Updated: May 7, 2021
Two weeks ago, I shared how Joe and I were working to recede Bindi's quicks as well as adjust both Bindi and Rosie's nail care routine.
Before we knew it, our DM's were exploding with questions like:
How often should I trim my dogs nails?
What if my dog hates nail clippers?
How do I cut my dog's black nails? I'm scared!
I need a dremel that actually works on my dog's feet? Help!
Does paw shape have an effect on nail maintenance?!
As a result, I saved a wide variety of information and questions into our "Nail Care" highlight on Instagram, but also wanted to put some helpful information together for you on the blog.
In This Post, We'll Cover...
Why nail care?
Paw shapes & types
Nail Routine Basics
"Quick Tips" on how to make nail trims more enjoyable!
Why is Nail Care Important?
Did you know that the shape and length of your dogs nails can have an effect on your dog's posture, how they hold their weight, and gait? Dr. Karen Gellman explains that trimming your dogs nails shouldn't be just for aesthetic reasons, and that dogs with a regular nail care routine "Reap enormous musculoskeletal benefits". But Why?
Dogs without regular nail care routines tend to have overgrown nails, which changes the stance of the front feet and legs. With long nails, your dog's paws compensate for the added length, often leading to a change in posture.
Think about long nails on your dog as the equivalent of wearing flippers on land (see photo below). How you walk barefoot and how you walk in flippers is both different in comfort level as well as how you structure your walk and posture. Dr. Gellman states, "This abnormal compensatory posture results in too much weight carried by the hind legs, thus overloading those joints."
Separate from posture and gait issues, in extreme cases a dog's nails can overgrow to the point of puncturing their own pad. Not only is this extremely painful, but it's entirely avoidable.
As a result, it's important to keep up with your dog's nail routine for overall health and well being!
Identifying Your Dog's Foot Shape
Now that you know why you should upkeep your dog's nails, let's talk about some interesting factors of nail care and nail clipping. In our poll over the weekend, people were shocked to find out that dogs can have different types of paws! Let's check them out:
Cat Paws, Hare Paws, and Webbed Paws.
In our household, Rosie is considered cat pawed, and Bindi is considered Hare pawed. While there's no scientific proof that shows that different paw types grow their nails at a faster rate, it's important to realize that foot shape can effect how a dog's nails make contact against the ground.
For example, cat pawed dogs have nails that are more up and down; thus making easier contact with the ground. This could be why cat pawed dogs require less maintenance, as their nails wear more naturally. In contrast, Hare pawed dogs have longer toes; as a result, their feet and nails sit differently than a cat-pawed dog. Their nails don't make the same contact with the ground, which could be why Hare-Pawed dogs require more maintenance.
Here's how you can find out what paw type your dog has: Click here for a 30 second walk through.
Nail Routine Basics
Now that you know your pups foot type, let's talk about TYPES of nail care for our four legged friends.
What method you choose is entirely up to your preference.
Choosing a method of nail care:
My dogs are trained on all of the above, but my nail care method of choice would definitely be the dremel. Both of our dogs have black nails, so using a dremel can take away a bit of the quick-snagging stress.
Here's a quick Youtube video covering clippers, dremels, and more.
Additionally, here's a quick video on scratch board basics, for those of you looking for an alternative for clippers and dremels:
FAQ: Do scratch boards cause pad injury? The answer and a side profile representation can be found here.
1.) Finding the Quick with Black Nails
You may have found your tool of choice for nail trims, but the "quick fear" is real! For many people, the act of cutting a dogs nails can be extremely nerve wracking (especially with black nails). Here's a real "quick tip" (no pun intended) for finding the quick on a black nailed dog.
In the photo here, you can see a circle beginning at the end of Bindi's nails. It's usually a darker circle with a lighter ring around it - kind of like a bullseye. When you see this ring begin to appear, that can be your signal to stop trimming because the quick is coming up.
2.) Positively Reinforcing Nail Trims
For many dogs, nail care can be extremely anxiety-inducing and unenjoyable. Always take it slow, and I recommend using high value rewards to keep nail care as positive as possible. Some great enrichment types to use for nail care include Lick Mats (there's even a Lickimat version that has a suction cup back, so it can be great for nail trims!), stuffed kongs, and more.
3.) Skip The Cling Wrap Peanut Butter Method!
There was a video that made the rounds last year of someone using cling wrap to put peanut butter on their forehead during a nail trim for their dog. While I believe this started out innocently, I definitely do not recommend this method for many reasons. There's a great article on why, here.
4.) Looking to Recede Your Dog's Quicks? Use the Alternate Cut Method
If you're looking to recede your dog's long quicks, using the Alternate Cut Method can help. We used the alternate cut method using a Dremel when receding Bindi's quicks, and it worked wonders! We did very short trim sessions daily for 1 week, and then staggered to every other day (short, quick bursts- different than a full-blown nail trim). After two weeks, Bindi's quick was in a great position. We've now cut this back to 1 small trim a week.
Overall, when it comes to nail care, frequency and general upkeep are the most important to ensure your dog is as happy and healthy as can be. If you're unsure or nervous of trims, never hesitate to leave it to the professionals! There's a wide variety of professionals that can help with your K9 nail care care, including veterinary staff and groomers.
SOURCES & FURTHER READING: