrument you are better able to see the quick. Some dogs do not like the feel of the rotating file on their nails. This is more expensive than the traditional dog clipper.

One of the most popular tools used by dog show people is the Dremel. This is literally a small drill. In fact some arts and craft people use this drill. The drill has adjustable speeds so you can control the settings. Generally speaking, if you use an instrument like the Multi-pro, it’s not advisable to go above the number 2 setting. The faster the drill spins, the more it generates heat and can become too hot for the dog’s toenails. It comes with grit bands (looks like sand paper) and usually fine to medium is the best for doing the dog’s nails. When doing a puppy, the fine is probably the better choice. Some of these tools come with grinding stones but it has been recommended that you don’t use these as these can become extremely hot. If your dog is sensitive to the noise that these make, you may want to try using the Mini-mite rechargeable Dremel.

It’s always a good idea whenever you trim your dog’s nails to have handle some quick stop styptic powder or corn starch in case you do cut the dog’s quick.

Another type of grooming tool for a dog’s nails is the dog file. This is best used to clean up any jagged or uneven toenail fragments. This is basically used as a finishing tool.

How does one go about getting their dog comfortable with having his nails done? The most important thing to remember is to try to make this a positive experience for the dog. If it isn’t, he will remember it and you will have a hard time each time you want to cut his nails. What I find that works for my dogs is positive rewards. My oldest girl, who was fearful of having her nails done, now just lies down on the floor and lets me cut her nails because she sees the treats that are waiting for her. I trained her early on, by giving her a small reward for each nail that she let me cut. I’d cut one nail, she’d get one treat until both her front and rear toenails were done. She no longer is fearful. She knows that she will be rewarded with treats for letting me do her nails.

Now her two daughters are another case all together. These are my “Wild Childs.” I usually wait until they have rested in their dog crates for a couple of hours. I close the door behind me in the small room where I keep them. Then I let them out one at a time while the other one watches. After they do their normal greeting and wiggling around the room, it’s time to get down to business. I try to get them in a sitting position and from there I wrestle them to the floor. Some kicking and trying to stand up occurs, but I’m a lot heavier then them and they can kick and squirm all they want. They finally succumb to defeat! I just talk reassuring to them and tell them to stay all the while telling them what a good girl they are. They let me do their nails and then they get their treat and out the door they go. Everyone’s happy and my back is breaking, but the nails are done!

The dog that has the lighter colored toenails is easier to work with because you can usually see the quick. I like to cut my dog’s toenails where there is natural light coming in from a window. It makes seeing the quick a little easier.

There are many dog nail grooming drills on the market. Sears carries them as well as many online stores. Oster makes them as well with a large assortment and prices to choose from.

Prices for drills can range from $25 right on up to $150! Dog clippers and scissors can range from $8 to $15. Peticure normally sells for $25 to $50.

My rating: clippers and scissors: (3), Peticure (3), Dremels (drills), (4) Files (2)

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