By Leigh Bluestein
Can you hear your dog’s nails going “clickety-clack” on the floor? If so, it may be time for a trim. However, canine nail care can be stressful for both dogs and owners, alike. Many dogs aren’t properly desensitized to the feeling of someone handling their paws and caring for their nails, so they squirm and protest. And many owners are worried about cutting the nails too short into the quick, which can cause bleeding. Despite these difficulties, routine nail care is essential for a happy, healthy dog.
Devoted viewers of explore.org’s Warrior Canine Connection Puppy Cam see that WCC’s trainers make nail care a priority from the start. They massage and handle the puppies’ paws daily from an early age and trim those fast-growing puppy nails often. Once the puppies get a little older, trainers offer treats when they introduce the sound of an electric nail file. The long-term goal is to ensure that future service dogs have a positive association with the sounds and sensations of not only nail care, but all grooming activities.
Besides the anxiety that nail care can create, there is a real impact on the health of a dog if their nails grow too long. Nails that grow beyond a dog’s toe pads can cause pain, throw off their natural gait and balance and make it more likely they will lose their footing on certain surfaces. For a future service dog that goes out in public with their Veteran, long nails can get caught in escalators, metal grates or other uneven surfaces.
Here are some helpful nail care tips from WCC’s trainers:
- Take your dog for a walk before the pedicure to help them calm down and expend any extra energy.
- Always use nail clippers or an electric file specifically designed for dogs.
- Put the dog on your lap or sit comfortably beside him. You may need someone to help you hold the dog’s paw steady.
- Reassure the dog with a calm voice and a treat.
- Hold each paw and spread the toes as you trim each nail.
- Watch for the quick, a sensitive pink area at the base of the nail with lots of nerves and blood vessels. It can bleed if you cut too close.
- If you accidentally cut into the quick, use a styptic stick or powder, or even flour, to help stop the bleeding.
- If the dog is particularly anxious, you may need to do few nails at a time and take frequent breaks.
- Be sure to finish off with praise and a treat to so the dog learns that cooperation comes with positive reward.
To learn more about Warrior Canine Connection and its programs, visit www.warriorcanineconnection.org.