Responsible Breeding

How short for dog toenails?

I asked this on Facebook, but I am going to ask here as well because I would love to get opinions.

I usually tell puppy buyers to keep puppy nails “hidden in the hair,” meaning that no part of the nail shows when the dog is standing normally. Cardigans are so vulnerable to their feet getting flattened and turned out (and nails are a big part of that) that I am super careful about length.

But recently I began to wonder if I was saying the right thing, or putting it correctly. After all, there are some that have very fluffy feet and some whose owners think that as long as some part of the nail is hidden it’s OK. What’s the best way you’ve been able to impress on your owners that nails MUST stay short?

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Kit Azevedo January 15, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I generally tell my adopters to keep the nails off the ground when the dog is standing normally. And I add, check the nails at least once a week and go through the motions of clipping nails even if it is not needed.

  • Reply Tegan January 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

    “If you can hear the dog nails hitting the floor, then they are too long.”
    Tegan recently posted…Puppies – The Seventh WeekMy Profile

  • Reply Beth January 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I would need to quick my dogs to get them so that their nails don’t touch the ground when they stand normally. Since my vet has voluntarily commented (without my even asking about nails at all) that “Oh, their nails are nice and short!” I’ve puzzled over the instruction that they should not ever hit the ground.

    Even if I bring mine back almost to the quick every week, I’ve never been able to get them that short. They have clear nails mostly so I can easily see the quick. I can only conclude that dogs’ foot anatomies are not all the same.

    • Reply Shannon@theDIYdog January 16, 2013 at 12:19 am

      I agree, all dogs are different. Some small breeds (Poodles and Chis come to mind) have longer nails generally than larger dogs, which includes longer quicks. And dogs with very short coats, such as Labs, there would be no way to hide the nail under the hair – it’s too short! My dog’s nails just barely hit the ground, any shorter than that and I’d quick her. She does use them for traction when playing, as well.
      Shannon@theDIYdog recently posted…Spam That Makes Me LOL: Trust IssuesMy Profile

  • Reply Beth January 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    By the way, mine have part of the TOE that sticks out from teh hair on some pads, so keeping the nails hidden by the hair would mean the dogs had no nails at all.

  • Reply Dawn Small January 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Being a notorious “foot-Nazi,” I’ve wondered the same thing as far as how to impress it upon them. I’m planning an internet search for photos of feet that have been deformed by too-long toenails. Maybe photographic evidence will be more convincing?
    Dawn Small recently posted…Happy New Year!My Profile

  • Reply Beth January 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Ok, I just got home and looked very carefully at my dogs standing on a hard surface.

    Each has at least one nail on a front paw that is always worn down to the quick (we walk an awful lot on concrete and stone paths). And even these nails, which are always to the quick and never have a chance to grow, lightly touch the ground when the dog stands in a neutral position. In certain positions (dog sniffing and leaning or something) the nails rise off the ground.

    So they would definitely need to be quicked to get them back further, and that’s not something I’m willing to do. Honestly since they’ve always been shortened by walking on these particular front nails, and never been allowed to grow long, I’m not sure how it would be possible to keep them so short that their nail doesn’t touch the ground. Some of the pictures I see online of “properly clipped” dogs look so short they make me wince. If the nail never goes past the toe even if the dog is flexing it’s toes, then there is no biological reason for the dog to have the nail at all, as they would never be able to contact anything. I sort of think they help the dog with traction in soft ground and should just be short enough that they don’t constantly get pushed up hard into the bed on pavement or hard floors.

  • Reply Beth January 15, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    About two-thirds of the way down this page you will see a picture of what the author calls a properly trimmed dog nail. That is about how short I can get mine.

    I can tell by the pic that if the dog were standing naturally, the nail would lightly contact the floor and you would hear a click on hard surfaces. You can also see the nail comes past the natural hairline.

    To get the nail short enough that it did not come past the bottom of the tow pad, the dog would be left with virtually no nail at all. That’s what I mean by all dogs are different. Some seem to have foot anatomy that allows the nail to be normal length and not touch the ground or come past the natural hairline. For other dogs, that is really almost impossible to achieve.

  • Reply Tegan January 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    My last comment still has “awaiting moderation” on it, so I’m not sure if it went through. I think that being able to hear nails touching the ground is actually different to them touching the ground… What I mean is, even if a dog stands naturally and it’s toe nails may touch the ground, that doesn’t mean that you can hear it when they move around. As a (general!) guide I say that you shouldn’t be able to hear ‘click click’ as the dog moves on hard surfaces.
    Tegan recently posted…Puppies – The Seventh WeekMy Profile

    • Reply Shannon@theDIYdog January 16, 2013 at 1:08 am

      That’s when I usually trim mine…interestingly, she clicks on the hardwood floors before she clicks on the sidewalk. Probably because the hardwood is slicker and she grips more with her paws than on the concrete.
      Shannon@theDIYdog recently posted…Spam That Makes Me LOL: Trust IssuesMy Profile

  • Reply Savannah Shirkey May 7, 2013 at 4:34 am

    I have found nail filing to be much more effective at keeping quicks back than simply cutting. Rounding the nail around the end of the quick means you can get the whole nail quite close without hurting the dog, and the quicks recede more quickly with regular filing.

    I use a Dremel tool for almost all my dog nail filing (I’m a professional groomer and I average about 2 a day), but I’ve successfully used a coarse emery board for dogs who are scared of the Dremel.

    • Reply Steve Gold June 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      Savannah; I’m in San Antonio Texas and would like to speak with you about grooming my boy Bear – a six year old Samoyed who is an absolute loverboy and joy to be around! He has been regularly bathed and combed out since he was a mere pup, but due to some serious medical issues, it has become increasingly difficult, particularly now as he is shedding his winter coat!!! Please contact me 210-867-4653 or Thanks so much!!!!

    • Reply UrbanCollieChick August 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Exactly what type of emery board? I have a med sized dog who came to me with the most beautifully short nails, but I am inept at using the cutters and he’s too shy to bring to noisy “salons” filled with barking dogs. He hates his feet being messed with. He was kept presumably in a dog run part of the time with concrete on the bottom. We think it kept his nails trim w/o people having to clip them or check his feet.

      I found a great groomer early on but she’s since retired, so she doesn’t do nails anymore. Veterinarians from day one, with all their medical skills, seemed too afraid to do much on them; even when they were already short. THey always said “His nails really aren’t bad at all!” I think they were too used to seeing eagle talons on pets! Frustrating.

      He’s also become stressed by the dremel.

      If a nice gentle emery at home would do the trick, that would be excellent! I’ve tried street walking on concrete but I’d have to do that nearly four hours a day it seems, and not only do I work, but I prefer to use the local park for the bulk of exercise and it’s more aerobically effective, and just plain more fun for both of us.

  • Reply Jan August 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    A nice video on the importance of keeping the nail short and a little insight into how to cut them so they would stay short and even get the quick to back up in the nail.

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge