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Trimming your dog's claws should be as routine a job as bathing your pet. Your dog's nails grow quickly and leaving them unattended can cause splitting, tearing and even fracturing; all of which lead to an expensive trip to the veterinarian to treat an infection. Fortunately, nail trimming is an easy task and can be learned in just a few simple steps.

What you'll need:

1. A good pair of dog nail clippers available at most discount warehouses, pet supply stores or your veterinarian's office.

2. A stylus pencil (The utensil men use to stop bleeding when they cut themselves shaving.) or a small dish of flour.

Hints:

1. All dogs have different colored nails. If your dog has white or clear nails, your job will be a little easier. On a white nail, look carefully for where the pink begins to show in the middle of the nail. This is called the "quick." It's where your dog's nerves and blood vessels are housed. You should never cut higher than this area. Cutting into the "quick" will cause considerable pain for your pet and extensive bleeding. On dogs with darker or black nails, if you're unable to locate the "quick," begin cutting only at the area where the nail begins to curve downward.

2. It is always easier to integrate nail trimming into a puppy's routine, rather than trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Whenever possible, begin trimming your dog's nails immediately after bringing him home. If you're starting to trim nails yourself for the first time, don't worry. It's not impossible and even older dogs will catch on with a lot of time and patience on your part. Take things slow. Your pet will be nervous and uneasy about having his paws handled. Try doing just one nail a day until your animal feels more comfortable. Be sure to reward him immediately after a trimming with a treat or special play time.

3. Dog's nails (regardless of age) should be trimmed every six to eight weeks. If your dog lives mostly indoors and doesn't walk on concrete (which helps to grind nails down and soften them), you may need to trim more often.

If your dog has never had his nails done, the sound of clippers will be frightening. Try to relax your dog first, allowing him to sniff the clippers and get comfortable before you attempt to use them.

1. Have your dog sit and take hold of one paw. Speak in a calming, natural voice to your pet during the process, especially if you're attempting this for the first time.

2. Apply gentle pressure to the knuckle of the nail you want to clip. This will extend the nail toward you.

3. Cut the nail at an angle, paying close attention to where the "quick" is located.

That's it. Once your dog gets the hang of sitting quietly, trimming his nails will be effortless. Until then though, you may need the help of another individual to help hold your dog in place and reinforce his safety zone. Remember to take it slowly and always reward your dog after a trimming, which will encourage him to want to sit through the process again.

Tips

1. Running or walking your dog on concrete or blacktop will help to keep your dog's nails trimmed and groomed naturally.

2. When trimming, don't forget to cut the dewclaws (the nail on the side of your dog's paw). This nail almost never touches the ground, so it can grow quite long.

3. It sometimes helps to trim excess fur away from the dog's nail area before trimming. This enables you to locate the "quick" easier and make the process of cutting the nail go faster.

If you accidentally cut into the "quick," don't panic. Your dog will bleed, but he also will survive. Immediately apply Styptic pencil until the bleeding stops. (In a pinch, you can dip your dog's paw into a shallow dish of flour and pack the flour into the wound to stop bleeding.) Once bleeding has stopped, wash your dog's paw with soap and water and apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment and gauze, if necessary.