Nail Maintenance

We want to talk about dog nails. Nails are so important in dogs, more than you can believe. I don’t feel like I have the knowledge to talk about it extensively, but luckily I found some videos of a specialist that will.

First step: let’s explore the layers dog nails have:


In the video, they show a bit of the alternative cut line, but before you grab the clippers or the Dremel please watch the next video or do more research if needed!

We here share a video of Dr. Lesley Woodcock on Dog’s nails. Although she is talking specifically about the effects of long nails on sports dogs and senior dogs, this applies to every dog out there.

Bullet points of the video: Dr. Woodcock is a Veterinary Rehabilitation Specialist and the Agility Team Canada Veterinarian. She deals with a lot of sports dogs and senior dogs.

Why are dog’s nails so important?

Posture. Proper posture tells you the two most important things dogs need to know when they’re running: Where down ( direction) is and where the horizon is. When dog nails are long and touch the ground the pads stand a little back giving the wrong information of where “down” is.

Nails shouldn’t be touching the ground.

They do have a purpose: Traction, more specifically around grass or sand.

Reasons why your dog might not like doing their nails:

1. “Getaway boots”: Protective of their feet.

2. Nail beds can be sore from being jammed to the floor or equipment all the time.

3. The quick has been cut before by you, the vet, or the groomer. (Yes, it hurt. But they can get over it!) With this last, it’s more about how you get nervous and upset about cutting the quick. They can feel that and they start to hate it just as much as you do.

When I have my clients come in I show the owner the clippers, I cut around 100 nails per day and I might hit a quick because I really go in there. I keep quick stopper, you can find it in pet stores, I keep it beside me whenever I do nails. So when I happen to hit one I try to not tell the owners and I put the nail in there, it stops bleeding and we go on. If you’re going to be upset if I cut the quick then I rather you leave the room because right now your dog doesn’t have a problem with this and you don’t need to.

I sometimes use a Dremel, but I first cut the nail with clippers.*Here she proceeds to explain how she cuts the nails graphically. From 5:10 – 6:19*

She explains how to make the nails shorter without hurting the dog by slightly exposing the tip of the quick.

To old dogs specifically, it helps so much into their posture and the way they walk.

Nails should be done (generally) every two weeks.

Once they are the right length there is no need to clip IF YOU ARE A REGULAR DREMELER.

Clippers don’t need to be giant, but they need to be sharp, because clipping nails is more about whittling here and there and not clipping a big part of it.

When dog nails are long the whole structure is off, every angle of every joint and there are more strains and especially on dogs with shoulder, elbow, and knee injuries if nails are not short you are exacerbating the problem repetitively.

What is the key to getting the quick to recede?

Getting it close, It doesn’t matter the angle as much as getting close to the quick and not cutting it. If you cut it the quick will grow again with the nail. You really need the quick to back up and that’s all about the angle. If you can get the top and the sides off, I’ve got to the point where you see a pink nub sticking out and it will dry and fall off in a few days and the quick would have backed out.

Is that the purpose of exposing the quick?

Yes. The purpose is getting shorter nails, each time you trim they will get shorter and shorter. The key is not cutting the quick. It’s gonna take time. I can’t say that there has been a dog that takes me more than three trims to get the nail not to “click click click click” That’s the goal to me, To hear your dog pad it’s way in, not hearing the clicks.

Fur between the pads should be trimmed off. The pads are the sensory part of their feet and they can easily slip. To prevent injuries in sports dogs, they need to know where “down” is, their body needs to be getting the right messages. I have seen a lot of old dogs come in crippled. I got an old Lab with arthritis that couldn’t go up the stairs and I was God on day one because he was able to feel where his feet are and went up the stairs again.

We are actually in the process of getting Tomy into the right nail length. We are taking baby steps as this is also somewhat new for us. We have trimmed his nails in the past, as did his groomer and the vet. 

We are not encouraging you to go clip your dog’s nails right now, but consider everything she says, taking to a good groomer familiar with this method might help you if you don’t feel the confidence or knowledge to do so. Your dog needs to get used to the idea of having its nails clipped or dremeled often, so be patient and understanding. Help them get there by little, make it a positive experience!

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