Ask the Vet: Why Do Dogs Hate to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

Trimming Labrador Retriever Nails
Today, domesticated dogs need their nails trimmed by humans — and it’s not generally a pleasant experience for either party.

So why do dogs hate it so much?

Unfortunately, it can be extremely painful for a dog to have their nails cut when things go wrong. And despite the best efforts of humans to get it right, it’s quite easy to “get it wrong” — or in other words, to cut the quick.

What’s the “quick”?

In every one of a dog’s nails, there is a nerve, which is analogous to the pink nail beds we humans have beneath our nails. The difference is, a dog’s hard outer nail curves around their nerve. And so, it’s quite possible that when a human cuts a dog’s nail, they cut too far back and clip part of that inner nerve.

This is called cutting the quick, and it hurts a tremendous amount. A bad experience of having their quick cut can make a dog never want to have their nails trimmed again. For dogs who are new to nail trimming, the process can be equally scary because of a combination of the way their paws are being held, the tool you’re using and the sound it makes, and the restrain they must be under while you do the clipping.

How to reduce stress in your dog when trimming their nails

Here are some tips to help ease the stress of the (unfortunately necessary) task of trimming your dog’s nails:

  • Start trimming at a young age
  • Be soothing and calming when trimming; if you can, have a friend or family member pet and soothe as you clip
  • Try new nail clippers that your dog won’t associate with past pain
  • Be excited about the new nail clippers; act like they’re a fun toy and give treats when showing them for the first time (take the treats away when you take the clippers away, and repeat)
  • Practice trimming by gently taking your dog’s paw and tapping a pencil eraser or marker on their nails
  • Test out the clipper sound to get them used to it before the first trimming
  • Give treats and praise after each nail trim
  • Do your best to avoid clipping the quick; if necessary, clip less nail than you think you need to

For more questions regarding clipping your dog’s nails, contact us at Sunset Veterinary Clinic!

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