Nail Cutting vs. Nail Grinding

I had a lady bring her dog into work the other day and when I was doing the “Hands On Pet” evaluation, I noticed super long nails.  When I mentioned it, she said her dog hated the nail clippers.  I then mentioned a nail grinding and she said well if you can get him to do it, good luck.  A lot of people have been asking about the difference.  First, it cuts a lot closer to the quick and second, Me, the groomer, is a lot less likely to cut the quick.  If you don’t want to pay a groomer to do it (which I understand can become quite expensive at times in this rough economy) you can purchase your own tool.  I’ll show you exactly what to look for.  Of course I’ll be mentioning products that are sold at Petsmart, as those are the ones that I typically use since I work their.  I’m sure that your local pet store sells the same products as they are not a particular Petsmart brand, but if you have questions about other products, I’ll be happy to look at them and see how they compare!

First off, I have to state that I can’t believe how many people are nervous about cutting their dogs nails.  It’s the same as if you were to cut your nails.  It just happens that ours are thinner (and rounded).  I always start young when training dogs with the clippers.  When I had Milow, I would set him in the same chair and he would just hand me his paws until I was done.  Eclipse would hide his head in fear, but still sat still and as for Cyrano, he just lays down while I work on his nails, and he has dew claws.  He is even great with the grinder, which we just introduced to him recently.  It just takes patience and confidence to train your dog to behave while working around their feet, and you have to practice it at a young age with your puppy.  I always touch Cyrano’s feet, not only to check them to make sure everything looks in good heathy shape, but to constantly show him that it’s okay for me to touch his feet.

When I get dogs that come in that “hate” the nail clipping.  I’m confident and eventually the dog will give in and sit still.  I hold my ground and I’m not super sweet.  I’m won’t praise a dog who isn’t complying with me like a lot of pet parents do.  Cyrano hated the grinder at first, but I wouldn’t just let go of his paw and let him win.  I held on, without putting him through any pain, and he eventually gave.  He then laid down like he does at home when I trim his nails with the clippers, and sat patiently until I was done.  Now as for the work blow dryer, we’re still working on that.

This is the angle in which you should be cutting your dogs nails. When you get comfortable, then you can start using other angles to get closer to the quick.

I have noticed a lot of people telling me that they are scared of cutting the quick.  I was to when I was a beginner, but you can cut relatively close and not cut the quick.  You can take your time too, never rush yourself, or at least I hope you didn’t plan on trying this 15 minutes before you have to leave for work.  Take little pieces off at first until you see you are getting close enough to the quick.  If you do cut the quick (which you’ll know cause the dog will give a little yelp), don’t panic.  There is an easy solution at the home to fix this.  Get a paper towel and wrap it around the paw or nail in which you cut.  Then get a little bowl and fill it with flour or corn starch.  Put the paw in the bowl and make sure the nail is submitted into the flour/corn starch.  Hold it there for around 30 seconds, just to make sure the bleeding stops.  At work we have a antiseptic powder that works the same way (I’m sure your local pet store will have this).  Continue with cutting and after you are all done (10-15 minutes) and you can wash away the powder residue.  If it didn’t stop the bleeding, just continue to hold it in the powder.  It helps clot the bleeding.

Grinding the nails help keep the nails shorter and rounder so they are not as sharp. Do you see how you can slightly see the quick on the bottoms of the nails?

Now the grinding is a lot simpler.  Scary at first but simple.  It’s like a faster way of filing nails.  I personally love grinding.  The nails come out more rounded and because you are filing smooth edges, there are no sharp nails that are going to cut you after you are all done.  I use the Dremel tool at work.  The reason we use that is because it has two speeds, slow and fast and when you have an hour to do a dog, you need fast speed.  If you aren’t comfortable with the fast speed, cause it’s pretty fast and can be intimidating for those who have never done it, there are other products out there that are not nearly as fast as the Dremel.

Before you start grinding, make sure to clip down the nail so you aren’t grinding for long periods of time.  The grinder can get warm if you spend a lot of time grinding and you’ll wear down your tool.  To start nail grinding, hold your dogs paw so you can see the bottom of the paw, or the pads.  Grind the bottom of the nail a little.  This will remove any dirt that makes it hard to see the quick.  Once that is loosen up, then you can continue grinding down the rest of the nail.  There is no particular way to grind.  No directional ways to do it, you’ll just need practice, and remember to have confidence!  You want to round the nail around the quick.  The quick will become easy to see when you get close and it’s a lot harder to break open the quick with this tool.  It is still possible to open the quick if the grinder is held onto the quick for a while.  It’s like the skin of your finger.  If held long enough, it will start to take off layers of the skin.

If it’s the first time grinding with your dog, turn on your instrument and let the dog listen to the noise for a moment.  Show them the Dremel or tool of choice.  You can always throw in lots of treats!  Pick up their paw, if they fight, just keep holding.  Once they realize you are not going to let go, they will stop fighting.  Sometimes the fighting will be a while.  I had a dog fight me for an hour before they finally gave up.  If your dog tries to bite you, put on a muzzle, but remember that dogs that have breathing problems like pugs and other short snouted dogs shouldn’t wear a muzzle, so try a cone instead.  Also, only leave your muzzles on for 20 minutes.  Any longer could stress out your dog and cause problems.  Dogs pant when they get stressed and the muzzle doesn’t allow them to pant.  If you have any questions or are still nervous about it, ask your vet or local pet groomer to give you a few tips and show you a few ways they do it.  I know Petsmart has an open viewing area so you can watch.  There is no better learning tool then watching someone who has done it, probably a hundred times!  I’m sure the Petsmart groomers would be happy to answer any questions you have too!  I know I’m always happy to help!

Also a good tip.  If your dog fights you consistently and you are having a hard time with it, try taking your dog out for a good long walk or run, then afterwards, try your grooming.  The dog will be tired and a lot less likely to constantly try and fight you.  A tired dog is a lot easier to work with than a super hyper dog!  Good Luck! :)

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