Mixed Breeds For Dummies
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Dog’s nails grow quickly, and you’ll probably need to clip your dog’s nails every six weeks, regardless of her size, breed mixture, or age. If your dog spends most of her time on soft surfaces (such as dirt, grass, or sand), she may need her nails clipped more often. Even if you walk your dog on sidewalks or along the street, you’ll still need to clip her nails on the sides of the feet as well as the dew-claw nails.

If your dog doesn’t like having her nails done, you’ll need to take her to a professional groomer or to a vet to have them clipped. If you want to do it yourself, however, you’ll need to make certain your mixed breed will remain calm while you’re clipping — otherwise, you might clip the nail in the wrong place and cause severe bleeding.

If you want to do it yourself, you’ll need to train your dog to accept nail clipping. This process can take a while, so don’t expect it to happen in one day or even one week. Follow these steps, only moving on to the next step when you’ve had success with the current step. If necessary, move back to the preceding step and practice that for a while, before advancing further.

  1. Teach your dog some basic obedience, such as sit and down stays.
  2. Teach your dog to give her paw or shake.
  3. Gradually hold her paw a couple seconds longer with each successful shake.
  4. When you can hold your dog’s paw, and your dog remains calm, show her the clippers or Dremel tool, and speak in a soothing, pleasant tone while touching her feet with the tool. After each touch, praise and give her a treat.

    If your mixed-breed dog has dark nails, use a Dremel tool to trim them, instead of using nail clippers. Filing with a Dremel tool is less likely to cause injury, because you can gradually remove excess nail growth without accidentally clipping too close and causing your dog’s nail to bleed. Using a Dremel tool takes a bit longer, but your dog will be less likely to have a bad experience.

  5. When she accepts the presence of the clippers or Dremel tool with the power on, hold her feet and separate her toes while touching them with the tool. Again, praise and reward after every touch.

    Before clipping the nail, look at how the nail curves. If your dog has at least one white nail, take note of how far around the curve the pink color (known as the quick) goes (see the following figure). This will guide you on where to clip — you want to remain at least 1/8 inch away from the quick to avoid injuring your dog.

    Nail quick Illustration by Barbara Frake

    Look carefully at where the nail hooks. This is where you’ll want to apply the nail clippers in order to avoid clipping too closely.
  6. Clip or file one nail, and then allow her to relax as you pet her and speak to her in a soothing tone of voice. The moment you completed the nail, praise and reward.

    Have some styptic powder (available at most pet stores) handy to help stop any accidental bleeding that may occur from cutting too closely.

  7. Clip another nail, and pause again to praise and reward.
  8. Repeat this procedure until all her nails are done.
  9. Release her and play with a toy together.

What if you need to trim your dog’s nails and she’s not tolerating it well or you don’t have the time to go through the steps above? If you have a helper, one of you can hold her, while the other person performs the nail clipping.

There are two ways to hold and immobilize a dog for nail trimming:
  • Lift your dog with one arm wrapped around her chest and the other around her rump, leaving her feet dangling. This approach gives your partner access to the dog’s nails.
Hold dog for nail trim Illustration by Barbara Frake

Hold the dog’s body close with her feet dangling.
  • If your dog is too heavy to lift, you can leave her hind legs on the ground and wrap your arms around her chest, holding onto her paws to prevent them from moving. Your partner can then trim the nails. When it’s time to trim the back feet, lift one leg at a time to trim, as your assistant continues to hold your dog. If your dog tends to move her back leg too much for you to safely trim, hold her leg firmly against your body to steady the movement.
Holding paws during nail trim Illustration by Barbara Frake

Hold onto the paws to prevent them from moving.

Keep all grooming activities positive so that your dog will easily allow you to work with her. Use small increments, acclimating her slowly into the process. This will make your dog a more willing, and patient, partner.

If you are working with your dog in a bath tub, rub some cheese or peanut butter on one side. This will keep your mixed-breed dog occupied as you trim her nails.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Miriam Fields-Babineau has been a professional animal trainer since 1978 and is the author of 45 books in the field, including one on how to train cats! A psychologist and zoologist, she takes her work home with her and lives in Vermont with her family, dogs, cats, and horses.

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