A lot of people have trouble trimming their dog's toenails. The key to making this less of a chore for you is to make it a positive experience for your dog. Learn how positive reinforcement can help your dog and you!
Step 1: Supplies You'll Need
Toenail clippers-There are two main kinds of clippers:scissor style and guillotine style. I prefer guillotine because I think they are easier to use and give a cleaner cut. No matter which style you choose, the sharper the clipper, the cleaner the cut and the faster the job gets done.
Styptic powder or pencil-Powder form is easier to use than to try and apply a pencil to your squirming dog's foot.
Nail file-same kind you use on your own nails.
dog treats-commercial treats, string cheese, hot dog bits, whatever your dog likes and you can dole out in small portions.
Step 2: Acclimate Dog to Having His Feet Touched
For your dog to be calm, you need to be calm. So relax, grab your dog and some treats and have some fun!
The first thing we do is acclimate the dog to having his feet touched. With your dog sitting next to you (easiest to do if you are sitting on the floor), touch one of his feet lightly and praise him in a calm voice. Give him a treat.
If your dog doesn't mind this touch, pick up his foot as you praise him and give him a treat. If your dog does mind, stick with lightly touching each foot until you can touch them without him even noticing. Continue to treat after each touch. This first session, end on a happy note before your dog gets tired of you touching his feet, probably 10-20 treats-worth.
After a few session (the number will vary depending on your dog), you should be able to pick up and handle each of your dogs feet. When you can do this, you are ready for the next step.
Step 3: Acclimate Your Dog to Clippers
Sitting next to your dog, let him sniff the clippers and give him a treat.
Pick up a foot and place the clippers near the the nails. (Do not place trimmers around he nail or make any noise with the clippers.) Praise and give your dog a treat.
Do this several (10-15) times and end the session. It is important that the clippers become a good thing to the dog, not a scary or intimidating thing. Most people grab the clippers, try to wrestle the dog and clip its nails. From this the dog learns that the clippers in your hand mean you turn into a scary, mean monster who is trying to cut his feet off. We want him to learn that the clippers in your hand mean he gets praised and he gets to eat lots of treats.
During the next session, you can start squeezing the clippers so that they make a noise. Guillotine clippers have a spring action that makes a certain noise and we want the dog used to this noise. We aren't clippings nails yet, just squeezing the handle while the clippers are near the dog's feet. Remember to praise and treat the dog after each squeeze.
Step 4: Trim Your First Nail!
Now that your dog is acclimated to the motions of clipping (this process should probably take about a week but could take longer if he has had bad toenail-trimming experiences before) we can start to trim his nails.
Pick up a paw and examine the nails. If your dog has light nails, you should be able to see the quick or the pink fleshy part that is inside the toenail. This is what we will try to avoid cutting into as it can be painful and will bleed quite a bit. If your dog has dark toenails, it will be harder to determine the proper length to cut but you can examine the underside of the nail. There should be a groove the runs parallel to nail growth. If you cut beyond this groove,closer to the tip of the nail, you should be safe.
Place the cutter around the tip of the nail with the solid plate of the guillotine cutter facing your dog. Your cut will be just past the quick at an angle away from the paw. (See diagram.) With one quick movement, close the clipper around the nail for a smooth cut.
Continue until you have trimmed all the nails. After each toe or couple of toes, praise your dog and give him a treat. Don't forget the dew claws, which are farther up on the legs, near the ankle. If left long, these can catch on things and actually injure your dog.
Step 5: File Those Things!
To reduce the sharp edges, file the nails from the topside of the nail down and around to the end of the nail tip. This will help avoid splitting, which freshly trimmed nails are prone to. Filing the nails will also help save your furniture and floors but is not absolutely necessary if your dog is being squirmy at this point. Better to end on a positive note rather than both of you getting frustrated.
Step 6: Oh No, He's Bleeding!
If you cut too close to the quick and the nail starts to bleed, apply the styptic powder to the nail tip and keep applying until the bleeding stops. A toenail will bleed for about 5 minutes if left unattended and while it may seem like a lot of blood all over your floor, it is very rarely harmful. However, a dog may be frightened by this and you may have to start from square one, acclimating him to the process again.