Cutting dog toenails


People frequently ask me to cut their dog’s toenails back.    I don’t know how the rumor got started that you can cut the quicks—the part inside the toenail that  bleeds, and they won’t grow back, but  it is a widely held belief…and it is not true.

Why  do people want their dogs toenails cut back?

They don’t want to pay  to have them cut, or bother with them for a long time;  they don’t want to hear them clicking on the floor;  they don’t want to be scratched by the dog.

An interesting thing about dogs:  all the breeds have different  lengths of quicks, &  no breeder breeds  for the trait of short toenails.  Also, the shape of the foot seems to have nothing to do with how long the quicks are, but the surface that the dog exercises on may.  Or rather–the surface the dog exercises on  will greatly influence the shape of the dog’s feet, and how long the toenails seem to be.

Early in my dog grooming career, I worked for a hobby breeder of Boston Terriers. They do not have ‘good’ feet. They have ‘soft’ feet. The breed standard says the feet should be small  and compact (as does the French Bulldog Standard), but  while I interpret that to mean a cat foot, it does not. What the breeders do, if they have the dogs put under for any surgical work, is have the  toenails CUT BACK and cauterized.  As this is very painful, best the dog be knocked out. Then, with the quicks cut back, the toenails can be maintained short.

I own sighthounds:  dogs bred to run.  They are supposed to have  cat or hare feet. That means arched toes. They do not have  terribly long quicks, but not  short, either. They need enough toenail to grab ground & get traction when running.  Show Poodles have incredible feet, and most have very short  toenails naturally, but I would not be surprised if many had their toenails cauterized.

I find most terriers to have especially long quicks—especially the Welsh Terriers, but I’ve seen Bedlingtons with very long quicks.

What I have done for years is cut around the quick, attempting to expose the quick, the theory being that  the dog will arch his toes, and keep his nails pointed down…but if the dog is  always on a smooth or soft surface, this will not help at all.

There are so many good reasons for having the surface of a dog’s kennel run  be stones. Drainage is one, but the uneven surface forces the dog to contract & arch his toes, and this really does keep a dog’s nails short, and helps with keeping the legs &  shoulder/upper arm  in condition as well.  I do know one thing:  if the dog is always on concrete or grass, and not pulling, his nails will not be ground down, but his feet will splay.

If you are not a dog fancier, all this  is just so much blather.  If you want your dog to have nice feet and be healthy, you have to take this seriously.

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