Save on Grooming Costs: Clipping your Dog’s Nails and Coat

As pet owners, we are always looking for ways to save money. One area where we can make some savings is grooming. Grooming your own pet can be both rewarding and save you some money – especially when you can purchase pet grooming tables and everything else you need for the price of a visit or two to a professional groomer!

Learning to do your own grooming is fairly easy and you only get better with practice so what better time to start saving yourself some pennies than now?

We are offering some help and advice on trimming your dog’s nails and clipping their coat with products you can pick up fairly cheaply from the Internet. These products usually come with their own instructions and if you want extra guidance, you can even pick up fully illustrated and helpful guides online too!

Trimming Nails

Just like us, dog’s nails grow continually. Although dog nails can wear themselves down, they still require regular trimming. If the nails aren’t trimmed and allowed to grow, they can cause your dog pain.

Before you begin, associate nail trimming with treats! This will make the process a lot easier next time around – hold your dog’s paw and nails (like you would do if you were going to cut them) for a few seconds, then offer them a treat. If possible, do this for a few days before you actually cut your dog’s nails for the best results.

When to Cut: You’re dog’s nails are too long if they can touch the ground. An easy way to tell if the nails are too long is if you can hear them ‘pattering’ when you dog walks on hard surfaces.

How to Cut: When you are certain your dog is comfortable with the presence of the nail trimmers, have a bag of treats on hand and secure your pet. As you cut each nail – be sure to reward them with a treat.

Securely hold your dog’s paw with one hand and place the nail cutter over the nail. Start by removing only a small section of nail to allow you and your dog to get used to the process. Firmly grasp the handle of the nail cutter and it will remove the tip of the nail with a guillotine-like action. Be sure that this is carried out in one swift movement.

How Far to Cut: Unlike human nails, a dog’s nail has a blood supply to some extent. The section of nail supplied with blood is known as the ‘quick’. When cutting your dog’s nails, you should not cut further than the quick.

Spotting the Quick: The most difficult part of trimming dogs’ nails at home, and the part that puts most people off, is spotting the quick. If your dog has light coloured nails, this is actually fairly easy. The quick will appear as a dark section within the nail – you should cut roughly 2mm after the end of this dark section to avoid accidentally clipping the blood vessels.

If your dog has dark nails, it can require a bit more skill to spot the quick. In this situation, you should gradually cut back the nail, looking at the cut tip after each cut. When you see a grey/pink oval start to appear at the cut end, this is the point to stop.

What to Do if You Accidentally Cut the Quick: Firstly, don’t panic. Speak with a calm and reassuring tone to your dog and offer them a treat. Don’t be alarmed if they yelp. The bleeding may continue for a while, but you can shorten this by using an antiseptic styptic (blood stopping) powder. Apply the powder, whilst reassuring your pet and wait for the bleeding to stop.

Don’t be put off, and attempt to continue cutting other nails – just take a bit more time when cutting and cut the nail gradually. Over time, both you and your dog will become more accustomed to the whole process!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Have treats handy to help associate nail cutting with a good experience!
  • Try using calming treats or plug-in diffusers before cutting to calm your dog’s mood
  • If your dog has dark claws get someone to help by shining a light through the nails – this can make it easier to spot the quick
  • The quick is sometimes more visible from underneath
  • Bathing before cutting can make it easier to cut the nails and spot the quick
  • Don’t try to cut your dog’s nails all in a single day, spread cutting out over a few days to make it easier on you and your dog!
  • Regularly trim your dog’s nails, this helps to keep the quick shorter too
  • Practice using your nail clipper on thinly sliced vegetables if you have never used one before – this can help you to practice the swift, single motion
  • Don’t panic! Your dog can sense if you are stressed and this can make them feel uneasy
  • If your dog seems stressed or frightened, take a few more days to allow them to get accustomed to the nail clippers – positively reinforce them having their nails held or being near the nail clippers
  • Don’t punish or scold your dog during nail clipping – or if they refuse to have their nails clipped
  • Try a nail grinding tool instead of traditional guillotine cutters – these gradually grind down the nail and it is a lot easier to avoid damaging the quick
  • If you dog seems severely frightened or acts aggressively when attempting to cut their nails, seek the advice of a vet or canine behaviourist

Clipping Hair

Like your dog’s nails, their coat is likely to need regular trimming. You may bring your dogs to pet self wash stations to conduct the grooming and hair cutting they need.

Cutting their coat is something that can easily be done at home – although don’t expect groomer quality results from your first attempt. Over time however, with practice you will become more proficient at cutting your dog’s coat and save yourself a lot of money!

Before you Start: Before trimming your dog’s coat, make sure it is clean by bathing them and removing all dirt. Be sure to brush them too to remove all knots and tangles.

If they have never been trimmed before, either by yourself or a professional, take a few days to allow them to get used to the presence and sound of the clippers you will be using. Reward them for the time they spend near the clippers whilst they are on and if possible, take small clippings of their fur so they can get used to the feeling of the clippers.

Starting to trim your dog’s coat when they are young can allow them to get used to the clippers from an early age.

It might be worth visiting the groomer once to see what their coat should look like when clipped correctly, be sure to take a few pictures so you can copy the style when you begin clipping yourself.

Remember, hair grows back so if you make a mistake, it’s not going to last forever!

Start Cutting: Familiarise yourself with the clipper’s instructions and set them up for cutting at the required length. Start by shaving a small patch of your dog’s coat, preferably on their underside – this allows you to make sure you have the clippers at the correct length and they aren’t pulling on hair instead of cutting. It also allows you to see if your dog is going to be happy with you doing the rest of their coat! If not, take a few more days to familiarise them with the clippers.

Trimming the Delicate Areas: Use a slightly longer clipper size to trim the more delicate stomach areas, armpits, crotch and bum areas.

Shaving the Main Areas: Shave the body, legs and paws a consistent length (or varied depending on your dog’s breed specification) using a shorter length clipper if desired.

Trimming the Face: The ears and face should be trimmed with scissors, take care when using the scissors. Consult the pictures you took of your dog after they had been groomed to get an idea of how the facial hair should be cut.

After Cutting: Take a step back, admire your work and give your pet a treat. Now, it’s probably worth bathing your dog again and then brushing them thoroughly to remove any excess hair. You’re probably going to want to vacuum as well.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Sometimes your dog isn’t going to need a full cut, just trimming the face, ears and paws with scissors can add some extra time between full cuts
  • Make sure your dog is familiar with the sound of clippers before you start and have a bag of treats on hand if this is one the first times they’ve been trimmed
  • Ask advice from a professional groomer on how best to cut your dog’s coat to match the breed standard
  • Visit your breed’s club website for extra breed specific advice, tricks and tips
  • Be sure to maintain your clippers with clipper lubricant – this helps to prolong their life and stop them from overheating during cutting
  • Whilst cutting hair, be sure to check the temperature of the clippers often to ensure they aren’t too hot
  • If you need to cool the blades down, try placing them on a metal surface to dissipate the heat faster

Your Thoughts

Have you got any tricks, tips or advice you can share with us? Have you attempted to cut your own dog’s hair or nails yet? Are you now an experienced home-based dog groomer? Share your stories and comments below.

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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One comment

  1. I’m glad we don’t need haircuts, cuz if we had to depend on Jen to give ’em to us, we’d be looking mighty homely indeed!

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