Part of your dog's good hygiene is keeping their nails trimmed. One of the main reasons to keep your dog's nails trimmed is so they have proper traction. If their nails get too long, your dog may change their gait which affects their legs, shoulders, hips and back. This may lead to other skeletal problems as well.
Long nails also scratch up the floor (even if it's carpeting). When your dog has an itch they scratch and could lacerate their skin, ears or bellies to bleeding. Long nails can also scratch their human.
Many Veterinarians will trim your dog's nails for free. If it's not free, it costs about $10-15. If the thought of trimming your dog's nails stresses you out, take your dog to the veterinary office about every 3-4 weeks. It's o.k. to pamper yourself and your dog with this service. Make it a major event and take along their favorite treat.
If you're willing to venture into the land of dog nail trimming, here are a few tips: First and foremost, get some dog nail trimmers. Buy the good ones. Spend the $15-$25 on your dog. The trimmers don't need to be the platinum edition but they do need to be sharp. Also, the better quality trimmers last longer and many come with styptic powder (more on this later).
To get the most cooperation from your dog for nail trimming, start out slow. Remember you're training your dog to get a mini manicure. Have paw caressing sessions for several days to get your dog comfortable with you touching their paws. For the nervous, skittish or anxious dogs, take more time. Every time your dog allows you to touch, caress or massage their paws, praise them the entire time and give them a treat at the end. Positive reinforcement works wonders and food is a major motivator.
When you trim your dog's nails, take off the tip only. This is about 1/8" TO 1/4". Start with the smaller trim size; you can always do more. Be careful. If you trim too much and cut the quick, there will be blood and it'll hurt (this is exactly like cutting a human nail too short). If this happens, don't panic. Be calm and praise your dog for trusting you. You want to get the nail into the styptic powder immediately. Often this comes in a container along with your trimmers. If you don't have any styptic powder, use corn starch (put the corn starch in a shallow cereal bowl).
To get the powder or corn starch to stop the bleeding, gently put pressure on your dogs paw to extend the bleeding nail. Dip it into the powder which will adhere to the wet surface. Leave the styptic powder or corn starch on until it falls off by itself. While you're doing this praise your dog for being such a good boy/good girl. Remember their nail is sore and they need reassurance that you'll take care of everything.
Don't stop your session. Finish trimming your dog's remaining nails and take off a bit less than the one that was cut too short. Continue to praise, praise, and praise. After you've completed trimming your dog's nails, give them a treat. Maybe a few treats. The association your dog makes between letting you trim their nails and them getting a treat will make subsequent sessions easier.
If your dog has super long claw type nails, you can either trim every 2 weeks the 1/8" to 1/4" until they're the desired length or take your dog to a veterinarian's office and have their nails dremeled. (a fancy word for an electric spinning nail file). Dremeling will cost anywhere from $45-$75. This includes the knock out juice (puppy valium), the dremeling itself and a kennel for a day. This is a great alternative for people who want the nails trimmed now.
Whichever avenue you choose, be sure it's the best for your canine family member. As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding your dogs nail care, please consult your Veterinarian or veterinary technician.