Many clients asks me how many times should they get their dogs nails done or what are the risks of not cutting them at all. Their is many reasons to keep them short. Unfortunately, many problems occur on short and long term if they are not well maintained regularly, especially for more active dogs.
Dogs can also have bad posture. When nails grow too long and touch the floor, their ideal posture is gone because their weight is shifted back on their pads unevenly. It causes long term problems just like with humans: pain, risks of injuries, etc. Keeping them short avoids any posture change or the quick to grow as well. We will keep a healthy living dog with less health issues when they will grow old. Many times I’ve been asked this question if vets can declaw dogs. The answer is a big no. Dogs need their nails to grip to the floor when they run, but not too long, or else they will get caught into something and possibly break the nail and/or hurt a muscle/ bone in the process. Without nails to balance out the pads won’t be able o keep the dog in the right posture. My personal opinion is also that declawing should be illegal for cats as well because they also need their nails and a lot of problems are caused due to that surgery. Maintenance is the key, no permanent surgeries.
When your toe nails are due, it starts hurting inside your shoes right? When the dogs nails are too long, they touch the floor all the time, resulting into sensitiveness. Therefore, when you bring the dog to the vet or to the groomer to get their nails done, they are more prone to not let us touch their paws due to that sensitivity. Eventually, the dog will become difficult and will need multiple people to hold them to cut their nails. They can even become aggressive. If a dog knows that bitting or fighting will let them free, they will keep trying every time when they are not happy. Eventually, if it’s with me at that point, I will suggest desensitization sessions to reduce aggressivity and make the dog tolerant to nail clipping. It’s a long process and needs patience from both the educator and the dogs owners. This issue will take a while to get better. So, my advice is too keep them short to avoid sensitivity in their paws and change in behaviour that will complicate a such situation that needs to be done at least monthly. Other methods exist to do it at home when these sessions are not possible.
The most common way to cut the dogs nails is to use a nail clipper. On white nails, we cut it right after the pink quick to avoid any bleeding that cause sensitivity to the dog. On black nails, we don’t see the quick. The trick is to cut piece by piece till we discover a darker black circle in the middle of the nail where we are cutting. Their are more risks to cut the quick on the black nail because we can’t see when the quick stops. Most people even professionals cut by accident the quick on the nail because we are on pressure to do it as short as possible and we are working too fast. It’s ok if it happens. We shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. By using a bleeding stopper, it stops immediately and doesn’t hurt anymore for the dog. It hurts our heart more than to the dog.
They are also the dremmel that can be used at the end to shorten even closer with less risks of making the quick bleed. It also make the tip softer avoiding the dog to roughly scratch us after a nail clipping session.
Have a dog that hates being held, having a muzzle on and the desensitization sessions are not possible right away? Using sand paper at home every day can help shorten them slowly till we can have time to workout the nail clipper and/or the dremmel. This can be taught during training sessions to make the dog slide his nails on the sand paper to make it easier for everybody.
Dogs who are more prone to exercise outside on the ciment or asphalt tend to have shorter nails. Those dogs will need less nail clipping sessions but it’s still a good idea to clip them. The dog will be used to it and whenever it happens that they will do less exercise, we can still be able to cut these nails that have been less scratching outside on hard surfaces.
Some dogs are more or less tolerant to pain. Therefore, not all dogs will be traumatized by getting their quick cut. Others, will start becoming difficult: move constantely, bite, etc. They will eventually need more than one person to cut their nails or getting the dog sedated to get their nails done at the vet because their is no other way. Sometimes, some dogs will react to our stress because we are scared to cut the quick or the owners present in the room during the nail cutting think so as well. The dog feels it and then panics that it might hurt because the humans around thinks its gonna hurt. We have to be confident, not anxious and most of the time, it will be fine. Dogs who need desensitization if they get the help they need will then start enjoying/tolerating getting their nails clipped.
Getting short nails
The nails are already too long but you wanna make sure you go regularly to get them shorter. Is that possible? Yes it is. Unfortunately, it has to be done frequentely in a short amount of time so that the quick goes backwards. If done right, it will work. If not, we might just be maintaining its actual length. It’s better than longer but if the nails touch the floor and change the balance on it’s pads, the dogs posture is wrong and sensitivity occurs which can result into future accidents: nails breaking, bleeding, muscle or bone pain, etc. What’s the plan? Visit a professional who knows the technic to irritate the quick and make it back up. I will suggest to come to my canine center weekly so that after 1-2 months until we have an acceptable length of the nails. Depending on the dogs behaviour, the whole process might be suggested differentely. Come and visit us for a free consultation and by the first nail clipping, I can suggest you the best way for your dogs nails maintenance. Only do it at home if you are experienced but if you desire shorter nails and for the well being of your dog, don’t be shy to call a professional who knows about dog behaviour and the proper maintenance of a dogs nails.
If the dogs nails length wise is good enough, I will suggest a monthly visit at the groomer. If the dog is difficult and it takes too long or more than one person to hold the dog, I will strongly suggest desensitization sessions. If the nails are too long, depending on the dogs behaviour, we can do it weekly till we get the desired result or do it at home with sand paper or the dremmel (if noise doesn’t bother the dog) to shorten them out slowly daily till we have time to get the dog used to nail clipping. These sessions are a situation that should happen more often than grooming. The dog should let it be easily or else, if it’s too hard, we tend to give up and let things go. Unfortunately, letting it go can cause problems in the future that can be expensive at the vet and/or having a less active senior dog due to the pain or accidents it can be caused due to having long nails touching the ground.
Thanks for your reading and I hope to see you often for nail clipping! Or I’ll gladly be helpful to show you how to do it at home.
Dog behaviour specialist, Vet Technician and Groomer
PS: Schedule 4 nail clipping sessions at my canine center and get the 5th free.