A pawdicure, if you please, is always an important part of the groom. A dog's nails grow at an alarming rate, and you need to keep them trimmed short or the dog can become lame because of stress on the joints. If nails grow too long, they can also curve around, growing right back into the paw and cause extreme pain and infection.
It's important to know where the dog's quicks are in his toenails. Just like human nails, you can cut off the ends of your fingernails and it won't hurt, but cut it back too far, and OUCH!
When you clip or file your dog's nails, have your dog in a comfortable position, but one that gives you control of his body. If you can, use restraints such as grooming loops. Otherwise, put your arm over your dog's shoulders and under his chest, holding the paw you will be working on. Gently spread out the toes and hold the paw firmly so your dog doesn't jerk and cause you to accidentally cut to the quick.
The dotted line shows where to cut the nail safely.
There are a number of different tools you can use to get the job done. Some dogs don't like clippers but don't seem to mind Dremels® or rotary sanders. Other dogs are just the opposite. Once you've finished clipping the dog's nails, use an emery board on them to help save your skin from freshly cut (and sharp-edged) nails.
A Dremel® is a rotary sanding tool that many groomers use to file down nails. You can do this at home once you are comfortable clipping nails. It takes a little practice to get used to, but once you've gotten the knack, it's a hard tool to be without.
Nails on dogs become rather sharp and can hurt you and damage your furnishings if you don't routinely keep them trimmed. Regular monthly trimming and filing can help, as can nail caps that can be glued onto the dog's nails. Some groomers carry nail caps and provide this service, but you can also order them from some pet supply places and do it yourself.
Watch Out for Hair
When you use a Dremel®, you need to make sure it doesn't grab any hair around the nail. Some groomers will take a leg of pantyhose and poke the dog's nails through it, and that holds the hair out of the way. Others simply file the nails when the hair is still damp so they can brush it out of the way. Battery-operated Dremels® are the safest to use because if they do catch any hair, it's a quick jerk and the Dremel® stops. Electric Dremels® have more power and can continue to rip hair out before stopping.
Dremels® are a groomer's best friend when it comes to nail care. The rotary sander quickly sands away excess nail and allows you to get even closer to the quick than with nail trimmers. You can sand all the way around the quick, exposing it so that it can recede. If you touch a Dremel® to your finger it will burn, but it won't hurt dead nail tissue. There is no feeling until you get down to the quick.
The groomer is using a rotary sanding tool to file down this dog's nails.
Guillotine Versus Pliers-Type Nail Trimmers
Guillotine-type trimmers have a sharp blade that moves when you squeeze the handles, and that cuts the nail. This is a very easy-to-use nail trimmer. However, if the nails have grown in a circle or curved around you may not be able to get a guillotine-type trimmer under them.
If you use pliers-type nail trimmers, give one quick, firm squeeze of the handles to cut each nail. If you don't, the dog feels pinching and pressure and she will object, so make it fast! Some large dogs' toenails require a pliers type of trimmer because they have very hard nails that are difficult to cut. With these dogs, a Dremel® works best.
One new tool introduced at the 2007 Pet Pro Classic in Dallas, Texas, addressed the problem of regular rotary sanding tools. The “Peticure” nail sander has a safety head with different sized holes that effectively keep hair out and prevent you from sanding your own finger when a dog jerks his foot.
What to Dew …
The dewclaw, or as some know it, the first toe, which grows on the inside of the leg up on the ankle a bit, is especially vulnerable to curling into the pad if not watched carefully. Some dogs have dewclaws on the hind legs as well as the front legs.
Usually, these dewclaws are loosely attached and tend to hang. On a dog with a lot of leg hair, you won't be able to see them, so you must feel for them; you don't want to amputate them by mistake. In addition, long nails tend to get snagged on carpet and tear, which is very painful and can be very bloody.