The Scoop on Nail Trims

Your dogs nails – is it really necessary to trim them? Are they too long? How often should you trim them? What is the best way to trim them?

Believe it or not, your dogs nails affect their posture and the way they move. Imagine your own toenails being so long that they touched the floor – it would be uncomfortable right? You’d have to change the way you walked in order for your nails to not bother you as much. If a dog’s toenails are too long they tend to distribute their weight differently, and ultimately could cause injury. If your dog jumps off something with properly trimmed nails, they land on the pads of their feet. If their nails are too long they tend to land off balance and could easy slip! Long nails can also affect traction and dogs may slip on linoleum or hardwood floors.

Ideally, when your dog walks their nails should not make a clicking sound. Depending on the breed or structure of your dogs foot there might be sound no matter what, so a better way to tell is to look at your dog’s nails while they are standing still and see if they touch the floor. If they do – chances are you need to trim them!

How often should you trim them? The short answer is: it depends. Many dogs that spend a lot of time running on pavement never need their nails trimmed. They wear them down naturally. For me, once the nails are at a length that I like I trim them once a week to maintain that length. If they are a little too long I might trim them or Dremel them every few days. Generally, once a week is what you should shoot for.

Many dogs dislike having their feet handled – it is a slow process to get dogs to tolerate and even sometimes enjoy nail trims. If you are lucky enough to have a puppy it can be much easier – make it positive from the start! When I first started trimming my dogs nails, I would do one nail and then give him a treat. Do a 2nd nail and give him a treat. If he got stressed or really wanted to pull away we would stop and come back later. It is NOT A RACE! You want to not force nail trims upon your dog. They should be as stress free as possible! I have also given my dogs a Kong stuffed with peanut butter – they are so focused on licking the Kong that they don’t notice me playing with their feet. Again, if they do get upset or stressed – STOP! It is not worth it to stress them out, it will just make nail trims even harder next time.

There are two tools that can be used to maintain your dog’s nails. A clipper – I prefer the pliers style clippers (the guillotine style tend to squeeze the nail and can be uncomfortable). I highly recommend Miller’s Forge clippers with the red handle. You can buy them for about $6 on and they are super sharp and do not dull easily. Sharp clippers are a necessity! The best way to clip nails is to take off tiny slivers and whittle down the nail until you can see the quick. The quick is the blood supply to the nail and the closer to the quick that you get, the more fleshy the nail will appear inside. Ideally you will cut your dog’s nails to just before the quick, If you do this weekly it will keep the quick at the same place – if you do it more often (every few days) the quick will recede over time and the nails will become shorter.

Another tool you can use is something called a dremel, or a grinder. These tools are great to use because the risk of hitting the quick is much less – and if you do hit the quick it generally doesn’t bleed more than a drop. I use a Dremel Micro 8050 with a 120 grit sanding band. Many dogs take to the dremel quickly, but most need some time to get used to the noise and the vibration. Again, GO SLOWLY! You will have to condition your dog to the noise and feel of the dremel over time, and soon enough you will be able to grind all nails in one sitting.

For more tips on how to get started, please visit the Facebook group Nail Maintenance for Dogs and/or these two websites:

Article written by Kelly McDuff

If you are in the St. Paul/Eagan area Kelly offers nails trims! Reach out to BLOF if you are interested!

Check out Kelly’s work with BLOF’s dogs!


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Until next time,


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