It's fun to hear your dog's nails tap-tap-tapping on the floor when they're running to the door to greet you after you've been gone. And if you hear that noise, at least you know where they are in the house! But that tap-tappity noise is really a sign that your dog is in need of a nail trim. If you regularly walk on pavement or sidewalks with your dog, that abrasive surface helps to wear down their nails.
Aside from that, all dogs need regular trims. You can use a file, clippers, or even a Dremel tool to grind them – although that's a tool best left to dogs with short hair and used after you are experienced and your dog is relaxed during the process.
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"Miller's Forge makes quality nail clippers," says groomer Tabatha Gruchow, NCMG (National Certified Master Groomer). "Scissor or pliers-style nail clippers with a safety stopper are ideal for home use." A safety stop is a handy mechanism for not cutting too deeply – that can lead to cutting into the nail quick, which has blood vessels and nerves and causes pain. A safety stop such as the one on these Miller's Forge Nail Clippers has a built-in safety stop that can be moved into position to prevent over-cutting.
It's also important to choose a nail clipper size that matches the size of your pet. Most brands make nail clippers in small, medium, and large. There are a few different types of nail clippers also . . . the American Kennel Club says a scissors type clipper like the Andis Large Nail Clippers works well for large dogs or dogs with thicker nails because you can use the extra force of leverage to cut through. The Epica Small Nail Clippers are sturdy and sharp, for cutting through smaller nails with less force.
"These two are brands that I have bought over and over again because of their durability," says groomer Emily Woods, who is working towards her APG (Advanced Professional Groomer) certification. "They stay sharp and they don't fall apart, causing it to twist or pinch the nails."
The above listed items are scissors clippers. A guillotine clipper is like it sounds. In this format, you press and a sharp blade lowers to slice off the nail. The AKC says guillotine clippers are best for small- to medium-sized dogs. Whichever kind you use, be aware that the blades are very sharp, so take care when using. A sharp blade will cut more easily than a dull blade, and will be faster to use.
"If you keep up with it regularly (a couple times a week), a coarse grit nail file will work great," says Gruchow. "It's less nerve-wracking for pet parents." Gruchow says dogs know when their pet parent is nervous because they can sense the hormones we release, including the stress hormone cortisol. That can lead to them getting nervous as well. "When you're calm, it's easier for the pet to remain calm," says Gruchow. "A nail file like the Paw Brothers Diamond Edge Nail File isn't as intimidating to most pets and pet parents as clippers or grinders."
You can also use a dremel, like the Dremel 7300 Series Pet Nail Grinder, specifically made for pets, to grind the nails down. "Use caution with this method if the dog has long hair, because the hair can get caught in the dremel head," warns Gruchow. This method is safe, because you're not actually cutting anything with the potential to cut into their quick, and effective. The AKC says grinders work well for large dogs with thick nails as well as dogs who dislike the feeling of the clippers.
Because it rotates with a motor and vibrates, it will likely take your dog some time to get used to it. Use this method if your dog is very patient, easily distractable with treats, or is trained to be used to the sound of the grinder.
Miracle Care Kwik Stop Styptic Powder quickly helps stop bleeding from minor cuts or accidentally clipping nails too short. "I do always recommend that if a pet parent is going to be getting into clipping nails at home to always buy styptic powder because you can accidentally cut their quick," Woods says. "It's just something you just want to have on hand in case. All you do is take a pinch and put it on the toenail and it will stop the bleeding."