Today I have a guest blogger by way of an impromptu video. Dr. Leslie Woodcock DVM, is a long time friend of mine (for more than 20 years). She has been our Team Canada veterinarian at most of our international events (WAO, IFCS, FCI) for the past five years. Dr. Leslie is the former owner of Woodcock Veterinary Services, a clinic that specialized in rehabilitation for dogs post surgery or post-injury and helping dog owners with injury prevention. Leslie has also been there every step of the way during Encore’s recent health problems. Her assistance and support has been nothing short of amazing.
Last year Dr. Leslie was at our place evaluating dogs at a workshop when I asked her to give a little lecture on nail trimming for performance dogs. It was a fascinating presentation. In summary; short nails are a key to our dogs rebalancing around an agility course and are critical in our geriatric dog’s long-term health. This presentation is a part of a three-part series I am currently running in my newsletter. If you are not yet a member of my newsletter sign up with the form on the top right of this page and you will be!
Dr. Leslie suggests that our goal should be to cut our dog’s nails short enough that you can not hear them on your tile floor (when I can hear my guys I know it is time to cut nails!). In order to get the nails this short without hurting the dog (or making their nails bleed), your goal should be to get the “quick” (or soft bit that supplies blood to the nail) to recede.
Most people when cutting nails try to cut directly across the dog’s nail (as in the diagram below).
However, as Dr. Leslie recommends the best way to cut your dog’s nails without hurting them AND get that quick to recede is to cut the sides of the nails on angling back.
Cutting nails this way it becomes easier to get your dog’s nails shorter without hurting them as it isn’t YOU the takes off the bottom bit of the nail it is your dog’s normal everyday wear and tear. I don’t know if my diagrams are perfect but Dr. Leslie’s 14-minute lecture sure is, so make sure you listen to it!
Take a look at these before and after pictures of nearly 17-year-old Buzzy. On the left is Buzz before a nail trim, on the right is him after.
Now I never let my dog’s nails get long (as evident in the picture above of four of my dog’s standing at the top of the stairs (Buzz opted out of that picture)). So the differences in these two pictures will not be as dramatic as they could be if Buzz was more of a “typical” 17-year-old dog with claws so long they are starting to curl under the pads (poor dog). But if you look closely you can see the length or angle of Buzz’s paws appears to change slightly from the picture on the left (before his nail trim) to that on the right (after his nail trim). It could just be the way he is standing (both of these pictures I just “caught” Buzz standing) but to me, it appears he is also distributing his weight differently between these two pictures.
Dr. Leslie’s talk is a real eye-opener, be sure to leave her a comment and let her know your thoughts!
Today I am grateful to my friend Leslie Woodcock whose commitment to learning more about how to help dogs is surpassed only by her love of them.
Update: There are further videos on nail trimming that will help you if your dog is not a fan of nails being clipped.
- Help! My Dog Hates His Nails Cut … What Do I Do?
- Proactive Conditioning for Dog Nail Trimming Success
- This! One is About Conditioning the Dremel for Puppy Nails
And due to popular demand, we now have “Your Dog’s Pedicure Please Program” at our store for you to start immediately online. Your Dog’s Pedicure Please Program will create a positive emotional response for your dog to grooming in general and nail trimming in particular.
We’ve had many questions about what I use for a nail grinder for my dogs, and it’s a *Casfuy Dog Nail Grinder with LED Light that I got on Amazon. I also like to use a Dremel with a *Diamond Nail Rotary Tool Bit.
[*Amazon Links Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Susan only recommends products she uses herself, and all opinions expressed here are her own. The link above is an affiliate link that, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you decide to buy from it. Thank you!]
I loved your blog and I am doing my dogs nails right now. Thanks so much!
Thank you, Dr Leslie, and Susan for such an informative “lesson”.
Love it 🙂
I have a very different perspective on my girls paws now 🙂
I was going to cut my dogs’s nails today, so this came at just the right time. I did what the video said, and it was amazing. I will see how long the cut lasts.
Thank you so much for this.
Oh I posted earlier but it didn’t show up.
Decaf, Swagger, Feature and then Encore furthest away 🙂
Yes Charlotte you got it!
Excellent information, thank you Dr Leslie and Susan for sharing.
Decaf, Swagger, Feature and Encore furthest away
A quick clarification….on the question about a quick touch of the grinder, this is assuming the nail has already been trimmed back close to the quick!! And then the vibration of the grinder will encourage the quick to recede.
I was told that by using a Dremel, even a quick “touch” will encourage the quick to recede by the vibration of the grinder. I was also told that when a dogs nails are too long, instead of grinding just the ends off, take the grinder and make a small nick in each side of the nail up behind the end of the quick. Nick should be noticeable, not not deep enough to cut into the quick and then the quick will eventually recede back behind those nick areas. Any truth to either of these ideas?
This is an AWESOME video! Over-long nails are such a pet peeve of mine, and something that too many pet owners let go.
My dog has black nails, how do I know where the quick is?
I thought Dr. Leslie’s presentation was very informative. I use the Dremel with the small sandpaper tube on it. I was wondering if there is another attachment that may be more accurate. My 3 dogs are small breeds but not tiny.
I find that the back nails need less trim than the front nails. I do keep them quite short.
I am also interested to know Dr. Leslie’s take on dew claws.
Great info! Thanks for sharing.
In case it helps anyone with dark nails – it is often easier to *feel* when you are getting close to the quick (that soft smooth tissue) than it is to see it.
How do you feel about using a metal file for the nails? Emory boards just aren’t enough, and my dogs won’t let me near them with a dremel, they hate the vibrations. Clippers they are fine, but not the dremel, I think it tickles them :). But I was thinking about using a larger file to finish off the nails after I clip, just so I can get to the quick without cutting it. Thanks and great article.
A file can take a while but it can be done.
I use a glass file in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHb4leVnZkM
In this video, I demonstrate how to make a file using heavy grit sandpaper
Great info on nail trimmimg!!!!
As a groomer and dog lover this is so helpful!!!
I use a Dremmel and love it. I trim all around the quick – top bottom and sides -to slightly expose the quick. This removes all the rough edges and recedes the quick.
My older dog has thicker nails and it takes a little longer to make progress on her nails.
All my dogs accept the Dremmel easily.
The true test of success is silent paws on the tile floors.
A subject near and dear to my heart! I do nails once a week without fail and yes, if I can’t hear a ‘click, click’ on the floor afterwards, I know I’ve done a good job.
I’ve just returned from a 10 day camping trip (with the dog – yes, I brought the nail clippers!), but just before I left, I finished making a video that I hope can help dog owners to make nail-trimming more enjoyable for both parties involved. It bothers me when people put little effort into making nail trimming a positive experience right from puppy-hood.
So here’s the video, which I hadn’t gotten around to telling anyone about – now would be as good a time as ever I guess!
It’s 9 minutes long, but throughout, it contains commentary on how I trained my dog to accept the procedure (yes, you’ll recognize a lot of Say Yes principles!) and how I trim with clippers. I haven’t heard of the method Dr. Leslie talked about – I’ll have to give it a try!
Thanks Laura. Is that couch loaded with nail trimmings? 😉
I time my nail trimming so that it’s always just before my vacuuming! 🙂
Thank you so much Dr. Leslie. And Susan, you just keep pushing things to a new level. I love this new newsletter series.
I would appreciate a specific list of the equipment Dr. Leslie uses: type of trimmer, which tips for the dremmel and name/supplier of the quickstop. Thank you.
Fantastic information! How can I find someone in the Indianapolis, Indiana area who is willing/able to do this? Anyone know of anybody?
I already find it a bit difficult to gauge where the quick is on large breed (GSD/Malinois) dark black nails when approaching in the “traditional” cut sense. How does Dr. Leslie know where the quick is when approaching in the “take the roof off” cut? It seems there is way more opportunity to hit the quick since you are cutting more parallel to the quick itself. Is there an indicator that you’ve reached a good place to stop when cutting in this manner?
Willy, when I used to use trimmers (a dremel girl myself) I would stop when I saw the white get “pithy looking” With the battery operated dremmel (not the ones with AC current that you plug into the wall) it is far easier to see that coming.
Exactly the info I was looking for. Thanks! I’m going to give this a shot tonight. (And yes, I also almost exclusively dremel now.)
Excellent points about propreception for sport dogs *and* old dogs. Lets help the geriatric dogs stay mobile!
Trim that hair on the bottom of your dog’s feet. Keep the front nails short. And put down runner rugs on your hardwood floors if your old dog is slipping….
Great blog SG! Question for the Dr…
I hit 3 quicks this morning…oops…Is there a window of healing where I shouldn’t be training in dirt or grass to avoid pain or discomfort? Is there any possibility of infection if I ever go TOO short accidentally?
I will let Dr. Leslie answer that but with this new knowledge of how to clip nails it should be a rare occurrence that you hit a Quick and only 1 per session!
I didn’t hit them on purpose!! And only one bled…the other two might actually be “perfect” trims 🙂
Great information, thank you so much for this presentation!
I learned of this “style” of cutting nails years ago in an article by the greyhound person who wrote “Play training your dog” [at least 15 years old book]. Cutting at the angle and snipping off the “sidewalls” works great! And for folks with dogs with those hard, black nails, this *is* the way to go! [Luckily my Dalmatians have had white & dark nails on the same foot so I can gauge the quick a bit.]
For all you folks who worry about dogs slipping on grass in agility, toe problems from A-frame slats are a much bigger health concern. My hunting cocker has nooooo problem in the field with compact nails. [Or being able to bury his toys in the backyard….]
LOL “or being able to bury his toys in the backyard . . . couldn’t do THAT with nails that retract out when needed!).
Thanks for sharing that. I just looked it up on google books. Lots of interesting info. I can’t believe no one has told me this before.
Thanks so much to Susan and Dr Leslie
I just completed cutting my dogs nails again, using this method. First, I got more off even though I had cut their nails within the past week.
My old dog has always needed her nails cutting more frequently because they grow fast & I could never seem to get enough. Cutting this way I got more off AND she was more relaxed as I took my time trimming rather than cutting. This way you don’t squeeze the nail quick trying to cut off close to the end.
Thank you Dr Leslie & Susan for this important & very clear explanation. I’ll look forward to seeing her quicks pulling back & how it effects her stance & most importantly her comfort… Thank you ;0)
Great info! I’m guessing Encore, Feature, Swagger, Decaff
Ding ding Meghan you are the winner!
So what are the best nail clippers to use??
I am a groomer as well as an agility person. While I agree with most of the presentation, I do disagree with taking an agility dogs nails back to the quick. I leave a little bit of a tip for digging in. I do not agree with the premise that dogs don’t need their nails to dig into wet grass or dry grass. Think about it, soccer players wear cleats, we wear cleats, why wouldn’t our dogs need some nail to dig in?
Sherry Dr. Leslie said twice that “dogs do use their nails to dig in on sand and on grass when they turn.” She did not suggest taking the nails back so they look like a Doberman in the show ring only just until you “can’t hear them on your tile floor.” If you keep them this length the nails are still readily available to the dog when they turn as they can curl them out over the pads into the grass. The healthy benefits of shorter nails far, far outweigh any competitive gain you may think your dog is getting with a long turf spike. I too have agility dogs and keep my dog’s nails at the length Dr. Leslie suggests without any competitive loss.
Oh and left to right: Swagger, Feature, Encore, Buzz??
I can’t believe no one else guessed Jan – I guess Dr. Leslie’s amazing presentation trumped my question . . . btw your guess would be incorrect (you got one of four correct) but thanks for playing!
Thank you for a great informative lecture! 🙂 I´ll start cutting in that way right away! Looking forward to shorter nails in the future!
She should teach this to vets over here and unluckily we do not have Quicktip solution in Europe.
We did not know with our first dog and she had artritis in her toebones, we did know with all the rest and our second oldi was very well with his toebones. It makes a big difference!!!
Many, many thanks for this.
Susan or Dr Leaslie will it be possible to supply the website that supply’s the quick stop Thank you
Carol from Engalnd
You can buy Qwik Stop on just about any American on-line pet store. I would go to a site where you might want to buys something else :). Shipping shouldn’t be outrageous because it is so small. And it lasts FOREVER. I usually buy one every 10 years and through the old one out at that time.
Fab video, I have learnt a lot from this,I have always trimmed my pups claws from the day they arrived home, but never cut them in this way, so the quick grown, I have just done my three Australian Shepherds,
Thank You 🙂
I use a dremil and love the results~ but again was thinking trimming while running on wet grass or mats was unfair to my dogs, and possibly taking away the ability to dig in?
For athletic companion dogs who spend most of their time in the woods and on grass do you still recommend the nails be shaped short? They rally seems to grip the ground.
As I wrote about Jeff, any value of long nails to “dig in” is greatly overshadowed by the benefits of short nails that Dr. Leslie mentions here.If you keep them just short enough so that you can’t hear them on your tile floor –they are still long enough that when the dog’s need them, they are still there for them to curl out to grab the grass when they turn. My agility dogs have nails just as Dr. Leslie describes (you can see them in the picture at the top) and they do pretty darn well negotiating there way around turns in agility.
Fasciating, and I ave ome work to do. At what angle should you approach the nail? A left/right squeeze or still top to bottom, but with a more slopey angle?
It varies by nail shape. I say “take off the roof” and then if you can, the side walls. Walls are less important as they usually wear off.
One my dog’s nails stay really worn down on their own pretty much all the way to the quick, so I rarely clip them. I clip the dew claw, but that’s usually it. I still hear them click on the tile floor, though, but there’s really not much of anything I can cut off. Should I do anything?
I am never sure where the quick is on my dogs with black nails. How can you tell when you’re getting close enough (or too close) with the clippers?
The quick and nerve are in the bottom third. Stay on the upper half.
Great lecture! I am curious about what Dr. Leslie says about only needing 6 weeks to fix any too-long problem. I have a Bassett mix that I’ve been working on for 2 years and have only recently been happy with them being almost reasonable length, and they still click! They were really, really long when we got him 2 years ago (he’s about 7 now), but even when I cut them as short as possible, trimming and grinding, they still aren’t there yet. Any suggestions? Might it have something to do with the bowing in his legs?
That is a challenge and some conformation does make it tough. Any improvements you make will go a long way to helping your Basset be more mobile in the later years.
I watched Dr. Leslie’s talk on nail trimming and thought it was great. It is not clear as to what size nail clipper she was using, can you tell me?
Very interesting and informative. Can you please tell me exactly what type of nail clippers Dr Leslie was using in the video?
I use small, sharp clippers with a good spring so I can whittle. I also routinely use a Drexel stylus model.
That was a great presentation and I learned a lot, I never heard that kind of logic before. I have a 50 pound lab that has very strong and black nails that I have been working on for years, I keep them at bay, but needed your information, so now I will try it your way, thanks Dr Leslie
Extremely interesting talk from Dr Leslie. I have always kept my dogs’ nails rather short since they start out in conformation and also obedience. I often feel guilty for having them on the short side in agility because everyone says they need their nails to “dig in” when they run. So Dr Leslie, do they NOT need their nails to run agility??
No Cathi, any value of long nails to “dig in” is greatly overshadowed by the benefits of short nails that Dr. Leslie mentions here.If you keep them just so you can’t hear them on your tile floor they are still long enough that when they need them they are still there for them to curl out to grab the grass when they turn. My agility dogs have nails just as Dr. Leslie describes (you can see them in the picture at the top) and they do pretty darn well in agility!
Thanks for the question. Nails are necessary but nails should not interfere with pad placement. The nail hitting at the wrong time changes the ability of the toes flexor muscles to receive accurate information about posture.
From my observations, nails are used in softer surfaces or at the last phase of stride and turning.
Thank you for all the information and clear explanations. I will get to work on my dog’s nails.
I’m really excited by this! I can’t wait to see how trimming nails correctly will make a difference for my old dogs. 🙂
I thought I was obsessive-compulsive about my dogs’ nails and paws, but this takes it to a whole new level! 😉 Very enlightening and thank you.
Thank you so much! What a fantastic blog and video from Dr Leslie. So informative and helpful and something that can greatly change the life for an old dog.
Might I ask what Dr. Leslie’s thoughts are on dewclaws – is she for or against their removal, does she think removal can cause complications of the feet/legs tendons etc and does she think that dogs use their dewclaws when working? thank you.
Never knew this, but it makes total sense. Thank you Dr. Leslie for sharing this information!