Ok, so maybe not my biggest fear, but clipping Ramona's nails has definitely been up there! Since I got her 4 years ago, I think her nails have been clipped under 10 times, and never once successfully by me. I did buy a nail clipper when I first adopted her, but she is a bit squeamish about having her feet touched, and the first time I tried I cut into one of her quicks and drew some blood. This was pretty traumatizing for both of us, and I decided it was worth it to pay someone else to be the "mean guy" and cut her nails.
The problem with this is that dog nails, like people nails, need to be trimmed regularly. I don't take Ramona to the groomer regularly. I'm perfectly fine with bathing her myself, cutting her hair myself, and she doesn't have anal gland issues since she eats so many bones. So other than her nails, there is really no need to take her to the groomer. Without regular cutting, dog nails can grow, grow, and grow some more, and this makes them difficult to get back under control.
When you cut a dog's nails, you just trim a little off the top, being careful not to cut too far in because you don't want to hit the quick. The quick is a set of blood vessels and nerves, which means they will bleed and hurt a little if cut. Everytime the nail is cut, the quick will receed just a teeny bit, so that when you go to cut it again in a week, you should be able to make another tiny cut. Ramona's nails hadn't been regularly tended to in so long, her quicks had grown way too long. Her dew claw was so long that if it grew any more it would start to curl under and irritate her when she walked.
I realized that this is truthfully neglectful of me as a dog parent. I decided that I needed to get over my fear and start maintaining her nails. I read up on technique, and then I went ahead and finally cut her nails by myself, successfully!
After I finished, I realized that although I had the STEPS in cutting nails correct since the first disastrous attempt, there were two new things I tried today that made all the difference:
- Be confident. Use a no-nonsense tone with your dog, and don't let them "get away" with anything. What you are doing is for their own good and does not hurt them. Even if you make a little mistake and draw a little blood, it will not be the end of the world. The last time I tried cutting her nails, I was scared and so then of course she was too! When she tried to pull her paw away I let her, thinking it was painful for her. This time I used a steady voice, and when she tried to pull away I told her "no" the same way I would if she tried to pickup a chicken bone from the sidewalk. I know it's not what she wants, but it's for her own good. Once I changed my mindset, Ramona stopped struggling so much and I was able to do all 4 paws in a matter of minutes!
- Start small. Take off just a millimeter or two if you're nervous. If you can take off 2mm every week for a while, you can get the nails to the length they should be. No need to rush into a new skill. Everytime you do it, you will get more confident and your dog will get more comfortable with it.
If the idea of cutting your dog's nails still makes you queasy, take heart! Soon our Self-serve dog wash will be open and we will be offering nail clipping as a service!