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The Importance of Puppy Pedicures

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

  • People generally underestimate the importance that nail care plays in the overall well being of their dog. Far from being purely cosmetic or simply limiting scratches on the floor (or person when our pooches jump up on us), proper nail care can prevent long term damage to our dogs feet, legs and back.....

  • Just to be clear I'm not talking about painting your dogs nails but how cute is this Shiba Inu!

Why is important - what difference does it make?


Dogs nails evolved with the purpose of providing grip while on the chase, to aid in quick, safe turns and sudden stops. This still holds true at the park or in the back yard but they do not need long nails to achieve this.


  • A longer nail is more likely to get caught on obstacles and rip free or break.


  • Given that modern dogs spend so much of their lives inside and the trend for easy to clean surfaces such as floorboards or tiles, long nails become a hazard for dogs - causing them to be unable to grip with their pads and being more likely to slip as there is nothing for nails to grip onto.


  • If you can hear you dogs nails clicking on your floor they are too long.


Long nails cause alterations in your dogs stance and gait.


How many of you have ever allowed your own toenails to grow that bit longer and had the uncomfortable sensation of your nails pressing against your sock or shoes and you spend the day scrunching up your toes to alleviate the discomfort? Imagine having that day in and day out.


When a dogs nails contact the floor in a stand or sit the adjust by tilting their paws back to ease the pressure but all this does is change the angle of their carpals (wrists) or hocks (ankles) causing pressure to pass through joints in a way not intended which can lead to arthritis and muscle pain.


In dogs where the nails are especially long you will see the phalanges (toes) will start to twist sideways as the dog tries to accommodate the length while minimising the discomfort but this leads to arthritis in the digits and a decreased ability to grip correctly when they need to.




So Now We Know Why It Is Important Lets Cover Some Key Points

  • Trimming Toe fluff - This is not just cosmetic (although grinch toes as I call them are not nearly as pretty as a well maintained paw). In medium to long hair dogs it not only stops those long claws from hiding away and being forgotten about but it helps us see grass seeds or other foreign bodies the dog may have picked up. It also makes it easier to clean the paw and prevent clumps of mud or ice forming between the pads after an adventure out.




  • How Short Do I Go? - As short as you can go without cutting the quick (blood supply within the claw). This is relatively easy with clear nails as you can see the pink quick inside the claw. Black nails are intimidating but by trimming off small amounts you can reveal the quick without actually cutting it, this will then cause it to recede allowing you trim more off the following week. Getting from ultra long nails to appropriate length nails is a marathon not a sprint and will require regular weekly trims to get the desired result. Here is a video from Good Dog Grooming that shows really well how you can trim your dogs black nails with confidence I recommend everyone check it out along with her other videos on getting quicks to recede successfully and how to desensitise your dog to having their nails done.






  • How to Cut or Trim your dogs nails - The traditional way is straight across at the end of the quick which is fine if you just need to get in and out quick. I prefer the alternative method that starts with the traditional cut but then cuts diagonally across the top and along the sides of the nail, removing the helmet protecting the quick so that the nail can then be cut shorter next time as the quick recedes. You can use nails clippers or a dremel depending on your dogs preference. Again I strongly recommend you have a look at Good Dog Grooming as Colleen gives a really clear demonstration on the different ways to trim dog nails in her How to SUCCESSFULLY Recede The Quicks Video



  • What tools do you need - I carry my nail kit in my massage bag because it is one of the most frequent issues I see effecting the dogs muscles and there's not a lot of point massaging out the knots and sore points just to have them reoccur because they can't stand or move correctly. In my Kit I have 3 sets of nail trimmers one for small and medium dogs and one for large dogs and one guillotine style that i find easier to access dew claws with and stiptic powder in a small container (because your not going to get it right every time but if you stay calm and pop the claw that you've nicked the quick on into the styptic powder it will stop the bleeding pretty much instantly). I've found that if you don't react the dog often doesn't even notice.


At home I also have a dremel (but dogs need to be conditioned for dremel use generally so I don't carry it with me); Straight scissors; Thinning Shears and a Pin Brush (to brush the hair on the paws backwards and make it easier to trim.


Don't forget the most important tool - TREATS ! the ultimate goal is to have your dog see the clippers or dremel and go YES PLEASE instead of running the other way. Which brings me to our next point...



What If My Dog Hates Having Their Paws touched?????


It is stressful and horrible when it comes time to cut fido's claws and he absolutely HATES having his paw touched - especially if he spots the dreaded cutters or dremel - he's clever and knows what's coming.... The wrestling match and guilt tripping before his mom or dad inevitably give in and either pay someone to do it for them (sometimes under anaesthetic) or just give up all together - after all they're just nails, what does it matter (FYI if you've made it this far you know what difference it makes). So what's the solution? I'd love to give you the secret that makes it all easy and enjoyable in one simple step but I am afraid it comes down to desensitisation - in some cases A LOT of desensitisation. Starting with the closest your dog is comfortable with having their paw held and rewarding like crazy (it's a good idea to use their dinner for this so they don't put on weight and cause other issues).


Once the dog is looking forward to contact at that point move your hand slightly closer to the paw (where the dog starts to look uncomfortable but doesn't pull away) and repeat. This is not fast process but if you do really short sessions at meal time each day you will get to the stage where you can hold your dogs paw..... But we are not done yet! now is the time to bring the tools of torture .... er I mean grooming... into the picture. Again at first they might be a meter away from you while you practice paw holding (don't forget to practice all four paws! no point only being able to trim one lol) and then bring them closer until you can tap them lightly to the dogs foot without attempting to clip the nails. Now your dog is no longer freaking out at the mere sight of the clippers you are able to start trimming - it might be one nail to begin with and jackpot those rewards!!! Eventually you will be able to do a whole paw and then all four paws but like I said it is not a fast procedure. The easiest option by far is to start when they are puppies but it is very doable for even dogs set in their ways.


My biggest piece of advice when it comes to desensitisation and nail trimming in general is to act like its a good thing or at least no big deal. The minute you start stressing your dog will start stressing. If YOU are unable to take a breath and stay calm you might be better off paying to have the nails done but just so you know you could be looking at weekly trims to get them under control if they have gotten too long so be prepared to commit to the groomer or vets for regular visits.


When cutting the actual nail, confidence plays a key role too - quick and sure with really sharp clippers or well maintained dremel will make a huge difference than if you are hesitating and trying to cut slowly as this can apply pressure (especially with blunt clippers) or heat (prolonged contact with dremel) which is actually what the dog feels as uncomfortable.


Check out Good Dog Grooming's videos on how to desensitise your dog and best ways to hold your dog for nail care (she has videos on small medium and large dogs so everyone is covered) for an experts view on how to best tackle the problem.


NO! REALLY MY DOG HATES HAVING NAILS DONE!!!

If all else fails - you have tried desensitisation and the grooming bills are sending you bankrupt try using a sanding board. Simply take a piece of thickish plywood, appropriately sized for your dog (big enough for at least 2 feet but preferably 4 and strong enough that it wont flex when they stand on it) glue course sandpaper onto it and tadaa you have a sanding board. You can then train your dog to target it with their feet or walk over it to wear down their own nails. This is a much slower method and the dog will have to use the board daily to make a noticeable difference (especially at first - as with all training sessions keep them short and sweet to prevent boredom and reward heavily).





So That is my take on the importance of puppy pedicures for doggo of all ages. Remember that it all starts with foot placement and if your dog can't stand correctly then they may be heading for injuries down the track. Nail care is something that you can do to prevent this from happening. Grateful thanks to Colleen from Good Dog Grooming for allowing me to share her very educational and well explained videos.

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