About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesdays Tip #8 Nail Clipping

This is an estimated total of the number of nails that I have clipped over my 26 year grooming career.
Clipping nails comes very easy to me now.
After more then half a million nails clipped, it should come easy.  :)

It was not always that way.
The Grooming School that I graduated from taught you to do everything the hard way.
The nail clippers at the time, were the guillotine type.
I hated those things...still do.
They went dull in no time, and the blade would catch the nail between the blade and the arch without cutting it.
It also did not give a clean cut.

I love the Professional Pet Nail Clipper w/ Orange Handle.
This is a strong well made nail clipper.
I use it on cats, dogs, and rabbits.
I haven't found any nails it couldn't cut through.
I did come close though, a couple of times.
I clip nails for my Self-Serve customers, and have had a couple of Bassets and a Bull Mastiff that I needed two hands to close the clippers over the nails.

For many years I only clipped nails the way Grooming School taught me.
I fought with many a dog, upsetting them and myself.
At some point a light went off over my head.
I know, it takes awhile sometimes.

I am sorry to admit, that for a few years I groomed only the way Grooming School taught me.
It took me awhile to think out of the box.
I believed that what Grooming School taught me was the only way, and if I did it any differently, I was doing it wrong.

I remember when my grooming changed.
I had been grooming around two years.
I had left a grooming job where I had been very badly used and was burning out.
I had taken a few months off of grooming, but found quickly, that I really missed it.
I heard about a Pet Store that was looking for a groomer.

I got the job.
I was to be the only groomer.
I had my own little room in the back of the store.
It was nothing to write home about, but I was happy to be grooming again.

One of the disadvantages of working at this Pet Shop was, (there were many) that all of the employees answered the phones, and they did not know anything about grooming.
I never knew what to expect to be on the books when I came to work.
I was grooming around 10 dogs a day, on a good day, by myself.

Oh, to be young again.
I look back on that time now, and can't imagine how I did it.
I came to work one day to find that they had booked me 3 Samoyed's on the same day!
I wanted to cry.
I may have.
I had no back bone at the time.
I groomed those 3 Sammy's plus the other 5 dogs that I had that day.
I only had one stand dryer and one cage dryer.
I still have a mental block from that day.
For the life of me I can not remember how I managed.

I will say that that job helped me learn to come up with easier and quicker ways to groom.
I became a master at dematting, because I did not know how to say "No, your dog is too matted and needs to be clipped."
I found ways to dry the dogs faster. (without a HV dryer)
I also found ways to clip the dogs nails so that they would not fight me or get upset.

These are just some of the things that I do to make nail clipping easier on the dog and me.

Puppies and Small Dogs:

I have found, with puppies and small dogs, that it is easiest for me just to pick them up off of the table and hold them close.

  I do a lot of talking. (can you tell)

I try to distract them with high pitched baby talk and or silly noises.

 If they try to bite me or the clipper, I give them a little squeeze, and a firm "No".

Then I go right back to the baby talk and silly noises when they stop biting.

If holding them close is not working, I will put them back on the table and stand them up.
The less feet on the ground to run the better.

I still use the silly baby talk.

This little girl liked to talk right back at me.

For the back feet, I turn them around and lift both feet up off of the table, so that they can't wiggle away.

 I don't mind letting them check out what I am doing.

I let them smell the clipper.
I let them move a round a little so that they do not feel held down.

Sometimes they don't settle down until I am on the last nail.  :)

Different Holds:

I was taught in Grooming School to pick up the foot and bring it forward to cut the nails.

Unfortunately, Grooming School taught you to groom for the groomers comfort not the dogs comfort.
My teacher believed that the dog should always do what you want it to do whether the dog wanted to or not.

I didn't like that belief then, and I don't believe in it now.

 I still clip nails by holding the foot out in front of the dog, but I find that a lot of dogs don't like their nails clipped this way.

 I now clip most of the nails from behind.

I lift the foot the same way you would lift it to clip the pads or scissor the underneath of the foot.

I gently bend the leg at the knee joint, and use my fingers to push the nail out of the hair and towards me.

I always make sure that I am holding the dogs leg and foot at an angle that is comfortable for THEM.

I have been known to twist my body in all different directions just to keep the dog comfortable.

I feel that the more comfortable the dog feels, the more they will let me do without fighting.

 It still amazes me how many dogs that hate having their nails clipped from the front, will stand there quietly while I clip their nails from behind.

 I do both the front and back feet from behind.

Some dogs just like to bite for their nails.

I do not like to muzzle unless absolutely necessary.

So this is one of the holds I use on biters.

First, I turn the dog away from me, tucking their head under my arm.

Then I bring my arm over their shoulder and between the front and back legs.

Then I take hold of the foot I want to clip.

If the dog starts to struggle or tries to bite, I gently squeeze the dog to me, using only as much pressure as needed till they stop struggling or biting.

The second they stop struggling or biting, I release the squeeze without releasing my hold.

Boy, I hope this is making sense.

I have yet to have a dog bite me while holding them this way.
Not for a lack of trying, they just can't reach me.

This hold works about 90% of the time for me with a biter.

I also file with this hold.

My customers are told, that I only file a dogs nails if they allow it.
I do not force the issue.

I have found, over the years, that stressing out over the nails only makes things worse.

It upset me, which in turn the dog picks up on and stresses them out too.

If a dog wants to lay down while clipping the nails, no problem.

I figure out a way to make it work.

This guy was not crazy about standing on the table.

He had no problem letting me clip his nails while he was down.

It worked for me too.
We were both happy.

I guess that my tip for the day is to just go with the flow.
Work with the dog not against it.
 If the dog likes to fall over on its back and let you clip its nails, so be it.

I am sure that groomers who have been reading my blog have noticed that I do not use any kind of restraints on the dogs. (I do have a nooses in the tub)
The owner of the Grooming School that I went to believed that you should be able to keep your dog on the table without a noose.
Boy, did she let you have it if your dog jumped off of the table.
That is a story for another time.

Anyway, that is one thing that I got very used to.
I do not like nooses and restraints... that's just me.
I am lucky to have people to help me when I need it.
I also saw a dog almost die on a noose once.
That groomer was very lucky that I saw what was happening.
Another long story for another time.

I have no problem telling my customers that I was unable to clip their dogs nails if the dog goes off the deep end when I tried clipping them.

I will not fight them to the point of bodily harm.
To myself or the dog.
I have had owners tell me, "It's okay, you can tie them down if you need to."
I am not here to hurt your dog.
I tell them to take the dog to their Vet.
If the dog wants to commit Harry-Karry, it can do it at the Vets.

I will also not take money off of the price of the groom.
My prices are not broken down, if I am unable to do the nails or the ears because the dog will not allow it, it was not because I didn't want to do them.

Maybe I should start braking down my charges.
Lets see...
Small/Medium dog: 
 Bath                                                    $20
Dry                                                      $10
Nails                                                    $8
 Ears                                                    $8
 Anals                                                  $8
 Brush/Comb                                        $ 10
 Clip/Scissor                                         $30/40 and up
 Poop/Pee clean-up                               $10

                                               Total: $104

Okay, that just depressed me.
No, I won't take anything off the price if I can't do the nails, which rarely happens anyway.

I hope this has been helpful.
I would love to hear from other groomers that have special tricks that they use to help make clipping the nails easier.

Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. these are great tips, gonna have to try them :)I always freak out with black nails(im new at grooming) im scared of making them bleed so i usually cut the tip and file the rest do you have any tip you could give me for knowing where should i cut..thank you!!! I love your blog :)

    1. I use a led light and shine it underneath the nail if the nails not to thick you can see the quickl

  2. Jessica,
    I wish that I had some magic way to tell you how to clip black nails, but even after all of these years, a black nails still fools me sometimes. All I can say is that when you are not sure how far you can take the nail back, clip a little at a time. There is one thing that I look for in a black nail. I clip and look to see if there is still white inside the nail, clip a little more. Once that white starts getting darker, I know that I am close to the quick. I hope that made some sense to you.

  3. I wish all dogs' black nails were like my dog's black nails.

    If you flip him upside-down, you can see on the undersides of his nails in the middle you can see a sliver of callused, spongy part- this is the quick. Yes, I hold my dog like a baby so I can trim his nails- he doesn't mind :)

    Also, my dogs nails do something weird- they husk, like a cat's. If they grow out unchecked for a while the nail will fall off and there will be a small new nail like a puppy's growing underneath. Ever come across this? It's so strange- I'll be walking around and find these full nails all over the floor.

    The first time it happened, I freaked out because I thought he tore his nail off! But no, I checked and there was a brand-new nail in place where the old one had husked.

    1. Hi,
      Yes, I have seen this before. There is nothing like opening a kennel door to get a dog out and seeing one of those shedded nails.
      Lisa, MFF

  4. lol lol lol I love your price break down.. and I too do NOT reduce price for not being able to do nails... its a "free" service I provide 'with" the groom and if it cant be done, well, then, take them to the vet to be sedated and get it done there. That said, I have a greathelper and with the exception of a pit bull and a chow, in 20 years I have yet to not be able to do nails... your blog is hilarious... love it
    I can SOOOOO relate

  5. thanks for the tip. I will use that when I have biters now

  6. For black nails i shine a led light under the nail and if the nail is not to thick you can see the quick

  7. WOW! I just discovered your Blogs! LOVE them!! You have great tips and ideas and I like your style. I feel the same, "if the dog lets me", is what I tell my customers. I like to work WITH the dog not against him. You have a new follower!