I didn’t intend my Dane to be a show dog until he was about 8 months old, and until that time never clipped his toenails to the stubby show length that’s considered preferable.  In fact I’d never clipped dog nails before!  Our dogs always had plenty of outdoor time on both grass and concrete sidewalks, and wore their nails down naturally. It was a revelation to me–and to Kunga–when we began clipping his toenails.

Most breeders I know start clipping puppy toenails somewhere between the first and third week of life.  Apart from sparing the nursing dam those little pin needles in her tummy, it gets the pups used to the idea of having their feet handled and nails clipped. Some of my breeder friends also start dremmeling: the use of an electric device to smooth and shorten the nails.  If they use the dremmel, they seem to start later, after about 3-4 weeks.

My early attempts to clip Kunga’s nails were a struggle.  The best place to do it was in an elevated tub at my local grooming shop, where I took him for show baths.  The tubs had clips for a short leash and high sides, both of which restrained Kunga as he thrashed away, trying to pull away from my clippers. If I wanted a nicer job, I had to take him to my friend Carol’s place, where I could hold the dog and she could wield the dremmel.  I didn’t realize that the filing action of the dremmel caused the nail to get hot; often Carol has to work back and forth on a couple of nails to prevent a burn.

Now Kunga is resigned to the whole nail thing, though he is still not especially cooperative. I plan to start my next dog on nails much earlier (show or not), so this doesn’t become a battle.  Oh, and my Bloodhound, Lucy?  She SCREAMS when I pull out the nail clipper, though never in her life have I nicked a cuticle or injured her.  I didn’t know dogs could make that sound.  I gave up on her a few years back (she’s not a show dog), and now the few times she has to have her nails trimmed I take the coward’s way out and bring her to the groomer at my vet’s office.

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  • Gil Mosko

    Last night was the very first time I tried to trim Wendell’s nails. Of course I have the canine snipper. And to be honest, Wendell does so much running across the prairie, his nails are not ridiculously long. Still, I wanted to try. Definitely not wanting to get even close to the cuticle, I tried to isolate ONE toe. This was a struggle. When I finally snipped a mere 1/8″ of nail, he screamed, just as you said! So I give up. I admit I am not trained properly for such an important task, which might not be necessary, anyway. Thanks for the blog piece.