We have raised Dalmatians for over 20 years. Winston and Lady have had two litters with a total of 21 puppies – what an experience. They were perfect parents, mates and companions for years. They grew into their role as family members very quickly.
We developed a love and trust based on constant and concerned care. We learned very early how important it is to know how to trim your dog’s nails. Lady’s nails were especially a challenge because they 1) grew so fast, 2) grew very heavy and thick and 3) were quickly uncomfortable if not trim and neat.
Some Skill Develop With Trial and Error
Like most dog owners, we learned some skills by trial and error. Our vet was a very big help but there were special talents we had to develop on our own. You probably already know that putting off clipping a dog’s nails ends up in broken nails, ingrown nails and nail bed infections. Sometimes we all learn the hard way. We saw how uncomfortable – painful – walking with long or ingrown nails was for Lady.
I got to say first – you need to learn how to do this right early – or you and your dog will have trust issues for the rest of his or her life. We were lucky. Winston and Lady both tolerated our fumbling and lack of experience. We went to our vet and he spent a good bit of time training us on the right approach in trimming dog nails. It was worth the time and little bit of money. Frankly, simply “watching” your vet or the vet assistant won’t teach you all you need to know. Do it yourself is key here.
New Meaning to “Hold Still”!
The obvious issue is keeping your dog still long enough to trim the nails properly. Far too many time cutting too close will cause bleeding. If your dog is constantly jumping around, you may be unable to even hold the nail steady long enough to get the right angle and length.
We found the best approach – rather than tying them up – is to lay them down on a relatively soft surface. Got an old couch or sofa? Perfect. Gently – every so gently, get your dog to stretch out. Place your hand on his side and slowly lien into him until you are able to softly hold him against the couch seat and back. Then slowly stroke the feet until he is able to trust you enough to hold the paw long enough to gently trim the nail. Be ready, he will pull his paw back again and again – be patient.
A real important tip – obvious to only some – if you start with a puppy – the training and developing trust is easier. Plus most puppies are small enough to be controlled safely and gently. Everyone is different but the earlier the better for a long happy life with your dog and easy trimming. The older the dog the more effort required. If you are not up to it, get help at least the first few times.
How Often Do We Trim Dog Nails
It isn’t always the top of the list of things to do – but to keep our guys healthy and happy we have made it a point never to go beyond four weeks before we tend to their nails. Some older dogs, believe it or not, may actually need more frequent attention. You will see after a few sessions. Look at the nails. When they start to develop a curve of more than 20 degrees – it is time to shave or cut the nails.
That terrible clicking sound in the hall is another good signal. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, that will also effect the frequency as well. The more outside time – the sooner the nails require attention. Imagine the nails are used like spikes on football shoes. Gripping the ground causes a certain amount of growth and “sharpening” of the nails. That will cause a lot quick growth sooner than later.
What Equipment to Trim Your Dogs Nails Safely
Manual equipment includes a cutter trimmer, or a guillotine or scissor style cutter. If you have the money, a Pet Paws sander much like my Dremel hobby tool works quite well. But just like trimming itself, the motion of trimming will require time and effort to gain trust and confidence. Stroke the paws, gain their trust, hold the paw with very little pressure. Slowly, very slowly, trim or clip the nails.
The paws will pull back – simply and gently pull them back again. If you use the electrical equipment like Pet Paws or the Dremel tool, the sound will cause a lot of motion. Simply holding the equipment near your dog won’t do anything but agitate them. You will have to slowly hold the tool close to the paw, lightly touch the nails and show that it won’t hurt. It may take a few times but you can encourage your dog to cooperate – if he trusts you or whoever is doing the work won’t hurt him.
You should try to clip the nails from the bottom up. Try to get as close to a 90 degree angle as you can. The “white” of the nail will show the quick and a hint of the blood vessel inside the nail. You want to move with small chunks of the nail. This is especially true if the nail is black. Dalmatians actually have black as well as white nails so be careful.
A nail file may be useful to clean up any left over rough edges. The same rules apply. After nearly five years, we still have to really work hard to keep Winston calm when we file his nails. The Pet Paws is a emery wheel and has some advantages. The disadvantage is the noise – until you help him overcome it.
The Inevitable “oops” – Be Ready!
Remember, there will be “slips” from time to time. I saw our vet – one of the best in the business – clip too closely more than once. Don’t panic or show over concern to your dog. Be ready with a styptic pencil. The same as men use for shaving. The nails house blood vessels. The pencil will cause the blood to clot and stop the bleeding. This will be a relief to your dog as well as you. Imagine bloody paw prints across the floor. Just do your best – and be ready for problems like this. The styptic pencil is just alum and available in all drug stores or drug counters at places like Walmart. The “home remedy” category will provide substitutes like flour, baking soda or cornstarch. But a 25 cent styptic pencil is the solution.
YouTube has a bunch of great videos. This article won’t allow links – but key in trim dog nails and you will find examples of each approach we have described. But how do you ensure you have it all “right”?