Trimming Nails

Keeping your poodle's nails short enough that their “click-click” on the wood or tile floor doesn't bother you is nice. What's really important is that you keep them short enough that your poodle can stand and walk comfortably.

Depending on how much walking on hard surfaces, like sidewalks, your poodle does, trimming may not even be necessary. But your groomer should evaluate your poodle's toenails at her regular visit and trim them if necessary.

If you have a poodle with fast-growing nails, you'll have to trim them yourself. It's not difficult, but may require a little patience on your (and your dog's) part.

Adjusting to the Toenail Clippers

Start trimming your poodle's nails when she's a pup, if possible, always keeping it a happy experience, full of treats, and with no force used. You might find it's helpful to work with an assistant who can distract your poodle from what you're doing by giving her treats. You might also find that it's easiest to trim nails while your poodle is lying down.

Your poodle might be so used to having her paws touched by you and the groomer that trimming is no big deal. But if she pulls away when you touch her paw for trimming, you need to start very slowly. A clicker can be helpful. Start by just touching her feet. Click and treat (or just treat, if you prefer) for calm behavior. Then handle her feet a little more, touching individual toes and holding her whole foot in your hand, again, treating for calm behavior. Then show her the nail clippers. Let her sniff them. Then just touch the clippers to her feet. Click and treat. If your dog is very nervous, end the session there. But come back to it soon.

Alert!

Don't lose your temper with your poodle if he resists when you try to trim his nails. If you do, you'll make the prospect of getting his nails trimmed even more onerous. Keep the process upbeat. If you find yourself losing patience, stop the session.

Cutting the Nails

Once your poodle is comfortable with the clippers around her nails, try cutting a nail. It's very important that you not cut into the quick, which could hurt your dog and forever change the way he feels about trimming nails. (It might also erode her trust in you.)

Unlike human fingernails, the dog's quick grows with the nail. If your poodle's nails are white, and therefore slightly translucent, you're in luck. You'll see the pink quick, and it'll be easy to avoid cutting it.

If your poodle's nails are black, you have to take a more cautious approach. It's safe to cut off the hook of the nail. But if your poodle's nails are short enough that there isn't a hook, you need to cut off just a little at a time. After each cut, look at the end of the nail. You'll see a small white spot just before you reach the quick. When you see that spot, stop clipping that nail. The clipping causes the quick to recede slightly, so in a few days you can cut a bit more off.

Essential

If your poodle's nails get very long, you might be tempted to have them cut short under sedation. Unless there's a compelling reason for the nails to get short very quickly, avoid this. It hurts! Your dog will probably have sore feet for a few days. It's not a nice thing to do to him.

Using a Grinder

Another way to trim your poodle's nails is to use a nail grinder, like a Dremel. You can buy one through a grooming supply store or at a hardware store. Use a sanding band of the appropriate size for your dog. (Your groomer might be able to advise you on equipment.) Because your poodle is accustomed to having her feet shaved with electric clippers, the nail grinder might not bother her. Introduce the grinder as you would the clippers, so your poodle's not scared by it. When it comes time to grind, gently hold your poodle's paw in your hand, supporting the toe you're working on, and hold the grinder straight up and down. Don't apply pressure to the nail with the grinder. Just touch it to the nail and let the spinning action trim the nail. As with traditional clippers, be careful not to touch the quick.

If your poodle has hairy feet, you can put a sock or stocking over her foot, with a hole cut in it to allow the nail you're working on to stick out. This will prevent your poodle's hair from getting caught in the spinning grinder.

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