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Trimming Kerry Nails


© Copyright © 1999 Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern California

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Copyright © Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern California.

What you'll need

  • Trimming tool
    • Resco Guillotine Nail Trimmer for large dogs, or
    • Heavy Duty 6 _" Miller Forge Large Dog Nail Trimmer with orange hand grips, or
    • Dremel Rotary Sander
  • Hand file designed for dogs
  • Kwick Stop Styptic Powder


You should check between your dog's pads and toes, and also their nails each time you bathe your dog. Most dogs's nails require trimming every 4-6 weeks. The nails should be shortened and blunted right down to the quick ­ but never into the quick. If the nails are left long, the toes may spread and the foot may splay.

Some dogs keep their nails short by digging or the friction from walking on a hard surface like concrete, and their nails will require less attention, but all dogs benefit from nail trimming.

There are a number of different tools on the market for trimming nails, clippers ­ in three varieties: Scissor-type, guillotine type and plier type, hand file, or a rotary sander known as a Dremel. Most Kerry owners use either the guillotine or plier type trimmers. Please note both come in two sizes, and you will want to be sure to purchase those designed for a large dog.

It is important that your dog is comfortable, and relaxed. With experience you'll learn where you and your dog are most comfortable for this task, standing on the grooming table or laying down, on the grooming table or floor. If you have a puppy you'll need to teach him/her that you expect them to stand still for nail trimming. Make it a positive experience, with lots of praise, tummy rubbing or treats.

A small number of dogs stress out when their nails are trimmed or the hair is plucked from their ear canals, in which case you might consider either Rescue Relief from Bach Flower Essence or Five Flower Formula from Healing Herbs, English Flower Essences. Some people have found that a few drops of either Rescue Relief or Five Flower Formula helps to calm the dog. Bach Flower Essence and Healing Herbs, English Flower Essences products are available at most health food stores.

Janet Joers has had luck with a product called Relax by Dynamite Specialty Products. It's an oral spray that contains a drug-free, natural herbal formula that immediately relaxes a dog, so there's no fighting to get the job done. She's also used it prior to shipping a dog. Its effectiveness is short-lived and she's never seen any side effects. This product was originally designed for use on horses during training, competition, shoeing, and general handling. It was recommended to Janet by a Kerry breeder, and since then she's heard of other people using it on their dogs. One or two sprays will do the trick. It's expensive stuff - $25 for a 4 ounce bottle - but that's worth 1,000 sprays, or 1,000 nail trimmings and ear-pluckings. Relax available from Dynamite Specialty Products, 310 E. Watertower Lane, Meridian, ID 83642, or 1.800/677-0919.

Never begin nail trimming without having Kwick Stop Styptic Powder by your side. If you do not have a styptic powder, baking flour or corn starch will do in a pinch. If you cut too much off and cut into the quick, the nail will bleed, anything from a few drops to a real gush - depending on the severity of the cut. It you are not prepared with the styptic powder, your dog might track blood all over your house while you're scrambling for first aid.

Hold your dog's paw securely in one hand and the clipper in the other. Since Kerries nails are black, it is difficult to judge where the quick is. The quick contains nerves and blood vessels ­ you want to avoid cutting into the quick, it will bleed and be painful to your dog. You will want to make a series of very conservative cuts, shaving the nail off a bit at a time looking for the end of the quick between cuts, which will look like Illustration 2.

Even if your dog's nails are very overgrown, never attempt to take too much off at one time. It takes only one mistake to traumatize your dog and make the job a one difficult. Instead make small conservative cuts, trimming back to the quick, but increase the frequency of trimmings. Trim nails weekly until they are at the correct length. In between trimmings, the friction from walking on the nail will force the quick to recede and allow you to trim back a little further each week, until you have them at the proper shortness.

As with everything, a hands-on demonstration will help get you started, and over time experience will be your guide. If you are new to nail trimming, err on the side of caution, and trim the nails more frequently until you get a feel for the depth of the quick.

After you have finished trimming the nails, if your dog does not have access to a hard abrasive surface like concrete which will naturally smooth the rough edges, you might want to file the nails ­ use a file designed for dog's nails and file nails in one direction ONLY, never use a back and forth motion when filing.

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