Nailing It Down

Nail trimming services can benefit both pet parents and salons-groomers need only the right equipment and the proper skills to provide the service safely and efficiently.




Almost every pet salon includes nail trimming as part of the grooming process, and many offer it as an add-on service. It is, after all, an excellent and valuable benefit to provide customers. In order to make the most of the service, however, salon owners have to accomplish a few things—they have to make customers aware of the importance of regular nail trimmings, while also ensuring that they have both the tools and the skills on hand to safely and effectively service their pet clients.

As important as nail trimming is for a dog, not all dog owners recognize the need. Many customers assume that a dog naturally wears its nails down while walking and playing, and they are surprised when the nails get long or when groomers recommend more frequent trims. Dog owners are often unaware that variables such as the hardness of dogs’ nails, the amount of exercise they get and the surface on which they are playing affect whether a dog wears its nails down sufficiently—and most dogs do not.


A dog’s nails should not be on the floor; in fact, they shouldn’t touch the floor even when the front of the foot moves forward and downward as the dog takes a step. Having nails that are too long causes a dog to change the angle of its paw and leg as it moves, potentially causing or exacerbating trouble in all the joints, right up to the shoulder or hip. Imagine wearing high heels all the time—while walking, running and sleeping—keeping all your joints at an odd angle. It wouldn’t be comfortable, and it isn’t comfortable for the dogs either. Educating customers on the importance of keeping nails at a reasonable length is a good way to identify your salon as helpful, knowledgeable and caring.

Meanwhile, some customers want their dogs’ nails trimmed for other reasons other than health-related concerns. Many are looking to prevent nails from doing damage. Dogs may paw at people’s legs or arms, or their own bodies. Dogs with long nails may mar doors while scratching at them or hardwood floors while walking.

A truly thorough nail trim may include filing them smooth, possibly at an additional charge. This can be done by hand, with a file or with a rotary type tool that grinds them down. There are plenty of pet nail files available, but groomers can also use larger files similar to the emery boards used for pedicures on humans. Some groomers don’t even cut nails, but simply grind them to the appropriate length.

Nail trimmers can be either guillotine type or pliers type. If hand filing is not for you—and it is tedious—a rotary grinder can be used for smoothing. Use care not to tangle coat, which is especially easy to do on long-haired dogs. The risk can be reduced by pushing nails through pantyhose or a child’s sock before beginning.

Andis, known for its clippers, sells an easy-grip nail trimmer and a rotary grinder. Michell Evans, noted groomer and Andis spokesperson, suggests using the Andis Nail Pro 2 Speed Pet Nail Grinder on high, which makes the sensation smoother for the dog, and moving from side to side rather than up and down. A short video showing how it works can be seen on Andis’ YouTube channel.

Wahl also offers a nail grinder and pliers-type nail trimmer, but its EZ Nail Trimmer includes a small, AA battery-operated rotary filer right in the handle of the trimmer—ideal for retail customers.

Another innovation is the Quickfinder Deluxe by MiracleCorp, which has a sensor that tells you when the quick is too close to cut; red, yellow and green lights help you choose just where to trim.

Whatever nail trimmer you select, keep them sharp. Have them sharpened if that’s possible—if not, throw them out when they begin to dull and buy a new, sharp set. This reduces the uncomfortable pressure on the dog’s nail and the stress on your hands. Guillotine trimmers seem to have fallen out of favor, but one benefit of that style is that most have replaceable blades.

Make sure both you and the dog are safe. Don’t hesitate to use a muzzle, as this often calms the dog as well as protects the groomer. The Groomer’s Helper can accomplish the same thing, restraining the dog safely in a way that doesn’t upset him. Have the dog as comfortable as you can make him.

Adrienne Davis, pet stylist at VCA Veterinary Hospital, in Bellevue, Wash., says, “When I teach new groomers how to clip nails, I always make sure to tell them that if you hold the foot close to the body and close to the ground, the dog is more comfortable and won’t resist or struggle as much. It works on 99 percent of dogs.”

That is simple but excellent advice. We are sometimes so caught up in trimming the nail that we forget how we are holding the limb. I’ve seen groomers inadvertently pulling legs at an awkward angle and getting annoyed that the dog is struggling. I’m sure I’ve done it.


Another benefit of nail trimming for salons is the income—and not only from nail trims, but from the subsequent grooming appointments and retail sales that spring from that. Eventually, many owners think they would like to try tending to their pets’ nails themselves, and I guarantee that they are going to want you to show them how it is done.Some pet professionals think this will lose them business—don’t worry. Show them how, sell them a nail trimmer, some styptic powder and perhaps a grinding tool, and 95 percent of those customers will be back in a few months for you to trim the nails. And you’ll still have the income from the retail sale.

Sometimes, however, customers need more than the customary nail trimmings for their pets. One option to consider is Soft Claw Nail Caps, manufactured by SmartPractice. Soft Claw Nail Caps are soft, malleable vinyl nail caps that glue on to a pet’s nails, and they come in a variety of colors or in clear. The caps prevent damage to furniture and floors caused by scratching, and protect both the pet and the people around it from being scratched. They can also help prevent secondary infections and eliminate the need to put a cone on a dog with severe itching. The nail caps may be beneficial to older dogs, as well.

“Develop a dialogue with your customers,” says Matthew Faulhaber, pet retail marketing and sales manager at SmartPractice. “If a customer mentions that their older dog is having difficulty getting up, ask what type of flooring they have. The bit of extra traction provided by Soft Claw Nail Caps can make it much easier for a geriatric pet to get up and down. And seeing the groomer as an advocate for the animal’s health and well-being creates trust between client and groomer.”

To use the caps, you simply trim and smooth the nail, apply the glue provided inside the cap, push onto nail. You can still apply them even if the dog does not allow filing or grinding—the caps stand up fairly well to sharp edges.
Faulhaber also points out that the caps are an easy sell if you see nail scratches on the customer’s arm, or on the dog itself.

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.



Espree Debuts Quick-Dry Polish Pens

Espree ( offers a safe and easy way to dress up pets’ nails. Espree’s Quick Dry Polish Pens pet nail color are available in five non-toxic and odor-free, water-based colors: pink, red, blue, purple and green. The one-layer application applies easily and dries in seconds, reducing polish smudges or chipping. It is also perfect for nail art.


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