Retired director, GSI, with around seven decades of association with furry friends
All mammals have nails, and so do the dogs. Nails on the claws are an organ of offence and defence. Unlike Canids, dogs cannot retract their nails. They remain fixed. This, at times, leads to embarrassing situations when your neighbour’s dog, while playing, accidentally scratches your kid’s daughter. People often think that if scratched by a dog, one will have to visit a hospital to take anti-rabies shots! If not bitten, but only scratched by a dog’s nails, one cannot catch rabies, because it is a virus which spreads from a dog’s saliva, that too if it reaches the bloodstream of the person bitten.
Well, dog bite cases are lesser as compared to scratches from the dog’s nails. The puppies have thin, sharp nails and they scratch and often puncture the human skin. You needn’t get alarmed. You just need to trim those sharp claws. A major question comes, how to trim the nails? Remember how you trimmed your infant’s nails? Initially, he must have wriggled a lot and gradually stopped protesting after realising that the nail cutter doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt, because you are careful, not to cut the quick of the nail. The same procedure has to be adopted for dogs, except that a bit of training makes it easier. For a puppy up to three months of age, it is easy. Just hold the puppy in your lap and talk to him sweet nothing and while he is busy licking you or trying to cuddle, take hold of a paw and swiftly trim the pointed tips of the nails. If the puppy is too frisky, do not hesitate to take the help of another person. He/she can hold the pup and you can trim the nail. It should be all fun and play for the pup. After the session, do reward the pup with his favourite titbit.
Alas, this fun lasts till the pup is about three months old. Thereafter, if the pup’s nails are black then the quick of the nail is not easy to locate. Many times, ignorant owners hurt their pups. Apart from the pain, the puppy bleeds from the injured nail. But there has to be a safe way! Yes, there are many safe methods of trimming your dog’s nails. One of them is the use of a nail grinder. However, before you start actually grinding the nails, it is better to accustom your dog to the sound of the grinder. The almost inaudible whine of the grinder sounds like a sawmill, cutting through a log of Teak wood. It is natural that he gets scared. There is a way out for that too. Initially while playing with the puppy in one room, ask someone to run the grinder in another room. After a day or two, let the grinder be run just before a meal is being served. The moment it is stopped, your assistant says, ‘Yes’ and you can give the command to your dog to have his food. In no time he associates the noise of the grinder with food. Now it is time to try grinding the nails of your dog. If he is a small-sized breed, you may take him on your lap and if a large-sized breed, then a table is the best place. In the beginning, take the help of an assistant. As he holds the dog gently and talks with him, you lift a foreleg and grind a nail, gently. As soon as the sharpness of the nail is lost, stop grinding. Then try another and yet another. After the session please do reward the dog lavishly with sweet words and a titbit of his choice.
Yet another technique is to use a Guillotine type of nail cutter. There is a hole in this in which you fit precisely the length of the nail to be trimmed and cut in one go. However, to use that you have to have some experience of the job. I have seen people taping the mouth of the dog and tying all the legs to perform this job. It is cruel and best avoided. Nowadays Dog Parlours are available where all these facilities exist and the guys know their job well. No doubt it costs money, but at least the risk of injuring your dog is avoided. While trimming the nails or for that matter grooming the dog or even while giving medicines, it is important that you have taught your dog the basic command of Stay. Once a dog learns this command, it becomes easy to handle. Otherwise, a frisky or wriggling dog is very difficult, especially when it comes to trimming the nails.
Once your dog is around six months old, the easiest and the best method is to walk him on a hard road. A walk of four km a day in two shifts is enough to keep the toes well-manicured and you don’t need to trim the nails at all. Sometimes, the ‘dew claws’ or the extra nails on the inner sides of the legs, just above the paws become a problem. They too need constant attention, else they grow very long and become curved and hard to trim. Many times, they pierce the skin of the limb and hurt the dog a lot. If you are buying a dog from a good breeder and the pup has dew claws you can request him to remove them. Around three-four days of age, puppies do not have many pain nerves, hence they are easily operated upon by a Vet, without even using local anaesthesia. However, if you have a grown-up dog, and you wish to remove his dew claws, you may do so with the help of a Vet. However, if you prefer to keep them as such, you should regularly trim them and keep them small in size. Dogs with large due claws often get injured as they get entangled in hedges and cause a lot of pain to the dog. This is why it is important to trim the dew claws. You or your children won’t suffer from those scratchy nails if you keep them well-trimmed.