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How To Groom A Dog's Paws

If you want to spare your dog the nuisance of skidding, slipping and sliding on hard surfaces like Bambi on ice, trimming the hairs on his paws is the answer.

Trimming your dog’s paws will prove very difficult if he is not comfortable with you handling them. Get him used to having his paws touched by handling him as much as you can. As soon as you bring the dog home for the first time, teach him that it is okay to be touched and examined. Make sure he is comfortable with his whole body being examined, including mouth, ears and paws.

A West Highland Terrier Westie having paws groomed
A West Highland Terrier having his paws trimmed

The best time to get your dog used to having his paws handled is when he has settled after a walk. Make him sit and then lift one of his paws up. Examine his toes and nails for a couple of seconds, reward him with a dog treat, and then return his foot back to the ground. You may need to repeat this process a few times.

As soon as your dog become comfortable with having his paws handled, get him used to the scissors. Begin by trimming the hair on his paws for just a few seconds, and then reward him and return his foot to the ground. Continue doing this until you have trimmed his paws to a suitable length. After you do this a few times your dog will allow you to trim his whole paw and you will only need to give him a treat when you have finished.

Trimming A Dog's Nails

Trimming your dog’s nails should be done before clipping the fur on his feet. If the nails grow too long they can break, which may cause your dog a lot of pain. Allowing him to exercise on hard surfaces like the road will help maintain the correct length of nails. But if you notice they are getting too long, arrange an appointment with your vet to trim them. Alternatively, you can trim them yourself, but you will have to start training early so that your dog is comfortable with you handling his paws. You will need to teach your dog to associate nail trimming with an enjoyable experience by giving him lots of treats and taking it slowly.

Dog paw showing pads claws and toes
Paws and claws - keeping these trimmed and healthy is an important part of good dog hygiene

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

There are two types of nail trimmers to choose from: the conventional nail pliers and the guillotine trimmers. Both do the job, but you might feel more comfortable using the guillotine trimmers if your dog is likely to move suddenly. Begin by getting him used to having his paws handled. When your dog is sitting, lift one of his paws up and touch his toes and nails for a few seconds. Reward him with a treat immediately and then place his paw back on the ground. Repeat this process a few times until your dog is comfortable with the process.

Next, you need to get him used to the clippers. You don’t need to jump right in and use the clippers straight away, but you can lift his paw up and touch his nails with them first. As soon as you do this, reward him with a treat. Repeat this process until your dog is comfortable with the clippers, and then you can try taming his nails. The best time to begin clipping is when he’s tired, such as after a long walk.

Scottish Terrier having nails clipped
A Scottish Terrier having his nails clipped

You will need to have a clotting powder to hand to stop any bleeding if you accidentally cut too close to your dog’s sensitive ‘quick’. Firmly hold his toe between your fingers. If you are using the plier type nail trimmers, place them at a right angle to his nail and close them quickly to trim the nail effectively. If you are using a guillotine trimmer, face it up toward the ceiling and insert your dog’s nail. Squeeze the handle confidently to trim correctly, but make sure you have not placed the guillotine too far up the nail.

If you trim your dog’s nails too short and accidentaly cut his quick he will yelp and back away, but it is important that you don’t panic. The quick contains live blood vessels and it will bleed quite a lot. It may also be fairly difficult to stop. The best thing to do is to immediately give your dog a treat to take his attention away from the paw. As you distract him with a treat, apply the clotting powder directly to the bleeding area - this should stop the bleeding. Don’t try and continue trimming your dog’s nails, allow him to rest and then try again in a couple of days’ time.

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