How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

What to have on hand: You will need a nail trimmer designed for pets (DO NOT USE CLIPPERS DESIGNED FOR PEOPLE), and a nail file to trim the nails. You should also have a “blood-stop” or styptic product handy incase you trim a nail too short. You may also need a warm, wet cloth and a small scissors to clean the feet.

Inspect the nails and feet: Before clipping nails, make sure the entire foot is healthy and clean. Inspect the area between the toes, pads and at the base of the nails for dirt. debris and matted hair.
Matting between the toes and padding can pull on the skin and cause pain while you work with the feet. Removing any matting will add comfort to the foot. Remove any matting between the toes and pads with a small scissors, being very careful not to nick the skin or pads.
Clean any dirt from inbetween the toes and pads and at the base of the nail with a warm, wet cloth or cotton.

Where to cut: trimming dogs nailsWithin the center of each toenail is the blood and nerve supply for the nail called the “quick.” Cutting into this area will cause bleeding and pain. In white nails you can see the vein or “quick.” It looks like a pinkish area in the middle of the nail. You want to cut outside this area leaving a little room at the end of the nail.
In dark nails, the quick is not visible, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. Cut dark nails in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick.

Clipping your dog’s nails: Begin by spreading each of his toes. Using a sharp guillotine-type nail clipper, hold the clipper with the face plate and screw towar the dog’s toe as in the figure here. Cut off the tip of each nail on a 45-degree angle, just before the point where it begins to curve. If you cannot visualize the quick, trim very thin slices off the end of the nail until you see a black dot appear towards the center when you look at it head on. This is the start of the quick that you want to avoid.

Bleeding: If the tip of the nail begins to bleed, apply pressure for a few seconds using styptic powder.

Filing: Once the nails have been cut, you can smooth rough edges with a file, emery board or grinder. Do not file any nails that had bled.

Make sure to get every nail. Many dogs have an extra nail on the inside of the foot near the ankle called a dew claw. It is extremely important to trim the dew claw because it does not contact the floor and will not wear down. A few breeds also have a dew claw on the hind feet and some breeds such as the Great Pyrenees have 2 dewclaws on each hind foot.

Don’t forget to praise your dog and reward with a wonderful treat.

Nail Care

Like you, your dog’s nails grow continuously and require routine maintenance.

overgrown dog nails

(A few lucky dogs never need a trim because they wear them down by exercising on hard surfaces.)

If the nails are too long, they can cause the feet to splay (spread out) creating discomfort and possible deformation of the foot. Nails can actually curl under the foot and pierce the pads at the bottom of the feet and require a trip to the vet.

Severely overgrown nails can cause a variety of problems including broken nails which are painful and bleed profusely. Long nails can break or split, a very painful condition that can become infected. Overgrown overgrown nails on dognails become “needle” sharp inflicting injury on you and your pet and can get caught in carpeting and upholstery.

Trimming your dog’s nails is important for your dog’s overall health. Your dog’s nails should be examined every 3 to 4 weeks. A dog’s nails should barely touch the ground and should not click when walking on uncarpeted areas.

Click Here for instructions on How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Matted coats

If you followed a routine grooming schedule your pet’s grooming should be easy and stress free. If, on the other hand, your pet’s coat has been allowed to grow unattended there may be problems that you should be aware.

Matting starts at the skin and works its way toward the outer coat. matted dogThe only way to prevent matting is to thoroughly comb each section of coat from the skin out regularly. If you have been occasional brushing your pet, the top coat may appear healthy and fluffy but the coat next to the skin may be matted. If the pet has been bathed without these matted areas removed, the mats felt and become impossible to comb through. The only humane way to deal with this problem is to clip under the mats, and if the matting is against the skin, it may require a complete shave down.

To help prevent matting, see our article on How To Brush Your dog.

Many people take their pet to the groomer for a spring grooming expecting to return to find Fluffy in fully sculpted style worthy of the show ring. They are horrified to discover that Fluffy has been shaved and looks more like a Mexican Hairless than a beautiful Bichon. This creates a stressful situation for everyone. The owner may be angry and the groomer is frustrated. The pet becomes stressed because of the high emotions of the people around him and may feel embarrassed if the owner seems to ridicule or reject him.

Some tips to help ease that stress:

  • If you prefer your pet to be styled in a fuller, fluffy cut plan on staying a few minutes upon arrival and allow your groomer to examine the coat. She can point out problem areas before the grooming and tell you what you can expect from the grooming.
  • Understanding that the groomer does not have a magic wand that can just make months of damage disappear will give you a realistic picture of what would be most comfortable for your pet.
  • Discuss with your groomer what you would like and set a goal to achieve that, including regularly scheduled grooming and learning proper home maintenance.
  • Always cheerfully greet your pet when returning and if your pet did need a shave, counsel family member to never laugh or make fun of your pet.

Brushing your dog

Regular brushing at home not only helps reduce the cost of professional grooming but also has other advantages. Your pet’s coat and skin will be healthier, and regular close attention may alert you sooner to any developing physical problems your pet may have.

The “quality time” spent brushing your pet will enhance

the relationship you both have and promotes “bonding.” In the wild, grooming among pack members is an important social behavior. Your dog already knows this. You may not have realized it but every time your dog licks you or rubs its face against you, it is (in a sense) “grooming” YOU!

Poor equipment is ineffective and frustrating and can actually injure your pet. Throw out worn or broken brushes and combs with teeth that are bent or missing.

A gentle slicker brush helps break up tangled hair and will put a nice fluffy finish on the coat. A solid metal comb enables you to remove tangles, reaching the base of the coat where most matting starts.

Place the dog on a firm, non-slip surface above the floor (a tub mat placed on a washer or drier is perfect). Start by combing the dog with the coarse teeth of the comb. Pay special attention to the chest area between the front legs and under and behind the ears. Comb a second time with the medium teeth. Work mats, tangles and burrs by dividing small sections at a time. Finish by brushing the coat with a slicker brush.

Bathing – Easy and quick tips

The way I was trained to bath a dog was to pre-wet the dog then work in the shampoo a little at a time starting at the head working down toward the tail. This costs time and can use a lot of shampoo. Some areas get more shampoo than others and the shampoos can be difficult to rinse out. Soap residue in the coat can cause dandruff, itching and skin problems.

Here’s my trick: Mix a small amount of shampoo to a quart of water in a 1 quart squirt bottle.  Shake to mix and apply directly to the dry coat. Work the diluted shampoo into the coat with your hands (or a slicker brush for thicker coats.) When you have covered the entire dog, rinse with clean water.Â

Applying shampoo this way eliminates several basic problems.Â

    You never again wonder whether or not you cleansed the entire dog. If the area is still dry, it wasn’t bathed.
    The shampoo spreads evenly throughout the coat.
    The shampoo is much easier to rinse out.

This technique also saves you time by eliminating the extra step of pre-wetting the dog and they rinse much quicker.Â

An ounce of shampoo to a quart of water is a good starting point although you may want to add more or less depending on the dilution rate of the shampoo. You definitely want to dilute it 3 or 4 times lighter than the shampoos recommended dilution rate. (This will not work for medicated shampoos, which may need to be used straight, and flea and tick shampoos that have a definite dilution rate for effectiveness.) No matter what type of shampoo you use, also keep a diluted tearless shampoo bottle handy for the face.

Bathing – The right water temperature

Many people tend to bathe dogs with too warm of water. This can be uncomfortable for the dog and in some cases: dangerous. If the bath water is too warm, you can overheat the dog. Adding a hot dryer to this and you could cause a problem especially with large breeds and dogs that are overweight who have a difficult time cooling down.

For water to feel warm to your touch the temperature must be higher than your body temperature which is 98.6. Water that feels warm is over 100 degrees, much too warm for the dog’s bath.

Water that is between 70 and 80 degree is perfect. It should feel “room temperature” to you. Protect the dog from chilling after the bath by wrapping in a towel and using a warm (not hot) dryer.

Separation Anxiety

You can’t leave the house! You can’t even pick up your car keys or put on your coat. Doing so will send your dog into a panicked frenzy. If you do leave, even for a short time, your dog may bark, chew, soil, or attempt to escape.

There are many possible causes for separation anxiety including genetics, early learning and owner behavior. Your dog is a social animal that relies on the pack for protection. Dogs that lack proper socialization and training, or a history of abandonment or unusually long confinement are more likely to exhibit this type of behavior.

There are steps you can take to lessen your dog’s discomfort.

Never say good-bye.
When you’re going to leave don’t make a fuss. Just walk out the door. Leave the hugs and kisses for when you return.

Crate Train Your Dog
A pet crate, when properly introduced, can become your pets favorite place. Dogs are denning animals and enjoy the safety and security of a closed space. Crating your dog will also ensure that you return to an undamaged house.

Leave him a favorite toy
Save a favorite play toy for your away time. Give it to your pet just before you leave. Keep it out of sight the rest of the time.

Leave the TV On
Tune the TV to an animal channel. The sounds will keep your dog company.

Change your exit routine.
If picking up your car keys signals anxiety for your dog, pick them up routinely throughout the day when you are not leaving. Move them from room to room making them jingle. Practice leaving and come right back in the house. Do this repeated timed to de-sensitize your dog to the routine.

Obedience train your dog.
Enroll you and your dog in group obedience classes. Working with other dogs and learning what is expected of him will not only socialize him better, but will give him more confidence.

Housebreaking – Submissive Urination

Many puppies “piddle” when excited or nervous, but when this behavior continues into adulthood, your dog can be defined as a “submissive urinator.” This problem, more commonly seen in females, can be embarrassing as well as frustrating, but fortunately there are steps you can take to correct this problem.

Before beginning any type of behavioral modification training, have the dog examined by the veterinarian for possible medical reasons. Disease and illness can make it difficult for the dog to control urination as Dog Submissive Urination Urinates when scared piddles on rug pees fear fearfulcan physical abnormalities. If the cause is medical, treatments such as surgery and medications may cure the problem. If a physical abnormality is not treatable, coping mechanisms such as diapers may be in order.

If your dog is found to be healthy the problem is most likely behavioral. In order to understand the behavior, you must understand the pack language of dominance and submission. Timid animals that do not wish to appear as if challenging a dominant member of the pack will roll on their back and urinate. This is proper behavior among pack animals and expresses submission. This is not “bad dog” behavior, spiteful or deliberate, but is simply a message stating “you are my boss, I will not challenge you.” Understanding this behavior can go a long way in helping you correct the problem.

Since the dog is naturally submissive, training based on encouraging submissiveness is unnecessary and will only make the problem worse. Disciplining the dog for uncontrolled urination only tells the dog you are still trying to dominate. His response will be to submit more, exasperating the problem.

When dealing with this type of personality, negative enforcement such as scolding and punishment should be avoided at all cost. Instead, use positive reinforcement when training your dog with treats, lots of praise and encouragement.

Here are a few tips to help correct the problem of submissive urination:

Obedience training can help build your dog’s confidence making him feel less threatened. Make his training fun with lots of play time.

In situations that prompt submission, use a distraction or downplay the greeting. Tell other people to ignore the dog for a few minutes until he settles down.

When arriving home, distract the dog with a ball or treat upon entering the house, or ignore the dog completely until it is calmer.

Work in gradual steps and don’t expect too much right away, and remember, be patient because accidents will happen.

House Breaking – Crate Training

Why It Works

The easiest and best way to prevent inappropriate dog behavior such as destructive chewing or house breaking or training accidents is with the use of a dog crate. Crate training a dog allows you to leave your home, sleep through the night or work uninterrupted knowing your dog’s behavior is under control. These “playpens” prevent your dog from potentially hurting themselves or getting “into trouble” within your home. A dog crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car.

Dog Crate Training House Breaking crate training a dogIt is very instinctual for dogs to want to retreat to a “den-like” area. If you properly teach your dog to use the crate, they will think of it as their safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.

How To Start

Dog crates should be introduced to dogs in a very positive manner. To help dogs feel at home in their crate, it is important not to use the dog crate as punishment or discipline. Make sure that your dog’s crate is located in a central area within your home, where they spend most of their time. It can be comforting for your dog to have a soft towel or blanket in their crate, as long as they are not destructive with it. Each time your dog walks into their dog crate, they can get a special, tasty “crate treat.” If yoDog Crate Training House Breaking crate training a dogur dog only gets that special treat when they are in their crate, they will look forward to going into their crate!


The crate is a secure retreat for your dog and also the key to Dog Crate Training House Breaking crate training a dogsuccessful and fast house-training. Dogs naturally do not like to soil in the area where they must sleep and eat. In order to keep their sleeping area clean, dogs teach their own bodies how to physically “hold it” when they need to eliminate. Once this important concept is learned, it is our job to follow the necessary steps of successful house-training when our dogs are out of their crate.


There’s a popular saying among dog trainers: “There’s no such thing as a bad dog.” While that may be true, any trainer will admit that there are dogs with very bad training jumping on people

Simply put, behavior is a way of acting and reacting. When a dog acts or reacts to a situation in a way that has a negative impact on her owner or others, the behavior is considered to be “bad.” Yet, to the dog, it’s just what she does.

Eliminating a bad behavior requires training to give the dog a new behavior, or habit.

Dogs Jumping

One of the most common bad behaviors is jumping up on people. This habit is established when a dog is a puppy. Puppies jump at their mother to get her attention so she will feed them. Dog owners find it adorable that their puppy works so hard to get their attention as she jumps. The naive owners come down to the dog’s level or pick the puppy up, not realizing they have just rewarded the dog for jumping and barking. Unfortunately, behavior that is cute in a puppy often becomes annoying in an adult dog.

Large dogs that jump on people for attention easily knock down and accidentally injure children and older people. Small dogs have less ability to injure someone, but usually dirty clothes and snag stockings. In both cases, while you might not mind your dog jumping up on you, other people probably don’t feel the same way.

Training your dog to sit to be petted is the easiest way to break the jumping habit. To help her develop the “sit for attention” habit, you must ignore her when she jumps on you. You might turn your back or simply walk away. If she follows you, turn quickly and tell her to sit. If she does, pet and praise her. You can reinforce this behavior by having her sit before you put her food bowl down. Every time she sits, she gets a reward of either attention or food. Every time she jumps she gets nothing.

Never pet or coddle a dog to stop the bad behavior. You are only reinforcing the bad behavior.