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Trimming your dog’s nails is a necessary job and should be done about every four weeks. You can do it yourself or have a groomer or vet clip your dog’s nails. Princeton Grooming will be happy to show you how it’s done and get you the supplies necessary. If your dog absolutely hates the process and it turns into a huge struggle, our advice is to let the pros do it. It is always wise to get your young pup used to having his paws handled.

Dog nails that grow too long may curl around the paw and puncture the footpad, causing pain and infection. They can also interfere with his normal gait, resulting in deformed feet that are splayed, nail breakage, bleeding and general discomfort in the feet, legs and hips because he cannot walk properly. Overgrown nails will cause him to rock back on his paws, causing a strain on his joints and ligaments.

There are two types of nail trimmers you can use, the pliers type and the guillotine variety. I usually recommend the pliers version because that is what we have found most effective.

You can cut your dog’s nails anywhere, but for small and mid-size dogs, it’s easier to do the job with your dog on a grooming table rather than in your lap or on the floor. If you don’t have a grooming table, any table will do, but you should enlist the help of a friend to help hold the dog. Try to keep the animal relaxed and calm for the pedicure process.

1. With the pet on the grooming table, begin with the rear paws. Face away from the dog and hold the paw. Use your body weight to gently keep him in place.
2. Lift the paw only as far as needed, being careful not to twist the leg and cause injury.
3. “Tip” each nail, removing only the curved portion to avoid cutting the quick.
4. Trim off any additional length, still being careful to avoid the quick.
5. Moving to the front paws, stand by the dog’s front end and lift each one so that you are looking down on the upturned foot, similar to shoeing a horse.
6. “Tip” each nail and trim any excess.
7. To keep those sharp newly-cut nails from scratching, file them with a large emery board or nail file to smooth them down.
8. Praise your dog once the job is done and reward him with a treat!

The quick is the vein inside each nail that will bleed if you nick it. If the nails are dark, you cannot see it, but if they are white, it will be the pinkish portion inside. On a dark nail, look at the cut nail, if you see a dark circle in the nail’s center, that marks the quick and you have gone far enough.

It is always a good idea to have styptic powder handy, because sometimes accidental nicks do happen. Use a dab of styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Having a good nail cutting experience will make things easier next time around.