The best way to trim your dog’s nails

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A home nail trimming session can be a blessing to your relationship with your dog. Dogs naturally groom each other to reinforce pack behavior and show subordination.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Trainer and Cynologist,

The first step in home grooming is to teach the dog to accept the attention. The best strategy is to start when your dog is a puppy.  Teaching him to accept the handling of all his body parts and to stand and lie on his side by command is very important. Sometimes if your dog has a tough time staying still, placing a mat on the kitchen table for traction and working with the pup on the mat helps.

As with any training effort, you will often need more patience to teach shy or fearful dogs than confident or dominant dogs.

Spend 10-20 minutes every day or two playing with your dog’s feet

There is a large dimple near the pastern pad where the skin folds between the tendon and bone.  Check the pastern pad for cuts, cracks, and tenderness.  Flex the pastern joint.  The leg starts to split off into five digits from the pastern joint:  four toes and a dewclaw.

Some dogs have a functional dewclaw, which they use similar to a thumb to grasp things while chewing.  In others, the dewclaw hangs loosely and may be prone to injury.  In some dogs, the dewclaw may be surgically removed.

Check each pad in the paw the same as the pastern pad.  Check between the pads.  Grass seeds can stab into the pad, pebbles can get stuck, chemicals used on lawns can burn, and fungus can cause irritation, which leads to licking, which can lead to hot spots and infection.

Feel along each toe.  The bones in dog toes go in unexpected directions, kind of like a “Z.”  Make sure you know what normal feels like so the next time you step on your dog’s paw, you won’t assume his toes are broken because the bones feel so crooked.

Check that none of the toenails are split, cracked, sharp, overgrown, or worn into the quick.  Dog nails have a quick that can be seen as a darkening of light-colored nails but is invisible on dark nails. The quick has a nerve and blood supply; nicking the quick not only hurts the dog, but it also causes profuse bleeding, so keep a quick stop product on hand or use flour or cornstarch to stem the tide.

Once a week, pick a day and trim toenails.

Dogs should have their toenails trimmed every two to three weeks. A dog that wiggles during toenail clipping will sooner or later be nipped to the quick, and the next time the clippers come out of the closet, he’ll head for the hills.

By teaching your dog to stand or sit still and offer his paw, nail clipping/grinding can go quicker.

If your dog’s nails are long, it will be important to remove a tiny bit off each nail a couple of days in a row to shorten the nails to the appropriate length.


Pet supply stores have a dizzying variety of tools and products to assist in dog grooming.  Acme Canine has found that grinding a dog’s nails is much easier and does a better job than clipping.

And although we normally use a Dremel, the LuckyTail Nail Grinder is a great alternative.

What makes it special are its features.  A very silent (30-50dB) vibration-free grinder with an LED light and safety guard.  It charges rather than uses batteries and has a 4 hour operating time with only 1-hour of charging.

What we learned from using LuckyTail Nail Grinder

After being sent a unit, Acme Canine used the LuckyTail nail grinder for about one month.  During that time, we went from ecstatic about the product to going back to using the Dremel.

Although easier to use on dogs that were fearful of nail trims, the unit was difficult to maneuver.   The safety guard was great for reducing nail length but prevented us from shaping the nail to encourage quick receding.  It also produced a blunt end to the nail rather than tapered.

Where LuckyTail shines is in its lack of vibration and sound.  Nail-sensitive dogs quickly quieted and allowed us to shorten their nails.  And it worked great on dogs with shaggy feet since the safety guard helped keep the hair away from the grinding wheel.

The LED light is wonderful.  Its brightness really allows you to see the dog’s nails, even the black ones, making nail trimming SO MUCH easier.

A unit normally costs about $100, but LuckyTail does have a special offer to purchase one for around $40.00 or cheaper.

Final thoughts

The LuckyTail nail grinder is a decent nail trimming product for dog owners.  With all its great features and a company that stands behind its product, this grinder would probably be perfect for most dog owners.  As a professional dog trainer, I have difficultly not being able to maneuver the grinding head to accomplish a quality nail trim.  Even with the safety guard off, I had problems.

For only this reason, Acme Canine gives the LuckyTail nail grinder 4 out of 5 paws up.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.

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Welcome to Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine. Throughout the site, you will find a variety of helpful dog training articles, insightful dog behavior tips, and truthful product reviews from nationally-recognized canine trainers and professionals.