Trimming your dog’s nails is a necessary, but sometimes nerve-wracking, part of dog ownership. There are many styles of nail clippers available on the market. One of the best kinds you can purchase is a clipper set with a guard.
The guard is a small metal piece that comes with your nail clippers and can be moved to block one side of the clippers right past the outside clipper. Surprisingly, many pet owners aren’t aware of what this metal piece does, and many move it out of the way, which is definitely an option for more confident nail trimmers.
However, if you’re new to trimming a dog’s nails, the guard is a great safety precaution to use when clipping the dog’s nails. It prevents you from clipping off too much of the nail when giving them a trim.
Anatomy of a Dog Nail
A dog’s nail consists of the visible hard outer shell of the nail and an inner, soft cuticle called the “quick”. The quick houses the nerves and blood vessels of the nail, and it can cause pain to your dog when his nails are trimmed too short and the quick is cut.
Frequent but small trims, especially in the beginning, are recommended to help the quick recede into the nail and allow you to give your dog a good nail trim without hitting the quick. The longer the nail, the longer the quick, so you can’t wait until the nails are extremely long and then expect to be able to trim off a large portion.
Anxiety About Nail Trimming
Because a lot of dogs have experienced pain when having their nails (and quicks) cut, they can be anxious, fearful, and unwilling when it’s time for nail trimming. A guard on your nail clippers is the first step to helping them overcome this fear, as it will keep you from trimming the nail too short and cutting the quick.
Other methods to overcome nail trimming fear include offering your dog treats whenever they let you handle their paws. Someone is holding a spoon of peanut butter for your dog to lick when getting their nails trimmed, lots of praise, and lots of gentle handling of their paws and feet from the time they are young.
The American Kennel Club offers a great tutorial for helping your puppy or dog learn to trust you in their feet' handling and care. It involves a one week process of getting your pet used to having their paws handled and taking away the fear of the clippers.
Tips for Using Dog Nail Clippers with a Guard
Now that you understand why it’s important to use a guard, here are some easy to follow steps as you learn to trim your dog’s nails with a guard.
Always Stick to a Routine for Nail Trimming
A routine helps your dog know what to expect, and if you’ve been gentle with their nails in the past, your dog won’t become worried or fearful when it’s time to do it again. Always include lots of praise and rewards during the process.
Trim Less Nail, More Frequently
Because of the cuticle, you can’t trim the nails too much, which is when a guard comes in handy. The guard will only let you trim a bit off the tips of each nail. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do small weekly trims as opposed to waiting and doing a big trim once a month, which will result in bleeding cuticles.
Be Prepared for Cut Quicks
Even with careful trimming using a guard, bleeding may happen. Be prepared with some styptic powder or other clotting powder to dip the bleeding nail into and stop the bleeding.
Press on Your Dog's Paw to Extend Their Nails When Trimming
Pressing on their paw allows the nails to extend from the paw and makes it easier to clip them.
Talk to Your Vet About Nail Trimming
Your dog’s vet would be a great person to chat with as you learn how to care for your dog’s nails. They can show you how to use the clippers and what to use if you accidentally cut a quick.
They can also help you if your dog requires sedative measures to get their nails trimmed. Sometimes dogs come from a background where they are unwilling to let anyone touch their paws, or they may be too big for you to handle. Your vet can help you figure out if some medication would allow the process to happen.
A professional is also an option for nail trimming. Many groomers offer this service as a part of their package.
Using a guard is a great way to ensure that nail trimming is quick and painless for your pet. They help to take away the guesswork of wondering where the quick is. Even if you’re nervous to trim your dog’s nails for the first time, a guard will give you peace of mind and confidence in this essential dog owner task.