Lessons From a Groomer: Nail Clipping, Ear Cleaning, and Baths

Mrs. Obvious is a mother, wife, and mentor. She used to own her own groom shop called Puppy Love and was self-employed for nine years.

What Is the Quick in My Dog's Nail?

It's a bit hard to describe where to clip a dog's nails, so I have included a few images for reference. All dogs have a blood vessel inside their nails called the quick. For dogs with white nails, the quick is visible—it looks like a pink filling.

Clip off the excess nail about a quarter-inch past the end of the quick. The cut should be angled at about a 45-degree angle (see the image below). For most dogs, the quick ends abruptly within the nail, so a quarter of an inch should be enough of a margin to prevent bleeding, which we call "quicking the nail."

What Is a Long Quick?

However, some quicks do not end abruptly. I have personally found that Pugs, Springer Spaniels, and Border Collies are breeds that are more likely to have quicks that taper off. These quick become so thin, you cannot see where they end, even in white nails. We call this "having long quicks." I have no idea why this occurs or why it's common in these breeds, but those are my findings after being a dog groomer for 11 years.

With these breeds, I recommend trimming a little off the end at a time until you find the quick on one nail. Usually, how much you cut off of one is the same amount you will be able to safely cut from the rest, so trim the rest of the nails to be just a little longer than the one you quicked (so as not to quick them as well). Watch for nails that appear to be more worn down than others. Not all dogs walk/run correctly all of the time, which may cause uneven wear to their toenails. If you discover a worn down nail, you must make an educated guess as to whether any more needs to be cut based on how long it is compared to the length of the other nails.

Does It Hurt My Dog?

The reason a lot of dogs hate having their nails done is that there is a nerve surrounding the quick that can be sensitive. Imagine the rings on a cut tree trunk. When cutting the nails, you can actually train your eye to see the layers within the nail as you get used to doing this. Cut a little and look: The whole cross-section looks solid or sometimes flaky. Cut a little more, and if you see a layer that looks like the consistency of a very thick gel. That is the nerve coating that surrounds the quick. Don't cut anymore. If you do go barely too far, it will start to bleed a tiny bit. You'll notice a red bullseye center, the thick gel-nerve layer and then all the outer flaky layers. Don't panic. You can easily fix this with some styptic powder (QuickStop) or even corn starch or flour.

Don't give up; as long as you go slowly and carefully, you can successfully learn to do this. It's not the end of the world if you quick your pet accidentally. Just reassure your dog calmly and continue as if nothing happened. If your dog reacts and you feed into it with a whole bunch of emotional nonsense, you are making the situation worse and telling the dog that it's okay to be nervous and fear having their nails clipped. That creates a no-win situation where the dog is now afraid and you can never clip his nails because you will give up.

Cutting Black Nails

For black nails, you can't see a quick. Instead, I use a different technique to tell where to cut.

I want you to picture a very dirty old bathtub with "bathtub rings." There are similar rings on the outside of black nails. You should cut at the bottom of the "ring" closest to the tip of the nail.

I have a few theories as to what causes the rings and why this works:

  1. Past where the living blood vessel stops, the rest of the "dead" nail isn't well-nourished, thus producing the rings.
  2. As the animal walks, the excessive "dead" portion of the nail (which also should have no feeling) gets pushed into the dirt, grass, whatever, up to the living part of the nail causing damage to the nail in the form of the rings.

It doesn't really matter if these theories are correct or not, I just know that cutting at the "bathtub rings" works.

I have one more technique for you to consider, and I can honestly tell you that using this one, I can safely cut nails with my eyes closed! That's right, eyes closed, because this technique is about feeling the shape of the nail as a clue of where to cut.

If your dog has nails that are thick at the base and then extend into long thin hooks (either black or white), you can cut off the entire long hook with no worries! The quick ends where the thick part of the nail ends and the thin part begins. These are the easiest ones to do.

  1. Put the dog straight in front of you—facing you.
  2. Put the nail clipper around the nail.
  3. Slide the bottom edge of the clipper against the underside of the nail.
  4. Catch the clipper against the hook of the nail.
  5. Clip right where it catches.

Sanding Nails for a Scratch-Free Finish

For the finishing touches and to prevent your dog from scratching you with those freshly cut, sharp nails, you can use a Dremel tool or PediPaws nail filer to quickly file the nails to a smooth finish. You can also use these as a cheat to get even closer to the quick if you are nervous about cutting too much nail off with a nail clipper.

Hint: It's easiest to do correctly if you have the barrel spinning away from the pad, in a clockwise rotation if you are right-handed. Opposite for lefties.

Cleaning Your Dog's Ears

Just before you give a dog a bath, you should clean his ears.

When cleaning your dog's ears, you will want to either buy a good ear cleaner, use witch hazel, or make a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water.

Apply the ear cleaner as directed and then gently wipe inside the ear with cotton balls to remove any and all excess wax and dirt that may have built up. You can also use cotton swabs to clean in all the nooks and crannies, but do not insert the cotton swab into the ear canal.

If you use the water-and-vinegar solution, it can also be used as an ear flush. Gently pour the solution in the ear canal, then massage the ear and down the side of the cheek (the ear canal is located directly behind the skin). Allow the dog to shake its head to empty its ear of solution. After you've cleaned the ears, you can place cotton balls inside of them to keep water out during the bath. This is not a must, but if your dog has chronic ear problems, you won't have to worry about him getting water in his ears.

Now, before we move to the tub, go ahead and apply the eye protectant if you will be using one.

Bathing Your Dog

First, one of the most important steps of bathing is to get the dog completely wet before applying the shampoo. Two reasons for this are:

  • The shampoo forms suds and distributes more easily.
  • If you are not getting the entire dog wet, it is doubtful that you will get the entire dog shampooed thoroughly, and then you will still have a dirty dog with clean spots instead of a clean dog.

Secondly, be very careful not to spray water into the dog's nose and ears. Hold the dog's muzzle so that the nose points at the floor of the bathtub and position the sprayer above the head. This will ensure that you can saturate your dog's face without getting water up his nose and ears. As a further precaution, you can also hold the ear flaps down with your thumb and first finger as you point the nose down.

Thirdly, turn your pet around in the bathtub while you are working on him to ensure that you are getting both sides wet, shampooed, and rinsed. It is easier to work on the sections of your pet that you can see rather than assuming you can do it without looking.

Double Shampooing

When applying the shampoo, use as much as necessary to achieve a good lather (some lather more easily than others). Apply it to several areas of the body and then work it in with more water from the hand shower.

If you have one, use a rubber curry comb to get the shampoo through the hair down to the skin. Rubber curry combs are especially effective for dogs with extremely short hair (pit bulls, labs) or extremely thick hair (Akitas, huskies).

The bath is a great time for bonding with your pet. Rubbing the shampoo thoroughly through the hair is a great excuse to give a nice massage at the same time. Elderly and disabled pets will greatly appreciate this comforting touch, and any normal dog will love the extra rubdown too.

Now while your pet is all sudsed up, it is time to pay attention to the areas around the eyes and the anus. Work on the eyes first, using your flea comb or toothbrush to remove any eye boogers. Then move to the anus, using the same tools removing any real matter. Do not do this in reverse order. You don’t want to accidentally carry fecal matter to your dog’s eyes.

Never yank and pull. Soften any foreign matter with shampoo and water, and comb gently until you have removed it. If you know how and want to express the anal gland, this is the best time to do that. Many animals experience much relief after having their glands done and, although a stinky chore, it is definitely a part of your pet's health that shouldn't be ignored. Small dogs suffer more from anal gland problems—including impaction, explosion, and, subsequently, infection—than larger breeds. If your dog has been scooting around on its butt, it's not worms, but an anal gland problem that is ailing your friend.

Next, rinse well and then apply the shampoo all over again. Reapplying the shampoo is very important to getting a pet really clean. Think of the shampoo as a bunch of little shovels. Each shovel full will only remove so much dirt. When you take the time to do a second shampooing, all those little shovels remove an extra shovel full of dirt and ensure that the pet is squeaky clean. This is especially true if your pet started out extra dirty.

Don't be afraid to use more than one type of shampoo during this process. A good rule of thumb is to use a good cleansing shampoo first and your medical, oatmeal, or conditioning shampoo second. Don't forget to read the label on each one for directions as to how long it should be left on the skin and coat to be effective.

Completely Rinsing Your Dog

The last step of the bath is to rinse and rinse and then rinse some more. Did I say rinse? It is crucial that you rinse all of the shampoo off of the skin and coat. Shampoo left in the coat is the number one cause of itching, hot spots, and supposed allergies. Look at the water coming off of the dog as you are rinsing. If it is suds free and looks like clear water, not discolored at all, you have probably rinsed correctly.

Clear water draining off of the dog during the rinse is also an indication that you did in fact remove all of the dirt from the dog. Do not forget to keep watching the water as you recheck hard-to-reach areas such as armpits, the anus, the groin, and the face.

Drying Your Dog

When you are satisfied that your dog is clean and has been rinsed well, finish by gently squeegee-ing the water from your pet. Finish off by towel-drying your pet using a pat-and-squeeze method, never a vigorous back-and-forth rubbing unless your dog is short-haired. On long-haired breeds, this will help you avoid matting the hair by accident.

Congratulations, my friend! You have just washed your pet like a groomer.

Please Let Me Know If This Lesson Was Valuable

More on Dog Grooming

  • How to Use Scissors and Clippers
    Learn about different types of scissors and clippers, how to choose the correct tools for your pet, and what is worth your money.
  • Decoding Groomer Speak (What's a Teddy-Bear Cut?)
    In my experience as a pet groomer, I have learned to speak the language of groomers and interpret my clients' needs and desires. It sometimes be hard to understand the terms groomers use, so here are some common cuts defined and shown in pictures.
  • Shampoo Selection for Fleas, Dandruff, and Other Skin Issues
    Learn about different shampoos and when, why, and how to use them. You don't have to be too picky about the kind of shampoo you use on your dog, just make sure to get a shampoo that is made for dogs, not humans.
  • Clipper Tips and Tricks
    Learn the basics of clipper handling and how to cut hair so that you use your tools safely and effectively.
  • How to Dry Your Pet Correctly
    To blow dry or not to blow dry, that is the question. Well folks, the answer is: to blow dry. Why you ask? For several reasons.

© 2009 Willow Mattox

Francesca McMillen on August 03, 2020:

I disagree. Cutting the quick is painful and disturbing to the dog!

Helen wilson on June 21, 2017:

I want to learn to groom dogs nails cut bath cut ears the lot as thinking of starting up

Sunny on November 25, 2016:

I gave up on groomers when they continually quicked my already fearful (rescued) min pin. The vet recommended we lay her on her side to do her nails. I use a grinder and this method has proven more effective, while still a 2 person CHORE.

Melanie on August 01, 2016:

I have always cut my dogs nails. One of the dogs I have now is terrified of getting his nails cut and I have to take him to the vet. I have spent time just holding him and using my fingers to gently touch his nails but that doesn't work either. He literally goes crazy when I try to trim his nails. Do you have any suggestions for what position the dog should be in when you trim nails? Also, what kind of nail trimmer would yo suggest buying? Thank you.

Molly on August 06, 2014:

Great tut!

Lavender Jade from Derbyshire on August 20, 2013:

Thanks for this hub, I hate cutting my dogs nails in case I cut too close and make him bleed, which I have once, it is horrid. He has black nails so you have to guess!

Sugar's Mom on January 12, 2010:

I definitely needed to read this. My 11 year old Domino had a problem at a groomers about a year ago. He has been to the groomers all of his life with no problems.

I have taken him back a couple of times since that incident only to be called to come back and pick him up. My son and I have been attempting to groom him…oh boy! We can do the hair clipping. He is shih-tzu, but I keep him cut close. I am in the process of growing him a ponytail to keep the hair out of his eyes. He has no problem with a bath. However, his nails do need cutting. I am planning on following your advice and see if he will let us cut them. Thanks so much for having this hub.

Pet Grooming Services in Stony Plain – They Deserve It!

Our sweet, furry friends deserve the occasional pawmpering. At E&E Kennels, our experienced team provides pet grooming services that will leave your pet smelling and looking their best. We understand that grooming your pet can be a frustrating and tiring chore. Leave it to us to help you bring home a clean and happy fur baby!

A note regarding prices: We do not list prices on our website because each price is set individually based on the size, condition and behaviour of your pet. Please call our office for a starting price based on your pet’s breed.

Grooming is available 5 days a week (Tuesday – Saturday). Please call for more information about our Groomer's schedules, as they could change depending on Groomer availability.

  • Full groom: Nail trim, ear cleaning, bath, brush out, hair cut of your choice (short or long “scissor” cut, shave down, breed-specific cut, etc.)
  • BBN & tidy: Nail trim, ear cleaning, bath, brush out, feet/face/sanitary area trimmed
  • BBN: Nail trim, ear cleaning, bath, brush out

Additional options (may be an additional charge):

Anal gland expression and more. Some options are listed below.

All grooming services include nail trims and ear cleaning. They also include a complimentary bandana/scarf.

Additional Services
Teeth Brushing (Includes Toothbrush)$10.00+GST
Coat Colouring (Dying)starting at $20.00+GST(can go up depending on style)
SPA Lavish Tear Stain Facial Cleanser *$5.00+GST
Deep Conditioning$5.00+GST
Whitening Shampoo$5.00+GST
Combination of Any Three:
SpaFresh Facial Scrub, De-Shedding,
Whitening Shampoo or Deep Conditioning
3 for $15.00+GST
* All-natural botanical formula to remove stains without irritating eyes or sensitive skin.
** Conditioner applied after shampooing, during bathing, aims to dramatically reduce shedding (advertised at 60-80 %.) Loosening the undercoat before brushing makes de-shedding easier and promotes healthier skin and coat.
Drop-in services must happen during our office hours, we recommend calling prior to confirm that we have a Groomer in.
Nail trim$13.00+GST
Nail trim for difficult pets$17.00+GST
Dogs Only
Dremel$3.00 added to nail trim cost
Face trim only$10.00+GST
Sanitary area clean-up$10.00+GST
Faceand feet trim$20.00+GST
Ear plucking$10.00+GST
Nails and ear pluck$20.00+GST
Anal gland expression$10.00+GST
Nails and feet trim$15.00+GST
Nails and brush out$20.00+GST
Nails and face trim$20.00+GST
Nail/brush/sanitary area/face trim$30.00+GST
Nail/brush/sanitary area$25.00+GST
Ear cleaning$10.00+GST
Brush out$13.00+GST
Drop in times are between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM Mon to Sat, and 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM on Sundays.
Our expert cat groomer, Caitlyn, is available to groom your cat Saturday and Sunday (please contact us for more information as her schedule does change frequently).
Full Groom with Bath (includes: dry, brush, nail trim, ear clean, and a full body trim or lion cut)Starting at $80.00+GST*
Full Groom without Bath (includes: brush, nail trim, ear clean, and a full body trim or lion cut)Starting at $70.00+GST*
Medium – Long-Haired Bath + Tidy (includes: ear clean and nail trim)Starting at $60.00+GST*
Short-Haired Bath + Tidy(includes: ear clean and nail trim)Starting at $50.00+GST*
Long-Haired Brush-Out (includes: ear clean and nail trim)Starting at $45.00+GST*
Short-Haired Brush-Out(includes: ear clean and nail trim)Starting at $40.00+GST*
*All prices are dependent on the cat's behaviour.

Drop-off times for grooming are between 7:30 and 10:00 AM (on all days of the week.) Please be advised that our grooming appointments are not set with specific drop-off and pickup times but only a drop-off time. Each groomer bathes all of their clients in the morning and then finishes them in order of arrival to allow each pet a break between bathing, drying and finishing to reduce stress.

You should receive a reminder call the day before your scheduled grooming appointment (at any time during our office hours.) If you do not receive a phone call, do not assume that you do not have an appointment please call to confirm before neglecting to show up—the call is a courtesy but your appointment is still your responsibility! Thank you for your consideration.

Your pet will typically be available for pickup by mid-afternoon (between 1:00 and 4:00 PM), though it may be earlier or later, depending on the difficulty of the pet, the groomer’s day and what time you dropped off. You will receive a phone call at whatever number you give us at drop off as soon as your pet is done and ready to be picked up.

If you have a certain time that you need your pet(s) done by, please be sure that you tell the staff member who takes your pet in at drop off. Our groomers can make no promises (their day depends on how many difficult/time-consuming pets they have) but they will do their very best to accommodate you. Each pet booked that day deserves to be done well and not rushed, so please only specify a time if you are operating under a time constraint. Thank you for your understanding!

Please call or come in to the kennel to book a grooming appointment. We cannot take grooming bookings over email as our slots are filled quickly over the phone and emails typically move too slowly to keep up with our rapidly changing schedule book!


Described as a "unique looking dog in a baggy suit," the Bloodhound is one of the oldest breeds of dogs that hunt by scent. Although affectionate, they can possess shy natures, sensitive to kindness or correction by their master. Colors of the Bloodhound include black and tan, liver and tan, and red, sometimes flecked with white. The actual term "Bloodhound" refers not to what the Bloodhound trails but instead refers to its status as the "blooded hound," meaning aristocratic, since such great lengths were taken early on to keep the strain clean.

The Bloodhound made its appearance in Europe long before the Crusades, when the first specimens were brought from Constantinople in two strains, black and white. Established in America for over a century, it proved early on to be a tireless worker for law enforcement, being so accurate that evidence trailed by a Bloodhound has been accepted in a court of law.

While Bloodhounds are extremely affectionate, they are take-charge dogs, so it is important to be kind, but be the undisputed boss in your household. Bloodhounds should be groomed weekly to eliminate dead hair and facilitate a routine that will help them look, feel, and smell better.

  • Puppy Level 1: this is a 6 week introductory program for puppies 2 to 4 months old, and it teaches your puppy how to sit, come when summoned, as well as potty training, digging, teething, chewing and more.
  • Puppy Level 2: for puppies 4 to 6 months old, this 6 week class builds upon what was learned in level 1 and expands upon them.
  • Puppy Essentials Package: this includes both puppy levels and a couple of one hour workshops plus loose leash walking and how to prevent jumping.
  • Puppy Complete Package: the complete package consists of the two puppy levels as well as the client’s choice of one of the adult dog training options. You also get a private lesson with a dog trainer and a couple of workshops.

Training options are as follows:

  • Adult Dog Level 1: this is a 6 week program designed to help pet owners communicate better with their dog. Among the lessons covered are digging, barking, jumping, “wait” and more.
  • Adult Dog Level 2: this 6 week training program focuses on the lessons learned in level 1, and it also includes distractions so your dog learns to focus and pay attention regardless of the circumstances. The lessons also include games you can play with your pet.
  • Canine Good Citizen Class: this is for dogs that have graduated from the Adult Dog Level 2 class. Once your dog graduates level 2, he can take this class to prepare for the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (AKC CGC) certification, which is given to well trained dogs.
  • Adult Dog Essentials Package: this package consists of both adult dog training classes plus a couple of 60 minute workshops.
  • Adult Dog Complete Package: this consists of all the training necessary to bring your dog to the Canine Good Citizen level. Besides the level 1 and level 2 lessons, the package includes the Canine Good Citizen class, workshops and a private class.

Professional Dog Grooming

Rub a Dub Dub, Pooch in the Tub! At Townhouse Pet Care Center we have some of the best professional pet groomers in the Portland Metro area.

Grooming generally takes 4 - 6 hours. We can call when done! If you need a specific pickup time please tell us when setting up an appointment.

*We will generally call you to see if you are on your way. Due to high demand for grooming appts, if you are over 15 minutes late to your grooming appt, it will be considered a no-show and cancelled. We will need you to call us back or re-book online for a new appt time, but we will need to honor the appts ahead of you. We will also need to collect a $20 deposit before we book your next groom.*


Our professional groomers specialize in caring for dogs that require scissor or shaved haircuts. We provide free quotes! Prices vary based on coat condition, style of cut, breed, and behavior!

- Includes a haircut, full bath, brushout, nail trim, hygienic expression, air dry, and ear cleaning.

- Specialized shampoos, conditioners, flea treatments, and hypoallergenic options.

- Troublesome hair and problem areas sometimes require the love that only we can provide. Let us love your pets! . And their fur.

BATH & BRUSHOUT Our house groomers specialize in caring for dogs with shorter hair but who require all the same other basic grooming maintenance needs as their more complex furry friends. Prices vary based on coat condition, style of cut, breed, and behavior

- Includes: a full bath, brushout, nail trim, hygienic expression, air dry, and ear cleaning.

- Feet and feather trimming are included (if needed)

- Specialized shampoos, conditioners, flea treatments, and hypoallergenic options.

- Troublesome hair and problem areas sometimes require the love that only we can provide.

Haircut & Bath $42-$120 (varies by breed)

Bath & Brushout $32 - $100 (varies by breed)

Extra Brushing $5 for 15 min

A more detailed list of Townhouse's grooming process is here:

Thorough Brush Out:
Removes all the dead hair. A necessary step to effective bathing.
Anal Glands Expressed:
Regular and frequent expressing assures healthy glands.
Ear Hair Removal and Cleaning:
Healthy ears need frequent cleaning to prevent infection.
Double Scrub and Rinse with Hydro=Therapy
The most thorough bath available.
Complete Blow Dry:
Prevents chills, fluffs the fur, and reduces future shedding.
Final Brush Out and Trim:
Ensures all the loose hair is gone and the feet and feathers are trimmed to reduce tracking water and mud.
Potty Break:
We'll need it.
Free Exam:
We will look over your pet and report any signs of potential problems.
Instructions on What You Can Do to Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy:
We'll gladly show you how we made your pet look so good and instruct you in how to continue the care until the next grooming.
Nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks or when you hear them clicking on the floor.

PRICES will vary depending on whether your pet needs a professional groom or a house groom. To find out how much a professional groom will cost by your dog or cat's breed please call or stop in and speak with one of our team members. Our standard baths include a nail trim, brushout, ear cleaning, and hygienic expression.


Grooming No-Show Policy: An appointment is considered a no-show and cancelled if they do not arrive within 15 minutes of the originally scheduled time. For professional grooms that are a no-show, we will require a $20 deposit in order to book the next groom. This deposit will apply toward the next groom, but is non-refundable in the event of another no-show.

Aggression/Bite Policy: If a pet shows significant human-aggression or bites a team member, we will notify the owner immediately and may request immediate pick up from either grooming or boarding. Owner will be responsible for all boarding/grooming services rendered up until that point. We reserve the right to refuse future service for the safety of the team and pet.

Matting Policy: If a dog is found to be extremely matted and needing to be shaved close to the skin, very short, or an otherwise drastic change, we will describe this to owner at check in. We will then confirm once more after dog has been evaluated, by calling the owner and explaining the exact length it will be shaved to, what parts of the body, etc.

Flea Policy: We do not require pets to be on flea preventative, however if we find fleas at any point we have the right to treat the pet at our discretion and the owners’ cost. We will make every attempt to reach the owner, but in the event we cannot, we will use either a flea shampoo of our choosing or a Capstar flea pill. The pet will be isolated from other pets while in our care until fleas are resolved.

Watch the video: Nasty Ears Cleaned. Bathing A 76 Pound Shorthaired Mix

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