Nail Trimming

16 May 2005Steve Schwarz

There has been a discussion on the AgileTeach email list about the need for beginning Agility students to trim their dog’s nails. Apparently some Veterinarians, unaware of the special needs of performance dogs, have advised Agility students to not trim their dog’s nails. The belief that just by walking around dogs will keep their nails short enough just doesn’t apply to many active dogs. I’m definitely in agreement with the consensus on the list that it can be unsafe for dogs to have overly long nails.

Some of the issues include:

  • Dogs can fail to get traction on contacts when their overly long nails keep their pads from gripping the surface. This can cause dogs to "bail off" and behave nervously on the obstacles.
  • Dogs who try to grip on contact obstacles using their overly long nails put additional stress on the nail and nail bed. This can cause nails to be broken or even torn from the nail bed.
  • Dogs have injured toes or even broken them when their long nails jammed on slatted obstacles.

We had first hand experience with overly long nails. One time Mr. Peabody’s nails got too long and he had severely sore toes after Agility practice. It took over a week of rest for him to recover; we were lucky he didn’t break a nail or severely damage his toes. Ever since then we’ve keep his nails trimmed.

We trim Mr. Peabody’s and Milo’s nails weekly. Our rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t hear the dog’s nails click on the floor when they walk. I think you want their nails long enough so they can use them to help grip on soft surfaces but not so long as to interfere during normal walking or trotting.

Here are two good and thorough pages about how to trim dog’s nails:

You might also want to look at this big collection of links: Chinaroad Lowchens of Australia scroll to the end of the page.

For your dog’s health please check their nails and keep them appropriately short.

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