Diablo Valley German Shepherd Dog Club


  • What You’ll Need – Nail Trimming

  • Dog nail trimmer

  • Styptic powder


  • Rotary grinding tool with sander band (i.e., Dremel®)

Keeping your German Shepherd’s nails short preserves its powerful movement and protects its structure. Nails that are too long risk breaking or worse – getting caught on something and damaging your dog’s toes. If you’ve never trimmed a  dog’s nails, ask your breeder, vet or a groomer to demonstrate and teach you how it is done. Many dogs object strenuously to having their nails trimmed which makes their people anxious and, therefore, it can be an unhappy  experience all around. Handling the dog’s feet and nails from the beginning (whether puppyhood or once adopted) helps.

You need to approach the trimming calmly and with patience, taking it slowly and rewarding even small successes with treats. No matter how tempting it is to give up, don’t. Never, ever lose this argument with a German Shepherd. They will remember it and repeat the behavior, expecting the same outcome and, if that doesn’t happen, act out even more.

When you hear your dog’s nails clicking on a hard floor, that’s the time to trim. The nail tips will grind themselves down to some degree if your dog spends a lot of time on abrasive surfaces like asphalt or cement. Also, the nails on your dog’s back feet are usually shorter so will need less trimming.

You and your dog will find the most comfortable situation and equipment for you. Some club members have their dogs stand on benches or tables, others have them lay down and sit on the floor with the dog. Some trim with the paw  extended, some fold the foot to trim with the paw facing up. The two choices of equipment are clippers and grinding tools, with clippers coming in several varieties, the guillotine type being the easiest to use.

Whichever situation or  equipment is best for you and your dog, the objective is the same:  get as close as possible to the quick of the nail, its blood supply source (like the bed of your own fingernail) without cutting into it. If you do nick the quick, expect a vocal and physical reaction from your dog and blood, an alarming amount of blood. Apply the blood-clotting styptic powder and reassure your dog that it will survive. Most advise that you finish trimming the nails, giving lots of treats for each nail, so your dog’s last memory of nail trimming is not what it considers to be a life-threatening