The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 18, 2013

Ryan Richardson: Groom your pet like a professional

JOPLIN, Mo. — I am not a man with a lot of money in my checking account from month to month. I'm pretty sure that ship sailed the day I walked across the stage at Missouri Western State University and accepted my journalism degree. With most of my income tied up in housing, food and transportation, I often try to do things on my own that I would normally pay someone else to do.

My dog has been the victim of my thriftiness many times, with mixed results.

I've tried a few gadgets over the years that promised to make pet care a breeze, when, in fact, they were more trouble than they were worth. But sometimes, I've gotten lucky and Cami can look at me and bark approvingly at her Ryan-styled haircut.

First off, there are professional groomers who will do most of these things better than you can at home. They are trained properly, can handle animals that become rambunctious and, in the end, their work is professional.

There are still things that I won't attempt with an animal, because I don't trust my handiwork. One of those things is nail-clipping.

Nail-clipping is possible at home, given the right circumstances and an animal with the right temperament. It works better when you start pets young; they will get used to the process and eventually see it as a bonding activity between the two of you.

To properly clip the nails of your cat or dog, I suggest using a guillotine-type of clipper, which can easily be picked up at most stores. Looking at the nails, you can usually tell what needs to be trimmed by how the nail has grown. When nails start to show long curves, usually in the dew claw (the claw on the inner side), they are a bit easier to clip.

Place the trimmer at a right angle to the claw, and clip. Most trimmers have a stationary ring so you don't move up and down easily.

However, I should warn you that it is absolutely imperative that you do not cut too far to the quick. You run the risk of infection and bleeding, which can be deadly to your animal. It's best to stay about three millimeters away from the quick.

Like I said, this is something that I let my groomer handle. I've tried the at-home gadgets, such as a motorized nail filer, and they spooked almost every animal I've had, making it nearly impossible for me to do anything worth while for them.

In between groomer visits, I suggest finding a scratching post for your cats, especially if they have not been declawed. It helps limit their wear on your home furniture and keeps their nails clean.

I've had a lot of success cutting my dog's hair using the trimmer I bought last year. There are at-home kits that you can buy at almost every pet store and most retail stores.

I spent $30 at Target last year for the kit, and it came with four guards, which works well for different types of hair. It looks like a normal hair trimmer and works the same way.

Make sure you bathe your animal first to get the dirt out, then comb through your pet's hair. Let the animal dry off for about 30 minutes, then take it out to the garage so you can clean up the resulting mess.

Always work your way from back to front, against the grain of the hair. You don't want to take everything off in one pass, because pets probably won't enjoy having six inches or more taken off them in one swoop.

Obviously, you don't want to shave their face or leg areas. I suggest using scissors and taking extra care around the eyes and private areas, in addition to the top of the legs.

Now that my dog is used to it, she enjoys a quick trim, and it's saving me money in the long run. I will probably never add the title "professional pet groomerÓ to my resume, but at least my dog has a haircut that allows her to hold her head high out in public.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at or 417-627-7363.

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