It's important to understand a little about dog nails before you begin cutting or trimming them otherwise you may hurt or injure your Cocker Spaniel.
The inner part of the nail is called the 'quick', and it is very sensitive.
The quick supplies the blood vessels and nerves to keep your Cocker's toenails healthy.
When trimming his nails, it's important not to cut into the quick because it can be very painful for him, and it will bleed quite freely.
You may also create a negative association with nail trimming if you cut into the quick and he's hurt, making it much more difficult for the next time as he'll remember the painful experience. Be gentle and take it slowly.
Look carefully at his claws. If they're white, or lightly coloured, you should be able to see the quick quite easily: it's inside the centre of the claw, is pinkish in colour, and it tapers to a point.
If he has black or dark coloured nails, it may be more difficult to determine where the quick ends.
Being able to see where the quick ends will make it easier to avoid cutting through it when trimming dog nails.
No matter whether your Cocker Spaniel has light or dark claws, it's important to take it slowly, and trim off small bits at a time.
If dog nails are allowed to grow too long, the quick will move further down the nail as it grows. However, as you trim the claw back, the quick will recede.
Your Cocker may have dew claws which are usually situated at the back of the leg, but they're sometimes to the side too.
Some canine breeds have dew claws on all four legs, or sometimes may have them on the front two only.
Alternatively, they may have none at all if they were removed just after birth - Cocker Spaniel breeders usually have them removed at birth.
Dew claws don't normally make contact with the ground when the animal is standing, although they may do so when they're running.
Because they don't normally come into contact with the ground, they won't wear down (like normal claws) and will need to be trimmed periodically.
Very often the dew claws will snag on vegetation or twigs in the undergrowth, and can be easily torn away.
A torn dew claw can be very painful for your Spaniel, and can cause bleeding and infection. Where this happens frequently, the it may need to be surgically removed by your vet.
If your Cocker Spaniel is walked mostly on pavement, it shouldn't be necessary to cut his claws too often as they will be worn down naturally by friction on the concrete. However, if he's walked in the countryside, or on a beach, or in a park, they may need to be trimmed more often.
Long dog nails are not only a potential hazard to human skin, particularly children's delicate skin, they can also be a danger to your pet as he may injure himself while scratching. They can also damage floors, carpets and furniture.
More importantly, failure to clip your dogs nails may lead to health problems. If they grow too long they may be at risk of breaking off, causing bleeding, injury, and infection. Where they have been allowed to grow too long, it will make walking quite difficult for your pet and, if left long enough, it may also lead to permanent skeletal damage.
Dog nails, or claws, shouldn't touch the ground when his paws are flat on the floor.
So if they grow beyond the pads of your Cocker Spaniel's feet, or you can hear them click on a tiled floor or on the pavement, you'll know it's time to trim them!
You will need to have several tools handy when cutting your pets claws , including nail clippers or scissors, a small file, and a styptic pen or styptic powder. If your Cocker is particularly grumpy, (and let's face it, it's not unheard of!) you may also need a muzzle.
There are two types of nail clippers available: the guillotine type and the scissor type. Don't be tempted to use your own nail clippers or scissors as these will be inadequate for the job. You can buy the proper equipment from pet stores at a reasonable price.
We prefer using the guillotine type as we believe it is the easier to use, although it's personal choice.
The scissor type can be best used on dew claws where they have grown so long that they've curled and the guillotine can't easily get to the curled nail.
Whichever type you decide to use you must ensure that they are kept sharp to maintain a clean cut.
You may want to use a small file after cutting your dog nails, to smooth away the rough edges, although if your Spaniel is walked on pavement or other such abrasive surfaces, this will smooth any rough edges naturally.
If you choose to use a file, you can use a normal 'human' nail file or you can buy a pet nail file.
The styptic pen (or styptic powder) may be used where you've accidentally cut into the quick and your pet is bleeding.
A styptic pen will stop the bleeding, usually in a few seconds.
There are several kinds of muzzle available and, if used properly, they won't cause him any harm.
We have a muzzle for Max which is a strong nylon snoot that slides onto his muzzle and fastens behind his neck. It's adjustable for comfort and has a small opening at the mouth which allows him to pant and breathe freely.
"Cutting your Cocker Spaniel's nails shouldn't be
a traumatic experience - either for you or your dog!"
While some Spaniels don't seem to mind having their nails cut, others will struggle and try to make it as difficult as possible!
If your Cocker is not used to having his nails trimmed, start slowly and work up to it gradually. Follow this link for details of how to acclimatise your dog (or your puppy) to having his nails trimmed.
Try to keep the pedicure session relaxed and fun; don't get stressed, otherwise your stress will transfer to your dog and make him more likely to struggle.
As I mentioned earlier, if your pet really struggles, and you think he may try to bite you, you may have to resort to using a muzzle on him until you've finished.
Just remember to get him used to wearing a muzzle before you try this so that he doesn't become too distressed.
If you plan to place your Cocker on a raised surface to cut his nails, put a non-slip mat on the table to stop him from slipping and sliding around.
If possible, have someone hold your dog's head and talk to him while you cut his nails.
Alternatively, you can lay him on the floor with his feet pointing away from you while you trim his nails.
You may need to place your forearm across his neck to restrain him if he struggles.
Extend his front left leg, and hold the paw firmly: this should stop him from pushing himself up into a standing position.
You could also try holding him upright in your lap with his back to you. As this is a fairly submissive position, he may not struggle - and dog nails are easier to cut whilst in this position.
You could also try giving him a bone or a tasty rawhide chew to keep him distracted while you clip his nails.
Before you begin clipping dog nails, ensure you have read the user guide that came with the clippers or scissors. You need to understand how to hold them and the angle at which to cut to avoid damaging the nail, or cutting the quick.
Examine his nails carefully to ensure you can see where the quick ends, and to determine how much needs to be trimmed.
Always use the quick as a reference point for cutting dog nails and cut at least 2mm away from the end of the quick.
Once you have a firm grip on his paw, steady the cutting tool in place and cut firmly and smoothly. The nail should clip neatly off, with no tearing or splitting.
If you are not confident about where to cut, or his nails are black, only take off a small snip at a time.
Examine the nail after each cut; if the end is dry and powdery, it means you are still cutting dead nail. As you snip, you will begin to see a dark grey/black circle or oval in the centre of the newly clipped nail; this is the beginning of the quick and you should stop cutting now - do not cut off any more of the nail.
Not all dog nails are the same: some may need more clipping than others. You may be able to cut off more nail on some before reaching the quick, so judge each nail separately.
Even the most experienced groomer or vet may accidentally cut into the quick when trimming dog claws. So, if you do accidentally cut into the quick, don't feel too bad about it - it was an accident!
You can stop any bleeding with a styptic pen, styptic powder, or a little cornflour pressed onto the source of bleeding. If none of those are readily available, you could also try pressing a tissue or a clean towel onto the freshly clipped nail until the bleeding stops.
If the bleeding continues for more than 5 minutes or so, it's advisable to take your pet to the vet for professional treatment.
The more regularly you trim his nails, the further the quick will recede, making it easier to cut each time without cutting into the quick, and also allowing you to trim the nails as far back as they need to be, ie., level with his pads.
If you're still unsure about cutting and trimming dog nails, why not take your Cocker Spaniel to a grooming parlour or to your vets for his first trim?
That way, you'll be able to watch exactly how it should be done.
You could even ask them to show you how, step by step, so that the next time your dog's nails need trimming you will have the confidence to trim them yourself.
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