Are These Myths Holding You Back?
If you are like most dog owners, you do not love cutting your dog’s nails.
But what if we could change that? What if cutting dog nails was an activity that you truly loved and your dog genuinely enjoyed?
I can tell you it is possible with the tips and advice in this series!
But before we get there, I need to address some very common myths that persist as it relates to cutting dog nails.
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1. MYTH: Dogs just don’t like to get their nails cut.
FACT: It is true that some dogs don’t. Correction. It is true that many dogs don’t.
What is NOT true is that dogs CAN’T like getting their nails cut.
Let me be very clear.
When trained properly, dogs CAN and DO like getting their nails cut.
Consider the totality of experiences your dog has had with his/her paws and nails. Are they all positive and 100% force-free?
“I take my dog to the groomer and they give her treats while they trim.”
Unfortunately, with nail cutting, that doesn’t mean much. A dog taking treats during a nail trim ONLY means he is not stressed to the point that he won’t eat. It does not mean the trim is force-free or that the dog likes it.
So, I go back to the statement, “dogs just don’t like it.”
Most don’t like it. But there is a way that they CAN.
Where our dog falls on the continuum of desire for nail cutting is on us. It is our fault not a function of the dog or the process of cutting nails.
It may be true that your dog today “just doesn’t like it,” but that doesn’t mean that he CAN’T.A dog taking treats during a nail trim ONLY means the dog is not stressed to the point that he won’t eat. It does not mean the trim is force-free or that the dog likes it.
2. MYTH: Hitting the quick causes significant pain for my dog and he could bleed to death.
FACT: While none of us can say with certainty what it feels like when you hit the quick. Until someone invents a Canine Thought Translator, we may never know for sure.
But, after hitting my dogs’ quicks countless times over the last few decades, here’s what I know to be true.
Like cutting our own nails too short, a finger prick at the doctor, or a minor paper cut, hitting the quick doesn’t feel good to your dog.
But I would NOT consider it significant pain. Reactions will vary by the dog of course, with some being more dramatic than others. But in general, based on my many dogs’ reactions, I would consider the pain associated with hitting the quick mild, momentary and fleeting.
Additionally, the nail (claw) does bleed, however, the bleeding is nothing more than a trickle 99% of the time.
Yes, there can be more severe cuts that bleed enough to need some Kwik Stop, but most don’t require any care at all.
Now, I can almost hear some of you now. “This isn’t true. I accidentally hit my dog’s quick one time and now my dog won’t let me trim his nails.”
Here’s what I will say. Hitting the quick doesn’t have to mean more than the meaning we give it.
Our reaction at the moment impacts greatly our dog’s reaction. If we flinch or cry out or coddle our dogs when it happens, we are reinforcing their feeling at that moment; “Ouch!”
So if they have been quicked for the first time and they feel the pain while you freak out, yes, this can make an impression on them.
And if that event takes place during a fear period, it can make a significant impression. Enough to, in some cases, cause the dog to be very fearful of having his nails cut in the future.
If, however, we have no reaction other than to continue trimming, our dogs are much less likely to react with anything more than a slight flinch of their paw.
For more on exactly what you should do if you accidentally hit the quick and need to stop the bleeding, read 7 Best Ways to Stop Dog Nail Bleeding [DIY FAST!].
If you want the rest of the facts about the dog nail quick and HOW to avoid hitting it, download your QUICK Starter Guide here.
3. MYTH: My dog wears his nails down naturally so they don’t need to be clipped.
FACT: This one will be easy to debunk. I have met many dogs in my life. MANY.
I could list here all of the places where I have come in contact with a dog, but at my (not so old) age that might feel like an infinitely long list.
One thing all of these thousands of dogs have in common is the need for regular nail trims. I include in that group the people who said to me their dog “wears his nails down naturally.”
First of all, if this myth were true, my initial reaction is your dog is spending way too much time on hard surfaces. If you have a large breed or giant breed dog and he/she is spending so much time on hard surfaces that nail trims aren’t needed, you likely have bigger problems than nails.
Calluses, hip, and joint pain, arthritis, just to name a few.
Secondly, the likelihood of ALL of your dog’s nails being worn down is next to zero.
If you have a breed that still has dewclaws, these nails never come in contact with the ground. The dewclaw, like the other nails, continues to grow. Therefore, dewclaw trimming is critical as these nails can curl, cut into the pad of your dog’s paw, causing pain, injury, infection and more.
For a more detailed look at the ramifications of dog nails that are too long, read Dog Nails Too Long? The Truth About Why Size Matters.
Here is the point.
Domesticated dogs need their nails cut. If your dog is one that wears down some of his nails, then I recommend a weekly trim of the nails that don’t get sufficiently worn and the dewclaws.If you have a large breed or giant breed dog and he/she is spending so much time on hard surfaces that nail trims aren’t needed, you likely have bigger problems than nails.
4. MYTH: “Oh, I could NEVER clip my dog’s nails!” Clipping nails is better handled by a professional dog groomer or veterinary technician.
FACT: Someone actually said this one to me when I told them I was creating material to help dog owners with clipping nails. This person has a doodle who goes to a dog groomer regularly. So to her, the idea of taking any responsibility for her dog’s nails was out of the question.
While I understand the sentiment, I believe it is wrong. Wrong for a few reasons.
First, unless you are going to the dog groomer or vet weekly, your dog’s nails (and quick) will continue to lengthen.
Visits to the dog groomer are scheduled monthly for most dogs. And if your vet trims them, even less frequent than that.
As the nails get longer, less of that length can be taken off without hitting the quick so the problem compounds.
**For a step-by-step guide on everything you need to know about the dog nail quick, grab your QUICK Starter Guide here.**
NOT FORCE FREE
Second, unless your dog groomer or veterinary technician is using entirely force-free methods for trimming nails, then sending them out for nail trims can often do more harm than good.
At best, in these situations, your dog tolerates his nail trims. He doesn’t enjoy them.
Wouldn’t you rather your dog enjoy the one thing he needs on a weekly basis?
And lastly, if you have a breed like a doodle that requires extensive grooming, then here is my suggestion…
Consider your relationship with your dog groomer a partnership.
A partnership like your child’s teacher at school. You don’t let your child run wild at home then expect his teacher to parent him at school, do you?
Or are YOU one of THOSE?
Many teachers I know eventually say enough is enough. They signed up to teach not parent 30 kids in a classroom. Likewise, your dog groomer did not sign up for having to deal with dogs that freak out at the sight of the Dremel or nail clipper.
It doesn’t have to be that way if each of us dog owners owns this aspect of our dog’s healthcare. And yes, this is about your dog’s health. If you don’t believe me, read Dog Nails Too Long? The Truth About Why Size Matters.
Dog groomers groom. Veterinarians provide emergent and preventive medical care.
Neither of these professionals has the time nor the ability to provide nail cutting services that meet the needs of everyone, especially the dog.
Yes, dog groomers and veterinarians CAN provide nail trims, but SHOULD they be solely responsible for every trim that dog gets?
No. You should.
[Big Dog Mom *bows* as dog groomers and vet techs everywhere hail a hearty hurrah!]Yes, dog groomers and veterinarians CAN provide nail trims, but SHOULD they be solely responsible for every trim that dog gets? No. You should.
FACT: For this one, we are going to focus on two words; tolerate and problem.
Can we agree that “tolerate” and “like” are two different words? Of course, we can. We understand that when a dog tolerates something, that does NOT mean he/she likes it.
What other things do we tolerate in life?
- Paying taxes so that we don’t go to jail.
- Working at a job we hate so we can make money to live and pay taxes.
- Going to the grocery store so we can eat with the money we make from the job we hate but we do because we have to pay taxes.
We endure these things because we have to, not because we choose to. If we were free to choose, my guess is most of us would choose:
- Not having to pay taxes,
- Doing the work you love and that lights you up, and
I have had dogs that tolerated nail trims. They came when it was time to cut. They even laid down obediently.
However, tolerating a nail trim requires a delicate balance of treat shoveling and nail trimming. It requires a constant battle for the paw. And often another person.
Nail cutting with a dog that loves it is a one-person job. No paw drama. No force.Tolerating a nail trim requires a delicate balance of treat shoveling and nail trimming. It requires a constant battle for the paw. And often another person.
The second part of this myth is the debate as to whether this is a problem or not.
It may not a problem for YOU. But if your dog is, at best, tolerating nail trims, I can guarantee he/she believes it’s a problem.
The reason is simple. Dogs weigh their options all the time when they are given the freedom to do so.
**Obviously this does not include dogs who are restrained or otherwise physically forced during nail trims. Those are not given a choice.
When they are tolerating a nail trim, this just means that the reward (food) is of greater value than their desire to flee (or fight) out of fear. However, when the value of that food does not outweigh their fear, they will opt-out of the nail trim in whatever way they can.
It’s no wonder that so many big dog owners will say:
“My puppy did so well with her nails until she turned 6 months old, now she won’t let me touch them.”
That puppy likely started as one who was “tolerating” her nail trims.
6. MYTH: I can’t cut my dog’s nails without hurting him.
FACT: Let’s always be sure to separate our feelings from actual fact.
This statement is 100% based on a dog owner’s emotion about cutting nails.
With the exception of hitting the quick, and to a much lesser degree pinching the nail with the clipper, there is little to nothing that will hurt your dog during a nail trim.
Where I believe this one comes from is the fact that so many people use force to cut their dog’s nails.
The drama, frustration, anxiety, and stress that result from cutting a fearful dog’s nails makes it seem like you are hurting them.
7. MYTH: Cutting dog nails isn’t important.
FACT: I understand why some people might say this.
Dog nails are definitely not flashy. They don’t make news headlines. And, according to Google, they are not as important as Season 8 of the Game of Thrones or Coachella 2019 (whatever that is).
But let me ask you a question. How important are they to your dog?
If you can read Dog Nails Too Long? The Truth About Why Size Matters and watch the video on putting yourself in your dog’s paws and still tell me “cutting dog nails isn’t important,” perhaps a dog is not the right pet for you.
I know that sounds harsh.
But when you buy a dog, you don’t buy half of that dog. You get the entire package, nails and all.
The pain and debilitation caused by nails that are overgrown are consequences fully within your control as an owner.
So, while nails may never rank on Google Trends or BuzzFeed, they top the charts according to your dog. Don’t shirk from your responsibility.
Declaring an issue like dog nails as unimportant is just a rationalization that excuses inaction.
Don’t be that person.Declaring an issue like dog nails as unimportant is just a rationalization which excuses inaction. Don’t be that person.
Tell me your thoughts about the myths debunked in this post. What did I miss?
Comment below and let me know what you think.
And if you would like more information on this topic, check out the rest in the series:
- 5 Subtle Signs of Stress in Dogs: How To Take the Fear Out of Nail Trims
- 7 Best Ways to Stop Dog Nail Bleeding [DIY FAST!]
- Dog Nails Too Long? The Truth About Why Size Matters
- Trimming Dog Nails Like a Pro: Dog Nail Clipper or Dremel for Dog Nails?
- A Review of the Diamagroove Boxer for Cutting Dog Nails
- How to Cut Dog Nails Stress-Free And Have Your Dog Actually Enjoy It