Fall 2012 Magazine

Grooming Tips



Clipping the Nails

By Mary Kyle

Tools you will need to clip your pet's nails are: nail clippers of appropriate size, styptic powder and your dog's favorite treats as a reward!

One of the most difficult things I have learned in my 32 year grooming career is how to clip nails on a dog or cat. The thing that was so intimidating to me was the fact that if I did it wrong, not only would it cause pain, but there would be blood!

Of course, this discomfort factor plays into the success of this endeavor because if you are nervous or uncomfortable, your dog or cat feels it immediately and a struggle can ensue. You do not want a struggle when you are clipping nails.

A great way to get used to handling your dog and getting a comfortable hold on the paws and toes for clipping is to do it randomly, without any nail clippers in your hands. This way, you can also get used to how your dog's toes look and feel, while building their confidence in you as well as your own confidence in your ability to do the task! We professional groomers truly appreciate the owner who plays with their dogs feet. It makes our job safer and easier!

For cats, you have to actually push the nail out by spreading the toes and pushing gently on the joint to straighten the toe you are working on. I will be honest, not all cats will have it. And if you have any doubts about doing this listen to your better judgment, and SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. Clipping the nails is not worth injuring yourself or your best friend.

The tricky thing is determining where to do the actual cut. On clear or "white" nails you can actually see the "quick" (the blood vein in the nail). It is fine to get close to it, but remember how your nails feel if you cut too close to your quick. It is the same for dogs and cats, so be cautious and generous.

If the quick is unusually long, you can actually move it back with consistent trimming every week and a half or two week intervals.

Cats usually have white nails. The challenge with cats is that they are cats. Making a cat do anything they do not want to do is a recipe for disaster. Again, if you have any doubts, call a professional groomer to do the deed.

It is harder to determine where the quick is on black nails. The method I use is to literally shave a little tiny bit at a time. I stop when I see fresh looking tissue as opposed to dead, flakey, gray tissue when I look straight at the tip of the nail. That is where you stop.

It takes practice!

How often does your dog or cat need his nails clipped?

The "book" says two to three week intervals to keep claws at a manageable, comfortable length. However, lifestyle does play into it. If you have an active dog who hikes and runs, you may not need to clip nails at all, as nature will provide the pedicure! But if you are like most of us, your fuzzy family member isn't an outdoor athlete, and has some length that needs shortening.

If you do accidentally cut too close and it starts to bleed, simply put a small amount of styptic powder directly on the end of the nail and apply a little pressure. This should stop the bleeding quickly.

If you do regular grooming maintenance on your best friend, it can be a great bonding experience for both of you. Keep it positive, and, as with everything you do with your pet, fill it with love and compassion.


Mary Kyle has been a doggie professional since childhood, her career as a professional groomer has lasted 32 years, and is still going strong. She likes to refer to herself as an "Old School" groomer as she still takes the time to do the fluff dry and hand scissor finishes that make a dog look so elegant. She and Allison Dunn are co-owners of Pampered Pets and Country Critters Grooming Salon at the corner of St. Francis and Sierra Vista in Santa Fe.

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