If your dog is walked regularly and covers a variety of terrain including hard surfaces like pavements and concrete, their claws will naturally stay at an appropriate length. This is because as they grow, regular contact with the hard surface of the road or pathway wears down the ends of the claws, negating the need to clip and trim them to keep them down to size.
However, dogs that always walk on grass or earth, or those that aren’t highly active or are getting on in years and are less able to walk and exercise often grow very long claws, which can cause problems.
Overly long claws can scratch hard flooring and even people if your dog paws at you, and they are also at higher risk of developing problems. Long claws are more likely to become ingrown, grow at an angle or curl inwards, and they also protrude further and so are at risk of catching on things and tearing, which is both very painful and apt to bleed a lot – as well as being quite hard to correct.
All of this means that for many dog owners, clipping their dog’s claws or taking them along to a veterinary nurse clinic or grooming parlour for clipping is a normal part of dog ownership, but not all dogs take well to having their claws trimmed.
In this article we will look at some of the reasons why many dogs dislike having their nails clipped and may struggle or make a fuss, and share some tips on how to make life easier for both you and your dog. Read on to learn more.
Clipping a dog’s claws can be a quick and simple process if the dog is cooperative, but this isn’t always the case. Additionally, the person clipping the dog’s claws needs to have experience in how to do this, and do it right – otherwise accidents can happen.
If you try to clip too much of the claw away (particularly if you are trying to trim down very long claws all in one go) you risk nipping the quick – the blood and nerve-rich root of the claw itself. This hurts a lot, and it is apt to bleed heavily too, turning the whole process into a trauma that neither you nor your dog will forget in a hurry!
If you’re not sure about the right tools to use to clip your dog’s claws or how to do it safely and properly, don’t leave it to chance – take your dog to a professional, who will know things like how much of the claw can be trimmed in one go without coming too close to the quick, and how to work out where the quick falls in black or dark coloured claws.
If your dog already reacts badly to claw clipping because of a past incident, it can take a long time with lots of slow, repetitive work to calm your dog and get them to accept the process in the future, and again, using a professional who is willing to work with you for the long term is a good idea.
Even if your clip your dog’s claws regularly, this is still likely to be something that you only do every few weeks. Whilst dogs can and do of course remember things from the past, particularly repeat events, this makes each incidence of claw clipping rather unusual and strange for your dog.
Being restrained, having their paws and legs handled and manipulated, holding the paw firmly and positioning the clipper and the distinctive snipping sound that the clipper makes are all things that might potentially confuse and alarm your dog, making them a handful when you try to clip their claws.
You can make things easier for the long term by putting in a little extra work in the short term, by means of getting your dog used to having their legs lifted, paws handled, and their claws examined and touched.
Taking your dog to a dog groomer or veterinary nurse clinic to have their claws clipped is often the safest and easiest way to manage things, but this does come with challenges of its own. Going to a grooming salon or veterinary clinic might make your dog less of a handful as the change of scenery diverts their attention, but it can also put your dog outside of their comfort zone and lead to a stress reaction.
Try to get your dog used to visiting the grooming parlour or clinic regularly without having their claws clipped every time, and they should settle down after a few trips.
Again, having a stranger clip your dog’s claws can mean that your dog stays quieter and behaves better, but also, being handled by a stranger requires a degree of trust on the part of your dog, particularly if that stranger is handling the dog in a way that is unusual to them.
Getting your dog used to greeting and spending time with strangers is a big help across many facets of your dog’s life, and if possible, seeing the same person for claw clipping every time so that your dog gets to know them is very useful too.
If you clip your dog’s claws at home yourself or even if you take your dog to a professional and your dog is hard work or has proven to be a handful in the past, this can lead to stress and tension on the part of the dog’s handler, or the person doing the clipping.
Knowing that the dog might struggle, pull away at a dangerous moment or even become snappy doesn’t make for a relaxing environment, which can lead to stress and tension on the part of the handler before they even begin, which your dog will pick up on.
Ensure that you’re in the right frame of mind and keep your cool when clipping your dog’s claws, and your dog will follow your lead.
Claw clipping can be quick and simple, but you need the right tools for the job. This means having a place where your dog can stand still with sufficient access to their paws, suitable restraints, potentially someone to help you, and the right types of clippers and tools to use for the job.
If you don’t have the right tools and set up or don’t have everything you need close to hand, this can cause problems when you’re already committed to clipping and partway through.
Ensure that you plan ahead, and keep everything you need (including things you might need in an emergency such as styptics to stop the bleeding if you do accidentally cut the quick of your dog’s claw) and get the job done all in one go.