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 do not know if it’s just mee or if perhaps everyone else encountering problems with
your website. It looks like sme of the text on your posts aree running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too?
This might be a problem with my inyernet browser because
I’ve had tgis happen before. Cheers
Cutting at the angle shown in the second drawing as the recommendation would leave a long sharp point. Surely not a good thing for dog or owner!
Poodle breeder here.. short nails is a MUST for show…
I ONLY use the sandpaper cover disk to grind nails..
Hold paw and press a finger on top of nail to be ground.. to stabilize it. take a side to side swipe across and slightly angled up.1 swipe and look at the nail..see a circle in the center? Each swipe will reveal a larger center.. at the point the center is larger than the outside ring ..stop.Wait and see if any moisture forms. Move on to next nail and next.. checking back at first ones..if you see seepage you are on the nail bed. If there is seepage but no actual blood you can leave it, or paint the end of the nail with liquid bandage or use qwik stop.
The bare metal disc will get hot quick and dogs object strongly to the heat.
If nails are very long.. do them every 5 days to 1 week..
If there are grossly long.. be kind and have the vet give them a sedative and have them cut SHORT and then grind every 10 days.
To me, a little aggravation is better than a ripped nail and a trip to the ER and weeks of waiting for the nail to no longer be sore.
Interesting but what about dogs who herd sheep and do herding trials???? They work outdoors all the time and may need a little more nail to help with traction???
Dave there might be some validity to working dogs and terriers needing some length.. However if the nail touches the floor, then toes are being splayed and balance is thrown off. Easy to beak a nail or break a toe.. This article didn’t address broken toes,broken down pasterns and what happens to muscles and tendons all the way up the leg from nails too long. I much prefer Ninja feet in my house!!(silent feet)
We don’t just love are pets, we need to take care of them and their hygiene.
What is the best style of clippers to use? Guillotine or the Millers Forge clippers?
Tried this, since I have a dog that you hear click-clicking on the floor 2 days after he gets his claws trimmed, and he always bleed, but not this time, it was so easy, thank you!
My dog is a very traumatized rescue. Will not let anyone near her feet. Any suggestions other than sedation? So frustrating.
Thank you for rescuing
For my own dogs, here is what helped
1. Teaching relaxation
2. Building mat value
3. desensitizing to feet touching
4. Desensitizing to instruments
5. No restraint and giving them the option to leave
See more details here
Now if my dogs would let me cut them. They fight tooth and nail and have to go to the vet of trims 🙁 would love to do it myself.
I understand the struggle. Here is what has been working for my dogs
Thank you for rescuing
For my own dogs, here is what helped
1. Teaching relaxation
2. Building mat value
3. desensitizing to feet touching
4. Desensitizing to instruments
5. No restraint and giving them the option to leave
See more details here
I would just like to add one thing. If you’re trimming your dogs nails with a dremmel, you can pull an old pair of pantie-hose over the foot and poke the nails thru first. That way you won’t have to worry about hair catching in the dremmel or the hair being in the way so much that you can’t see what you’re doing.
For those who are trimming this way (from the top of the nail), could you please email me privately as to how you are doing it? I understand the premise, but the exact details on HOW to do it are eluding me. Thanks!
When I had horses, I was a barefoot trimmer, and “trimming from the top” was my preferred way.
Emily Larlham (kikopup)’s latest nail trim video features trimming the top of the nail.
I did a video as well but it’s not nearly as good as Larlham’s
I want to add a request to the many posts asking for a more detailed video on an actual dog. It’s easy to see this on a sketch, but I have no idea how to do this trimming from the top of the nails on my dogs. Is there such a video?
Is it possible to buy copy of your toe nail cutting video to share with my vet?
I have a German Shorthair Pointer whose nails are never trimmed short enough. My dog is 13 and really struggles because of the nail length.
Thank you for posting this video. It was really informative as I do have an agility dog with the start of arthritis. I thought I had his nails short enough, but with this explanation and drawings, I am thinking I will be changing the way his toenails are trimmed in the hopes of getting them even shorter than I was before.
Thanks again for posting such an informative video.
For everyone using a dremel or rotary tool To trim your dog’s nails Please wear a dust mask The nail dust will accumulate in your lungs And solidify Like cement. If you go to a podiatrist office All the assistants who trim toenails wear dust masks and it”s as more for the toenail dust than the fungus or bacteria.
Can you talk about trimming black nails? So hard to see the quick with them. I have Chinooks. Their nails grow like crazy because they were bred for sledding. We do work them for sledding, hiking and scent work. Anything special to do for the dew claws?
My boxer, 7 yrs, Luci her nails are always needing cut, I usually take her to the vet, I would LOVE to know how to do this on my own, she’s a “tard” as boxers are and its not easy, she is a chocolate boxer so many of her nails are dark. My Aussie/Border Collie, 6 years, Beau Diddley never has long nails. Why is it that they have the same activity and their nails grow differently? How can I maintain Luci’s nails, she is afraid of the dreamal, not because of me, I am fearless with this activity, I had 7 cats at one time, no fear here. I just don’t understand why they have such a different growth and how I can make my boxer comfortable with my activity, she cowers and allows the vet, but it upsets her, Beau has never had his nails done. I do have a serious issue with him being groomed and would LOVE advice on how to get him to allow that 🙂 Thank you SO much
I feel your pain. I’ve been working on this for years. This video has been a great inspiration for me. Here is what I’ve been doing
1. Teach my dog to love laying on a mat.
2. Start desensitizing them to feet touches while they are laying comfortably on the mat
3. Start desensitizing them to the instrument
4. Star dremeling but only do 1 toe a day and only a tiny bit of that toe a day.
5. Then start doing 2 toes and so on. But at any point that the dog wants to walk off, I let him/her
And lots and lots of treats – after each toe
Any advice on cutting the hair on the pads? I take it all off when I do them now, winter and summer.
Thanks so much! I’ve tried to stay in top of my dog’s nails and was doing ok until our daughter was born. A few months later I’m faced with the daunting job of getting Jasper’s nails back to a better length! I don’t want to hear them or hear them on he floor. Great explanation too – I’ll be passing this one on to patients in my chiropractic practice! Thank you!!
I never thought to change the way I cut my dog’s nails. Its amazing how these little changes can build up to improve your buddy’s life so much!
Wonderfully well put. Thank you so much for writing this!
I’d love to know what speed and which attachment Dr. Leslie uses with nails– I have been using a corded Dremel on my dog’s nails for several years but recently he has become extremely difficult (pulling away his paw at the last possible second, jumping a foot in the air as if I had hurt him.) I wonder if I was using the Dremel at too high of a speed or the wrong attachment? I am going to work on desensitizing him and just bought the Dremel stylus, but I don’t want to screw it up!
I use a dremel regularly on my dogs. If you stay on one nail too long, the nail can get hot from friction. Maybe this is what your dog is reacting to? I suggest doing a little on the first then going to the next, and so on, then back to the first again, this keeps the nails from getting too hot. Also, if the nails are very long, I clip first, then dremel, as someone above also suggested.
Wow, this is great advice. My boyfriend and I just got our first dog and I am so worried about cutting her nails to short. We have her in dog training in Baltimore and I was asking them about how short is to short to cut their nails and they told me the same thing. Do it on an angle and you will know when its to short. You really can tell the difference between the way Buzz stands before and after his nail chipping. Thanks so much for sharing, this was very helpful.
Now on week 3 of this technique. The difference is terrific for all the ages of my dogs plus it quicker and seems more comfortable for them and hence more relaxing 🙂 thank you
Hi its really cool to take good care of our dogs! that’s why im looking sites that would help me to train my dogs in an easiest ways.. Visit howtotraindogs
This is awesome! My dog had long quicks when I got him, and while I know his nails shouldn’t click around the house, a year full of regular nail trims later he’s still clicking. I’ve already trimmed his nails up Dr. Leslie’s way and I am really excited to see if we can finally shorten those quicks! The only downside so far was that it took a long time and a lot of saintly dog patience to get them just so, but I expect I’ll get faster with practice.
Thank you so much Dr. Leslie for your wonderful video and information about trimming dogs nails. I will share this our facebook page. Wish we lived closer to you to so you could do our dogs nails! We live in Auburn, WA about 30 miles south of Seattle. Do you know of anyone in the greater Seattle area that does nails like this?
Have a wonderful year!
Sincerely, Gail and Ty Forsberg
How do you determine the location on the quick when the nail is black?
You can try looking underneath the nail or shining a flashlight on the nail. Just just grinding a teeny tiny bit.
Good advice! I’ll be sure to incorporate that with my dog’s toes. My little one, on the other hand, still won’t accept my DIY nail trims. That was the subject of today’s blog, in fact.
Thank you so much for this valuable information. I do all 3 of my dogs every 2 weeks but I’ve been doing the traditional cutting method and I’m always frustrated that I can’t get them shorter. Now I know how and they will all benefit.
OH I love what you say.
You are my hero. and I will post your video on my home page….
Oh and I should say I am just as passionate about toe nails….
Thanks so much for posting this! It is such important information. I have never been comfortable clipping/dremmeling my dog’s nails, and I want to learn. Most groomers do it incorrectly, making it even more important for me to become self sufficient at it.
Any advice on black nails? I find it hard to workout where the quick is. The advice to get rid off hair under the feet is great too. My beardie will be getting a trim today!
Look underneath the nail or try shining a light
To tell if you are getting near the quick on black nails, take a little at a time off. The cut surface should be white or grey. When you start seeing a little black dot in the center- STOP. You’re getting close to the quick.
I have a question for Leslie. After watching the video, I dremmeled my dog’s nails at a new angle (matching the angle seen in your diagram). Prior to that session the angle I dremmeled was approx. a mid-way point between the angle of an untrimmed nail and the diagram. My dogs nails were not long since I dremmel them weekly but I did take off a fair amount of material off the front edge for the first time after watching your video. Later that day, my dog yelped while running in the yard and I thought she stepped on a bee (not that I saw a bee and I was close by) but over the next hour, she first licked her front left foot and then her rear left foot and then waddling around the house like something was seriously wrong with her. I took her to the vet and they didn’t find anything wrong. By the next day my dog was nosing all of her feet/ toes and now we are five days out and she is still occasionally nosing/ investigating her feet. She is able to go on our usual 2″ mile walks without incident so I don’t think it is something major. I’m wondering if it is possible that my dog had some sensitivity due to my removing material along the front edge of her toe nails (close to the quick)? Or that the change in the angle of the tip of her nail caused her to curl her toes more than typical in order to grip the grass while running? This whole thing is so strange.. and the only thing that might explain it was my nail dremmeling at a new angle so I figured it was worth asking you if you think this could be related. My dog is 4 years old and in excellent physical condition and had no issues prior. Thank you!
Devorah – I would think that it could be similar to how it is when we trim our nails & it causes sensitivity and/or a slight discomfort. My boyfriend & I both experience this when we allow our nails to stay long for an extended period, & then they’re trimmed (or 1 breaks)to a shorter length. And it isn’t necessarily that the nail is too short, but we got used to having our fingertip(s) covered by long fingernail(s), so when that fingernail is cut/trimmed & no longer covers a portion of our fingertip, it/they become quite sensitive for the 24 hours or so. Perhaps that could be what happened with your dog?
I clean up the underside of the nail with the grinder as often the nail sides grow around and can split off if allowed to do so. as to nail tips you grind past the white til it gets black again and stop. and yes I grind my dogs nails every 4-7 days depending on the dog and individual nail growth
Another question! When dremeling the toe nail — do you every dremel on the “back” side of the nail? Or, just the top and sides of the nail?
I really appreciate this article and the video presentation!!
Correction — “nail trimming session” and not, tail trimming session. Sorry for the typo.
Thank you so much for the video presentation!
I have spoken with vets and groomers trying to get comfortable with how to tell when I am getting close to the quick.
Background — my dog was 4 months when I got her and she would not let any person touch her feet or nails and I worked for two plus years to be able to touch them and forget about allowing a stranger to do so — no dice. When I could touch them, I was very behind in getting her nails shortened. She accepts a Dremel, but not clippers (and yes, as a puppy, at the vet’s office she was taken into another area and her toenails were quicked — almost every toenail — and at two different clinics. After the first time I specifically ordered that her toenails not be quicked, but they were quicked).
My question — for all black nails, hard as diamonds — how do I tell when I am close to the quick. When I dremel, I will come to a point (quickly) where I see a white spot in the all black nail — I stop there. Can I dremel through the white spot? It’s hard for me to determine “meaty”.
I will dremel my dog’s nails and in 2 days, they are rounded back over and you see no signs of the dremeling/cutting — the nail looks untouched. Her nails grow extremely fast.
It would be so great if Dr. Leslie would do a video for us of a tail trimming session — especially for all black nails.
Is it possible that she show the picture she referred to about how much she was able to take off of a dog’s nails?
I have also heard that the nails can be dremeled/cut every four days for the purpose of receding the quick. Is that too soon?
I’ve been doing it every 2 – 3 days, but some nails I only feel safe trimming a tiny bit off…I prefer to be overly cautious about it because I know once nail trimming causes my dog pain, it’s all over! He’s already scared to death even though I’ve never trimmed any of his nails too short. If I did, nail trimming would then become very difficult, if not impossible. Funny they mention the other angle…I naturally resorted to that angle because that’s the area of nail that I could tell for sure could be trimmed w/out reaching the quick. It’s a slow process getting the quick to recede, but can’t wait until he can silently walk across the wood floor!
You cannot “Order” a dogs nails to not be quicked. People don’t do it on purpose and it is an accident. As she says in her video, you cannot get stressed about it because your dog will feel the extra stress. Also when you say that to a professional it is very disrespectful in that they do not know what they are doing, and will put more pressure [i.e. more stress the dog will pick up] on the person doing nails. I personally think every dogs nails should be filed down after a trim because you can get that tiny bit more off. And with black nails, you just have to see what the quick looks like on your specific dog. I’ve seen it where I’m trimming black nails and the quick looks like a darker, wet black; or it looks like a pink or color. There is also a “false quick” on some dogs with long grown out nails that is like a filler between. My biggest recommendation is to start bringing your pup to the same person in a slower groomer/vet to have the nails done so the dog can start to trust the person and become more comfortable with the situation if you are not going to be doing it yourself. A lot of the groomers I’ve worked with dremel their dogs nails down once a week to keep them short and not tapping on the floor. I hope this was some good information for you. Good luck!
Hi, I will send his to my vet. He is the best in the valley. I think it is that good the staff should see it.
Hey this is a great information and I just loved it…
Any special suggestions for determining where the quick is on black toenails? I am going to share this post with my vet and ask that anyone who trims nails there watch it. Very informative!
I use a flashlight and “candle” the black toes then mark it off with a pen or marker.
Morgan , What do you mean “candle”?
To help you find the quick on black nails, you can actually look on the back of the nail. The tip will be hollow and you will see the quick start to form partway down.
as a retired groomer I can say I never use a “real” Dremel. They are loud. I use a Craftsman cordless 2 speed rotary tool. It is small and quiet. Mine is now 10 years old and still going strong with weekly or more use!
I understand the Drs theory about how she trims nails but in a family world that still leaves the nails pointy and sharp, which is the main reason people bring their dogs to have their nails done. I always cut the excess off with standard clippers first and then round the nail to prevent cracking/splitting and to get them as short as possible without quicking them and to make the nails smooth and totally UN sharp/dull
I too would love to see an actual video close-up of this nail-trim procedure. Also want to confirm that when you use the term “dremel” you are referring to a nail-grinder, are you not? (Thinking I should get one of these).
Thank you for this information! I watched the video then trimmed my dogs’ nails. Quicked a couple times but I got a few right, seeing a little of the quick come through. Already, I don’t hear the click click off of two of them. This will help my girl immensely who has always had long quicks. I still hear her toes but it’s a start. 🙂
This was very informative! I was wondering if Dr Leslie has any video of her trimming technique (youtube,etc.) I am a visual learner and a video would really help me rather than the drawing. Thank you so much.
I have been reading your blog posts recently. I really like the approach you take on such a sensitive topic as the dogs’ training and caring, so I feel to be able to trust what you write about, since it shows honesty and yet very good advice.
Being myself a dog owner, I have been working on a web startup that will help animals’ owners provide a better care to their animals and directly communicate with their professional caregivers (vets, trainers, sitters etc).
I considered this post a good chance to ask if such an idea sounds interesting. If so, I can come back to provide the link of our website (which is at the development stage and we’re working hard to be launched as soon as possible) so that anyone can take a look and hopefully leave a feedback.
I would love home remedies when my dog has an allergy flair up, when his tummy is upset, etc. Jasper is 12 years old. He keeps me alive. I can’t always afford a trip to the vet. Thank you.
Thank you, thank you , thank you!
I always thought long nails were having an impact on my dogs posture but I could only get them so short! I am going to give this new angle a try. And Miss Luna Thanks you too! 🙂
I’ve just done one of my dogs this way, it felt very strange to be cutting so differently. To be honest I was a bit scared! In the end used my Dremel. Would love to see a close up video of this being done if at all possible. I don’t think I’ve got it quite right!
I second that! A close up for those of us trying to muddle through this while learning, would be super helpful! Thank you so very much. 🙂
Could we please get the specific model of dremel Dr. Leslie recommends? I have used several but they are all less than perfect in each of their own ways and I’m interested in what she described as a “small one”….
Polley, I don’t remember but I do know Dr. Leslie mentions the model during the video.
I don’t remember the name of my dremel either, which is of no help, I know. But, I cut first, then immediately dremel. I try to keep the dremel to twice a month so the nails will stay short and I can avoid the cutting. I have one dog that goes nuclear about nail cutting. I have had a friend hold him gently in a blanket and then the task is accomplished. However, I did buy a humane muzzle that I can try and use so he doesn’t turn and try and snap at me. We will see how that goes. ps: it is a small, grey, cordless dremel. The cordless is well worth the money,
Drexel Stylus. LOVE mine!
Oops Dremel Stylus.
Thanks Dr. Leslie! I’ve always felt short nails were important for stride, but never thought it through to posture and proprioceptive information for the dog. Thanks for sharing!!