Spruce up Your Pooch with a Pedicure (aka Paw-dicure)
After a long day of chasing squirrels, romping with the family, or sleeping on the couch, your dog deserves some pampering. Share some bonding time and spruce up your pooch with a relaxing pedicure!
What You Will Need
Before you get started with your dog's pedicure, you may want to gather the following tools:
1. A comfortable blanket on the floor with enough space for both you and your dog
2. A warm, wet washcloth
3. Nail trimmers
4. Styptic powder
5. A brush or comb
6. Blunt-ended scissors
7. Paw pad cream
8. Pet-friendly nail polish and polish removing pads
Eliminate other distractions and stresses from the room, such as the television, loud children, other pets, etc. Share one-on-one time with your dog. Sit on your pedicure blanket and pet and talk to your dog. Maybe even offer a treat or two.
If your dog is not already accustomed to his pedicure tools, let him sniff them. Give him positive praise as he does.
Throughout the pedicure process, continue to talk to your dog and give him positive attention to make his pedicure extra relaxing.
Begin by using your washcloth to clean your dog's paws of any debris and dirt. Inspect his paws and pads for foreign objects, cracks, blisters, etc. If you find injuries, contact your veterinarian.
Brush or comb out the hair on the paws to eliminate any tangles, mats, or small pieces of debris.
Nail Trim and Grooming
This has potential to be a stressful part of the pedicure; however, it is the most important to the health of you dog. Nails should be kept at a length that is just off the ground when the dog is standing. In other words, if you hear your dog's nails clicking as he walks, they are too long. Keeping your dog's nails at an appropriate length will make getting around easier and more comfortable. (Dogs who have not received regular nail trims may not be able to have their nails cut this short, as the quick may be too long.)
Nails should be cut to the area that is just before the quick, the nail's blood supply. Cutting into the quick will cause pain and bleeding. If the quick is cut, pack some styptic powder onto the end of the nail. Sometimes flour or baking powder can also be used. Read our article on trimming nails for more information.
When trimming your dog's nails, make it a happy experience. Reward him for being calm with your praise and possibly treats. The remainder of his pedicure can also be a reward. It may even cause him to look forward to his next nail trim.
Another option to a traditional nail trimmer is the new "nail grinder" or rotary tool. This device is basically like a dremeltool that grinds your dogs nail to its desired length. It is easy and fast. The amount you take off the nail is similar to the above.
When using the nail grinder – make sure you introduce it to your dog slowly. Pet him with it and let him get used to it. Then turn it on and give him a massage with it. Introduce it slowly and when he does well – give him positive reinforcement or a treat.
Use your blunt ended scissors to gently cut away any long hair that may be growing out from between your dog's toes and paw pads. Leaving this hair long can lead to uncomfortable matting and the collection of foreign material, snow, mud, etc. Be very careful not to cut the pads or skin of the paws.
Like our feet, dog's paws take a daily beating, and tough, dry tissue develops. Cracks can develop in the paw pads, which can lead to a build-up of debris, causing discomfort. You can purchase creams to moisturize and protect your dog's paw pads. Skin lotions used for humans are not appropriate for dog's pads, as they may soften the tissue too much. The canine creams can also be used on dogs' nails and their calloused elbows.
If your dog is comfortable having his feet handled, he may enjoy a massage of his tired tootsies. Have your dog lie down and relax, then rub his paws in a fashion similar to how you would give your significant other a foot massage. Apply gentle pressure with your thumbs and finger tips, rubbing your dog's feet with circular motions. You can also gently squeeze each paw one at a time for several seconds, then let up. Some dogs are ticklish just as we are, so take care not to drive him crazy with his foot rub!
A Finishing Touch
For the particularly posh pooch, you may choose to paint his or her nails as a finishing touch to the pedicure. If you feel your dog would enjoy some more color and pizzazz, only use a nail polish designed specifically for pets, as a polish designed for humans may not be safe. This can be purchased at some pet stores or from a groomer.
Painting nails is easiest when your dog is tired, such as after a relaxing doggie massage or a tiring romp. The finished product may look best on nails that have been trimmed a few days prior, so the nails are smooth on the ends. Do not paint cracked or split nails.
Hold the paw you are painting and paint quickly. Any excess paint that gets in the hair can be removed with a pet-friendly polish removing pad. Be careful to keep your dog off the carpet and furniture until the paint is dry. Using the pet-friendly nail polish removing pads, promptly remove polish when it starts to crack.
If the pedicure process is stressful to your dog, do not force it on him or get frustrated with him, as this will only stress him more. Also, skip unnecessary pedicure steps, such as the moisturizer and painting, with a stressed dog. Short, slow pedicure sessions with positive reinforcement for calm behavior may gradually make the pedicure process more enjoyable for an anxious dog.
A successful pedicure can be a fun experience which greatly strengthens your human-animal bond and brings relaxation to both you and your canine companion.