DIY Dog Grooming – Nails, Ears, Teeth

How do you clip your dog’s nails (claws)?

Unless your dog is regularly walking on concrete their nails will need trimming every two to three weeks. I do know some dogs that actually chew their own nails and they don’t need doing. If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on a hard surface they need doing.

Many dogs aren’t very keen on having their nails clipped. Many owners are reluctant as they are afraid of hitting the “quick” , blood vessels in the nail that will bleed. This makes many owners not keen to do it, but it is vital for health reasons.

The first consequence of long toenails is painful feet. When a dog’s toenails contact a surface it pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on all the toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side. This can make them very sore and even arthritic

Secondly, normally the only time a dog’s nails touch the ground is when they are running uphill. This signals the brain to adjust the body posture. They will lean over their front legs and shoulders and adjust their rear posture. Over a prolonged period of time, this can cause an in balance in the dog’s joints and muscles.

There are two types of nail clipping tool, the scissor type, and the guillotine. I recommend using the scissor type. The guillotine can crush the nail making it sore and it is difficult to get the nail through the hole with a dog that is resistant. Cut the nail on an angle ( / )  like that as they grow in a hook shape and this will make the trim last longer.

Also, don’t forget the dewclaws (the nail on the side of the foot that doesn’t touch the ground) Some dogs have these only on the front legs and sometimes on all four legs.




If your dog has white nails it is easier to see the quick. With black nails, it is guesswork so take only a little off at a time and even if you do hit the quick it won’t bleed too much.

If you cut quite deep into the quick it can bleed a lot and be hard to clot. With black nails, you can shine a torch under the nail. This makes it easier to see where the insensitive claw ends and the quick begins.

It is a good idea to have some styptic powder on hand (available from vets and pet stores) if you do cause the nail to bleed. You can use corn starch as a substitute, but I have found that it is not as effective.

Even if your dog has long quicks regular clipping will cause the blood vessel to dry up and recede. This way you can go shorter each time.

Cutting the nail will often leave a sharp edge so you can use an emery board or a nail grinder for pets to smooth it off.

How to clean your dog’s ears.

It is important to check your dog’s ears every week or so for any signs of irritation or infection. Picking up on any issues early on can prevent them becoming a more serious and painful problem for your dog.

Check inside your dog’s ear for any redness, inflammation, discharge, waxy buildup or pain. If your dog is tilting their head or shaking it a lot it may be a sign of a problem also. Also, give them a sniff to check for any yeasty odor. If you notice any of these your dog may have an ear infection and a visit to the vet would be a good idea.

Lack of air flow to the ear can accelerate infection. This is why breeds with large floppy ears such as Cocker spaniels and Basset hounds are quite prone to ear issues. If your dog doesn’t have any sign of an ear infection it is ok to clean them. If you’re not sure it is best to leave it to a professional like your vet.

The best way to clean your dog’s ears is with a cotton ball wet with some ear cleaning solution. Do not use Q Tips as they can push wax and debris further into the ear. Start by lifting the ear flap up and wiping the outer part of the inside of the ear and work your way towards the ear canal.

Don’t try to go too deep into the ear. Stop as soon as you feel resistance. Some people recommend a homemade solution of white vinegar and water. I would recommend sticking to a proper ear cleaning solution.



Some nonshedding breeds grow hair in and around the ear canal and this needs to be plucked as it prevents airflow to the canal and can cause infections. See “How to pluck dog ear hair” to learn more

This can be done a number of ways depending on how easily the hair pulls out. You can try using your thumb and finger. If there is some moisture on the hairs you may not be able to get a good grip on it.

There are ear plucking powders available. These absorb the moisture and improve grip. You can also use special dog grooming ear tweezers which have blunt ends. This way you won’t prick your dog’s ear. Plucking can be painful and most dogs don’t like it. You may want to do a little bit at a time.

Cleaning your dog’s teeth and dental health.

Every time your dog eats plaque forms on the teeth. As the plaque starts to mix with the salts found naturally in your dog’s saliva, it begins to harden into tartar. Once the plaque forms into tartar it is impossible to remove at home and will need to be done by a vet.

This is why it is important to brush your dog’s teeth. In addition provide chews such as a dental chew treat, toys, and raw bones. This will also help prevent their breath from smelling.

To brush your dog’s teeth you will need a suitable tooth-brush and some dog toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste. Obviously, your dog can’t rinse and it is harmful to them to swallow it.

Start by placing a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger and let them lick it. Then lift up their top lips. Gently rub the toothpaste on their teeth to allow them to get used to the taste and having their teeth touched.

Most dog toothpaste will be chicken or beef flavor anyway so they don’t usually mind the taste. Once they are ok with that place some toothpaste on the brush. Gently brush the teeth as you would your own. It may take some practice before they get used to having their teeth cleaned.

If there is no way they are going for it there are alternative methods. Try things such as dental sprays, tooth wipes and even a dental additive you can put in their water bowl.

How to clean your dog’s eyes

Many dogs get a build up of “gunk” under their eyes. They also get tear staining which occurs when a build-up of water from the eyes discolors the fur beneath them to a brown or red tint This is common in light-colored and white dogs.

The first thing you should do is ensure that this “gunk” inside of them is not caused by a medical problem. While it’s true that many dogs simply have excessive eye discharge, it can also be a sign of something more serious.

A few signs that your dog has an eye infection or other serious eye issues are redness, inflammation, cloudiness and even bleeding. If you have any concerns have your dog checked by your vet.

To clean general gunk and dirt from under your dog’s eyes use a baby wipe. You can actually get dog eye wipes. To remove tear stains you can use a tear stain removal product. These won’t remove the stain straight away but with a repeated application the stains will fade.

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