How to trim nails

This is "my process" of trimming nails. With that said, I realize that there are people who may do things differently. I am hopeful that my information and photos may help my new owners or simply offer help to anyone looking for it. I also find it easier to show people through these photos rather than just explain over the phone. This nail trim demonstration is based on my large breed, the Rottweiler, some information may be different for smaller breeds ...



Nails entirely too long


Here are nails that are entirely too long. I had my girl "Jet" grow them out for this step by step. Notice how the toes splay incorrectly for the dog to stand or walk. This will set up joint soreness. It is even more evident on the final photo where you will see the correctly trimmed foot compared to the opposite untrimmed foot. You will see for yourself how important it is to keep nails trimmed.




How to hold the foot


How to hold the foot. This is how I hold the foot. Support the foot with your last three fingers and palm. Then support the toe to be trimmed with your thumb and forefinger. Many times when the dog objects to nail trimming it is because the foot is being squeezed hard and not the trimming itself! So be aware not to hold the foot too tight.

Notice the "hook" of the nail. That is the dead or dry nail that can almost always be cut without fear of quicking or hitting nerves. Note: This type of nail hook is exactly the reason a nail could be caught in carpet or other circumstances and break off. Very painful for the dog. You should never let these hooks occur.



Cutting off the hook



Cutting off the hook I prefer to use the Miller's forge, orange handled, nail trimmers. Holding the foot correctly, I just cut the long hook off before I use my dremel. This saves my sanding drums and just gets rid of the length quick and easily.





Newly clipped nail




A newly clipped nail. Many people would be happy at this length. Being a show person, I prefer the nail to be shorter. Seeing as the nails were so grown out, it will take a few trimmings to properly "work back" the quick. (the quick- the soft, tender flesh below the growing part of a fingernail or toenail). The only way to safely shorten the nail is over time.




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The foot with the hooks trimmed



The foot with just the hooks trimmed. Here you can see that the foot/toes are starting to come back in proper alignment.





Nail trimming set up




The nail trimming set up As I said earlier, I like the Miller's forge, orange handled nail trimmers. I also suggest getting your Dremel at a Lowes or Home Depot type store. If you buy the Oster brand at a pet supply store, you may end up paying more for the identical product. I also suggest buying the Dremel extended wand for flexibility and ease of use. The wand also allows you to work without holding the hot motor in your hand. Dremel says to hang the motor as shown in this photo.




The proper support for grinding


The proper support for grinding It is important to support each toe as you grind therefore minimizing the vibration and give enough resistance for the grinder taking down the nail. My left thumb supports the top of the nail. My left hand forefinger is under the nail, more on the dog's pad, and my dremel holding thumb is pressed against the closest side of the toe. Again, you can see that I am not squeezing the foot but supporting the foot from underneath. I suggest that you use a corse sanding drum and not a finer grade. The finer the sanding drum grade the quicker heat builds up and less time the drums will last.




Note the black dot on the center/end of the nail.


Note the black dot on the center/end of the black or dark type of dog nail. This subtle black dot denotes the thin barrier at the verge of quicking the dog. This is nature's "stop sign". Once you get proficient at doing nails you can actually "feel" the subtle change in the nail texture when grinding. When it is chaulky/dry it is OK to grind but if it feels like you are starting to hit a more rubbery feel then you are closing in on the living tissue of the quick.

Think of the nail, from this view, as a folded, upside down taco. The top and sides are nail but the bottom is the soft underbelly. 70% of your dremeling will be the top and some on the sides, but almost none on the bottom.



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Side view of the perfect nail



Side view of the perfect nail Again, note the black dot at the tip end. Any further and the nail would be quicked and bleed. Another note: you can smooth the very edge of the nail but NEVER grind around the outside walls of the nail. That would make the nail wall weak, bend and break and possibly loose the nail entirely, which would be very painful.




The finished foot.



The finished foot. Here the toenails have been trimmed, Dremeled and the hair overgrowth was neatened up by slight scissoring.




Trimmed foot and untrimmed foot.




Tell me you can see the difference! Both of these feet are on the same dog. This shows you what damage could be happening to your dog's feet if left go. Also notice the bend in the ankle! Long nails can affect the literal structure of the dog.




Final notes:

  1. In the case of white nail you can see the pink quick to avoid it.
  2. Do not let the sanding drum get too dull, that will create extra heat.
  3. It is highly important to only apply the sanding drum to the nail for one second intervals. Do not jab, think of a person carving wood, easy one second strokes.
  4. I dremel only 50% of my planned nail amount, then move to the next toe then I go back to the first nail on that same foot and finish all the nails on that foot. This keeps heat build up to a minimum.
  5. I dremel the rear feet first then do the front feet. The dog's rear feet are usually less painful.
  6. Always dremel after a dog's bath. The cool, moist dog nail dremels less painfully.
  7. For the dog that throws a huge tantrum and difficult to do their nails, put the dog on his back with feet up in the air. Strattle the dog (between the legs, front to back) facing the same direction as the dogs head is pointing. Support you weight with your knees on the ground. Do not sit on the dog but your rear needs to be right against the dog and your thighs snugging tight or the dog will get his back feet under your rear and dig in. This way the dog's joints will not be pulled or torqued as they try to pull away. For the rear legs just reach back and safely pull one leg at a time forward next to your side and dremel.
  8. The main thing is always try to end on a good note. ESPECIALLY MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT QUICK THE LAST NAIL! Use treats & love.


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Linda Draper/Eternal Moon Rottweilers
"A steward of our noble breed"