Question on dog toe nails

My dog has always been difficult about trimming her nails. We have tried traditional trimmers and the “grinder” type trimmers. The grinder is a hell no. Despite all my best efforts to desensitize her (I have taught many horses to body clip…is it that different?)

I usually just ask the vet to trim her nails when she gets her annual check up, but the vet mentioned she has been difficult. AND she has talons despite being to the vet in February. She does not get a chance to wear them down like my childhood dogs did. So I have been sitting down with her each night with tons of snacks to clip one toe. No need to stress her out. I pretend to clip other nails, clip one, pretend to clip more nails + lots of cookies. She has been very good over 3 days.

So, question: Will the quick of the nail naturally recede if there is less nail to protect it? I am fortunate that she has 18 white nails and I can see the quick clearly, but even the trimmed nails seem long. I don’t dare take anything else off and risk hitting the quick. I’m hoping that her nails just got TOO long and a more routine trim will push the quick back?

Am I crazy?


I’ve had issues with clipping dog toenails, too and for me it’s scarier because her nails are black. I have read that yes, with regular clipping the quick begins to recede so you can gradually get the nails shorter and under control.

I’m not convinced personally that there’s enough cheese in the world for me to achieve that wonderful result! :grin:

Try homemade “carrot cake” cookies. Hand rolled and cut with a “superstar” star cookie cutter for their birthday. 30 minutes in the oven your pup will be handing you their paw to trim!


Most dogs should be getting nail trims every 2-3 weeks at a minimum.
Dogs with too long of nails should be getting little trims every 3-4 days, this will allow the quick to slowly recede.

I would continue to do what you are doing, just try to get at least one or two nails done a day.
This will take a bit longer, but it will help desensitize your dog (without too much stress) & allow the quick to recede.

If the dogs nails can be heard clicking on the floor when they walk, they are too long.

This has a decent illustration to help.


This is the article I was looking for, before sharing the one above.

This shows the alternate cut line, which is what I use (although I dremel).

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@mommy_peanut thank you! Those are great posts

ETA: I am not sure that I am keen on trying an alternative cut line. Not yet. Happy hound, with no yanking or yelping is goal #1. Perhaps I will finesse my technique as we both become more confident.

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Yes, tiny but frequent trims will push back the nail quick. I got a 2 yr old dog in 2020. I’ve also adopted several cats from Animal Control over the years. I didn’t use treats with any of them. I just start handling their paws while I’m petting and loving on them. Just desensitizing them to paw holding while stroking and praising. I’ll hold the paw for longer periods, but make sure to never hold too long at first to avoid anxiety. Clip a nail or two and resume petting.

With cats, I’ll casually press their paws to extend the nail. I make it gentle, playful and no big deal. After several days of this I’ll clip a nail or two, and more petting. I’ve had many dogs and cats over the years. Only 1 was a puppy, the others were adults. This method has always worked well, and I trim my cat and dog’s nails every 2-3 weeks. I can’t stand the sound of nails clicking on hardwood floors or my cat pricking me when baking biscuits!

Many people have been warned so strongly about “quicking” their pet that they are already super nervous. The pet picks up on this and reacts likewise and it all goes down hill. You don’t have to start doing much. Trim a millimeter off if that will allow you to keep calm and cheerful. If you’re tense and sweating like you’re trying to deactivate a time bomb, your pet will know!


I don’t know how big your dog is but my chi cross was a nightmare to trim until I realized that if she is in the sink during a bath I can do her nails without any issue, she just doesn’t fight. and they are softer; maybe that is why? She has a shampoo that has to sit for a while so I do the nails while she waits. I wish I had found this out years ago. Spider feet! I’ve got her worked back to normal now with trims every two weeks.

Also I discovered years ago that a cheap plastic wrapped “cheese” slice will stick to a tub or sink… and the dog has to lick it off. I used that a lot to bathe reluctant dogs, they’re working on the cheese and I’m working on them. lol gross but… it worked.


I’ve seen some people train their dog to scratch on an angled Emory board type material as well.

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Agreed. Most people let them grow way too long; they really should be done weekly. (Not that I do mine weekly all the time, but I know I should). People who are showing dogs routinely tend to target the 3-4 day window.

Interestingly, one of my dogs will click even when his nails are very short. It can be just a matter of the way they move, but in general I agree that most clicking is because they are too long.

Another way to tell is if you look at their foot flush on the ground, the nails should not be touching (again, can vary depending on breed).


There’s a group on Facebook for Dog Nail Maintenance. You have to join, but there is really good information there including videos. Just from lurking that group, I taught myself (and my dog) how to do his nails with a dremel. It didn’t take as long as I thought. Anyway, check it out.

What is it about the grinder that she doesn’t like? Once I started using a Dremel, I never went back to the clipper.

I do suggest getting one with a battery. I had one dog where she was terrified of the cord and not the actual tool - the battery operated one solved that problem.

Start out very slowly, on a low speed. Touch for one quick second, then remove. Grid perpendicular to the nail to get rid of length, and then when you get to the length you want, trim the bottom so it is parallel to their pad.

With this approach, and lots of treats and praise, I got my dog who couldn’t even handle having you LOOK at his feet to doing okay with the Dremel. If I get lazy and go too long between trims, he sometimes will get up and tell me when he’s had enough, but he lets me go back to him again later.

Also, even with dark colored nails, as you grind them down, when you get to the point where you should stop, you can see almost the outline of the quick when you are looking at the nail straight on - it’s like a white line almost.

Good luck!


If I can recall, it seemed to be the vibration. It is cordless. I did what I do when I introduce young horses to clippers:

  1. get them used to the noise while doing mundane, regular tasks
  2. hold the Dremel/clipper in my hand, turned on and place the back of my hand on the animal (I find this muffles the vibration a little) and rub all over (in this case, dog’s feets)
  3. then I move on to rubbing the Dremel/clipper body on the animal to get used to the feeling
  4. then moving on to actual clipping/Dremeling

I keep sessions short and use whatever reward is appropriate (treats, scratches, etc). I’ve never had a “timeframe” for this dog since she is ours forever, but we never made it past step 3. The second she felt the actual tool, “unmuffled”, she yanks away. Ours is only one speed (it was a freebie from my saddle fitter of all people!)

I may not have the correct training technique but we still own the Dremel. We can go back to it at anytime!

It’s much easier with two people while they are learning. One to operate the dremel, the other to give praise and treats. It’s hard to do it by yourself until your dog will stand quietly for it.

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I just use the huge people toenail clippers. All 3 of mine dig like maniacs looking for moles so they really keep them tidy on their own.

When I have to clip I just take s small amount off.

Yes, this.

The best solution is to have someone gently hold the dog, using low warm praise and treats - while the other person gently handles the feet, does one nail at a time, and gives the dog time to relax and process.

I’ve always done it this way, and my Whippets have learned to accept it - once they are chill about it, I can do it solo. I put six or eight small high-value treats on the table beside them, put a slip lead on and put them in a chair, then do one foot at a time – giving two treats after each foot is completed. Be very patient, calm, and positive/reassuring.

Something I don’t see mentioned, how big of a dog and what kind of clippers? Guillotine clippers are a huge no, most people know this but they do still sell them… I got a good pair of Andis large dog clippers, overkill is better in my opinion because it gives a cleaner, quicker snip without any crushing. Especially on a bigger dog.

Some dogs do better with holding their paw up like a horse rather than out front, too. Makes it a bit harder to see but on the white nails it’s still not bad.

I think good strong guillotine clippers are the best tool if you’re going to clip. Most of the ones they sell are not sharp enough though and can crush the nail (not just guillotine style, either). I had a great guillotine clipper years ago and never found another one that was as strong/sharp. I would still use it in addition to my dremel if I had a good one.

If it’s truly super sharp, yeah, but I’ve yet to meet one like that “in the wild” here, lol. Easier to acquire good scissor-type.


Totally agree. We like to use Charlie Bear treats while dremeling. They look like oyster crackers and I believe are only 3 calories each, so you can dole out a whole lot. Having the extra person to keep the dog more focused on the treats than the trimming is invaluable.