Unless your pet is a very active outdoor dog their nails will need to be trimmed on a regular basis, anywhere from once a week to once a month. Nail trimming is one activity that are often feared by both the owner and your dog, but it doesn't have to be. The best way to calm your fear is to ask someone to show you the proper technique and best time to start is when they are a puppy!
Types of Nail Trimmers
There are many different types of nail trimmers. Buying a good quality trimmer that is sharp, comfortable and designed for the correct size dog is important. They should be concave at the cutting edge to avoid crushing the nail. Blunt or poor quality nail trimmers will split the nails. If the nails aren't that long, but are sharp, you can simply file the nails or use a pumice stone to smooth them down. If you decided to use a Dremel this can be a more gradual way of trimming the nails.
How to Trim the Nails
The first step is to get some treats. You want to make the whole experience a positive one. Don't try and trim all the nails at once, you want your dog to get use to you trimming their nails. If is best to start this while puppies, from the time you pick-up your first puppy. Start with one nail, reward and come back later if you find your puppy is nervous. Dog's nails grow at an angle, this makes trimming the nails a easy task (once you know how). The method is to aim to cut at a 45*angle, after visualizing the quick (the dogs nerve ending and blood vessel of the nail).
Working with Black Nails
If your dog has black nils then seeing the quick is not visible, but you can look at the underside of the nail and you will notice that towards the tip of the nail it separates out into a triangular shape with two out spots. It is at this point there are no quick and it is safe to cut the tip of the nail off. Otherwise, you can use a technique of simply cutting straight across from the pad (dogs pad of paw) where the nail starts to curve rather than attempting to cut a 45* angle.
What if I cut the nails to Short?
If you accidentally cut the nail to short you can use "styptic powder" to stop the bleeding or you can use a clean bar of soap. The soap will plug the vessel and stop the bleeding. Usually if you have made your dog bleed they will be a bit nervous next time you go to trim their nails. So, its best to take your time and go slow to avoid accidentally cutting into their quick. Older dogs tend to end up with long quicks and elongated nails that are often extremely hard making trimming a little tougher. Nails can also grow back a bit deformed if there has been some sort of trauma to the nail beds. If you don't feel comfortable trimming your dogs nails then you can have a groomer or your vet to happily do this for you.
Whenever you trim your dog's nails (generally bi-weekly) remember to make the whole experience a good one and if your happen to have a very patient dog, go ahead and give them a puppy pedicure with a splash of nail polish! Dog's nails look cool painted!