The Importance of Proper Nail Grooming to Dogs,
especially Italian Greyhounds!
©2007-13 - Tia Resleure
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Overgrown nails cause a dog's toes to splay, adversely
affecting their gait, and can contribute to leg breaks in fragile-boned
breeds like Italian Greyhounds. Irregular
attention to nails can lead to permanent conformation problems, early
arthritis and in some cases, serious crippling.
Trimming nails with clippers tends to remove too much nail (causing
pain and bleeding) or not enough nail. Sharp nail edges can scratch
your skin and snag your clothing. Long sharp
nails are more likely to get caught on things and rip the nail from
the dog's foot.
Show folk have long been aware of the superiority of using a grinder
on nails. Well groomed nails are a typical part of presenting your
dog nicely to a judge and the public. Grinding one to three times
a week rather than clipping every two or three weeks will give your
IG the best feet and leg health.
Admirers of Italian Greyhounds, as
a rule, tend to be quite an intelligent lot. There's no
reason why they can't learn to use an electric grinder. Some
people might think they can avoid learning this because they intend
to take their dog to a groomer to have the nails done. Going
to a groomer 1-2 times weekly is inconvenient and costly! If
you are terribly timid about using a grinder you can use a hand file
this takes much more time. Your
responsible breeder or rescue rep will make sure that you are
with using an electric
grinder before leaving you to your own devices.
Dogs from knowledgeable, experienced breeders and rescue
groups will have already had some training to accept nail grinding.
If your dog is from another source you will need to teach the dog yourself
or work with a trainer. You must be calm and patient and careful
not to inadvertently encourage struggling and fussing by crooning
to the dog that it's "okaaaay" to be fussy, difficult
or scared. Set
a goal of at least two matching nails at a time (to not interfere with
the dog's balance) and don't give up or you will be teaching the dog
that being a brat is effective in making you back off. Praise
the dog when he is cooperating only, otherwise just tell him to knock
it off and quit being silly.
Overgrown nails, forcing the
dog to rock back on his foot
his rear legs much farther forward under his body,
Overgrown nails forcing the dog to rock back on his
and flattening the spring in his toes.
Same dog as above, after a couple days of daily, aggressive,
nail grinding. These nails will be made even shorter,
without pain, after several more days of frequent grinding.
You will want to do frequent and regular grooming
of your IG's nails for their optimum health and safety. Nails
should be groomed before they look overgrown. If you hear them clicking
on the floor they need to be shortened. This
could be as often as every other day but at least once a week. The
reason we don't recommended regular trimmers or clippers is because
you actually need to allow the nails to overgrow before you can use
Overgrown "quicks" (the vein inside the toenails): Overgrown
quicks can be made to recede without causing pain by carefully
grinding the nails daily until they are at an acceptable length and
then as often as needed to maintain that length.
The important thing to remember when
grinding nails is to use short strokes and keep the grinder moving
from nail to nail, going back to nails that aren't short enough, so
from heat is more noticeable to the dog than causing a speck of blood
on a cooler nail. Most
dogs will have no reaction to lightly hitting the quick, so long
as the nail
isn't allowed to overheat. This makes grooming even black
breeze! In case you do accidentally nick a vein, have styptic gel or
recently switched to Kwik Stop Gel Formula and find it more effective
How short? Nails should noticeably clear the floor
when the dog is standing. If you hear ticking when the dog walks you
should try to get the nails shorter. Because IGs have a "hare
foot" the nails and quicks are more inclined to grow out
and long. You
don't need to be concerned that you are ruining a dog's natural hare
foot by making the nails too short: "hare feet" and "cat
distinguishable by the shape of the foot, not by the length of
This dog's nails certainly look like they need grooming
hit the floor
while standing and tick on the floor while walking.
nails at a healthy length you will want to grind them
BEFORE they look
like they need grooming.
Tip: Practice on a small piece of wood until you feel
with the tool. Pay attention to the direction that the tool's tip
is spinning. You will quickly discover which ways you can
hold the tool against
the wood so the tool (and nail) doesn't jump.
The Dremel Lithium Ion Cordless, available at hardware
craft stores, is my
favorite tool for nail grooming. Here I am
that you need to hold the Dremel very close to
the sanding drum so your thumb is clearly
than the tool.
The release button is away from the palm of your hand
don't accidentally hit it.
The thumb of the hand holding the tool must ALWAYS be
against the hand holding the paw, or against the paw itself.
The nail you
are working on should always be held between
your other thumb and
forefinger. This is necessary to maintain the
greatest level of control and stability.
I prefer to work with the fine (120 grit) sanding
drum unless I'm doing
a large dog with long nails. I use the tool at #2 setting
is approximately 7,000 rpm.
The sanding drum shown here is 1/2"W x 1/2"H
Some people prefer to use the 1/4"W x 1/2"H sanding drum
because it can initially
be easier to move around
the dog's paw. I find that the 1/4"
wide sanding drum heats up
Practice turning your wrist/hand so that you can reach
sides of the nail and at different angles. You will want to
position adjusting with the Dremel rather than disturbing your
forget to keep your thumb braced!
I like to work on nails while the dog is lying on
it's side, on my
lap or next to me on a raised pillow. This is a
good habit to
if you ever wish to have an anesthesia-free dental performed
dog. Doing nails and brushing teeth with the dog in this
position helps to speed the training process for an
Notice that the dog is very relaxed but I am still
using the forearm
of my paw holding hand to keep the dog steadily
pinned by his
for safety. Until your dog is trained to accept this type
handling you should have a helper to hold the dog's neck and
down for you.
Your grinding strokes should be smooth, short and
If you don't use enough pressure the grinder will bounce on the
and the dog will find it ticklish.
Make note of the various thumb bracing positions I
I like to grind some nail off of each side of the
nail for a prettier,
tapered nail (rather like the tip of a pencil but still respecting
shape and curve of the vein). This is entirely a matter of personal
preference: your primary goal should be to shorten the nail
and to leave smooth edges.
Don't forget to keep switching the nail you are grinding
so it doesn't overheat.
Doing dew claws will initially feel a bit awkward
need to hold it steady and away from the dog's leg to get all sides.
Going for the bit on the underside.
On to the dew claw of the leg that is closest to your
pulled the camera back so you can see that I'm actually turning
out my elbow on the tool-holding side.
All fingers are being used to steady the paw.
Oops! Got a little nick but the dog didn't feel it
and the blood
isn't even beading up! Think of all the stressful
sessions you may
have had while using clippers on black nails.
Nails are now clearing the floor. Mouse over the
remind yourself what they looked like before we started.
Note: Few vets are sensitive to the finer points of conformation
and gait and will rarely stress the importance of proper nail grooming.
If your dog's nails are even a wee bit too long and is going under
anesthesia anyway for
surgery, take advantage of this opportunity to ask
the vet tech to cut the nails short enough
the dog is still under anesthesia. This is known as "quicking" the
nails (meaning to cut into the vein) and you might need to repeat your
be sure it gets done. Expect
to pay for this additional service as each nail needs individual attention
to stop bleeding. This will give you a new fresh start if you've
been less than diligent.