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Dog Toenail Care and Trimming

Diagrams of toenails follow this text.

Pooch Pedicures are generally a simple procedure, like brushing, ear-cleaning and bathing. Events that you have trained them to accept calmly since puppyhood. There are, of course, exceptions to all rules, including the normally obedient and docile dog that simply will not tolerate having toenails clipped and in some extreme cases won't allow their feet to be handled at all. This aversion can sometimes be traced back to a painful experience involving toenails and/or feet, but nonetheless, you must trim the nails to maintain healthy feet and body structure. This is especially important with less active dogs as their nails do not wear down as rapidly.

Behavior modification techniques will help ease the trauma for you and your dog when nail trimming is due.

  • Begin by touching your dog on the leg, or the place closest to the nails that does not cause the dog to object. 
  • Reward this tolerance with a very small, very tasty treat. Next, touch a little closer and again reward with food.  
  • Keep repeating, perhaps many, many times, each time moving a little closer to the toes, stopping when the dog seems about to resent the intrusion.
SESSION TWO (Should be the next day.)
  • Repeat the steps from day one. 
  • When the dog lets you touch the toes, move on to the next step, picking up the foot.
  • When this can be done without causing objection, touch the toenail clipper to the toes.
  • Remember to reward the desired behavior as you progress.
Eventually, you should be able to begin clipping one toenail. Avoid the temptation to clip all the nails at once. Clip ONE NAIL A DAY, after rewarding the dog for tolerating your touching the handling all the feet. Spend the time to recognize how far you are able to move with each day's training and remember to reward the dog for accepting the handling of legs and feet. Given persistence, your dog should accept nail trimming routines without difficulty.

  • Use toenail clippers that are made specifically for toenail trimming.
  • Cut nails perpendicularly to the long axis of the nail, and about one-quarter inch away from the quick (blood supply.)
  • If you cut too short and the nail bleeds, draw the nail across a bar of softened soap to control the bleeding. You can also use a styptic powder or stick that will clot the blood quickly. (Kwik Stop is a brand commonly available at your local pet supply retailer.)
  • If the dew claw nail (on the inside of the leg above the foot) has become embedded in the flesh of the leg, cut the nail at the proper place and extract the embedded tip. Treat the small wound with an antibacterial dressing. (You can also have your veterinarian or groomer do this.)
  • If a toenail is broken and hangs by a small piece of tissue, pull the broken piece off with a hard twisting motion. If it bleeds, use the Kwik Stop or soap method mentioned above.

Dog Toenail Care and Trimming


The left drawing show the end view of a dark nail correctly cut. The quick is just barely trimmed and will not be bleeding.
Dog Toenail Trimming and Care

The right drawing show the end view of a dark nail cut too close to the quick. This is a big OUCH! and will be bleeding. The quick has been cut into.

Toenail Grinding

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Dober Dawn (You will leave this site to see this article.) has the most informative site I have seen on how to properly grind dog toenails. There are fantastic photos and tips on the entire process. 

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