Today I’m bringing you simple guidance on a method for clipping your dog’s nails for great professional-looking results. Your dog will be happier and you’ll be proud of his or her well-manicured look.
Trimming nails, for the great majority of dogs, is not optional – the rare exceptions being those in rural areas that log enough foot-mileage to keep the nails worn down. Failing to maintain your dog’s nails can result in problems that range from mere discomfort to serious physical conditions. Overly long claws cause pain by pressing up into the foot or twisting to the side. Another negative result of excessively long nails in a dog may be less obvious but is just as real:

Feedback System

A dog’s nails are part of a feedback system whereby well-trimmed nails provide signals to the dog’s brain upon contact with the ground. You can visualize this process in the case of a dog approaching a steep hill: The rising terrain makes contact with the nails on the back feet, prompting the dog to adopt a forward-leaning hill-climbing posture. Long nails, on the other hand, in making continuous contact with the ground, provide a false reading, prompting an unneeded and in this case, detrimental, forward-leaning posture.

A Better Way to Trim

Rather than a single cross-cut to each claw, the following approach involves a couple more cuts, but produces better results. The trimmed nails will look tidier, and there will be less likelihood of accidentally cutting into the quick.


  1. Use scissor-type clippers, and make sure they are sharp.
  2. Begin with the first nail as illustrated above, 1st cut. The scissors will face the paw, angled with handle down, and cutting end up.
  3. Next, clip either side of the same nail, angling the cuts as indicated. See 2nd illustration, cuts 2 and 3.
  4. Trim away the fluffy remains on the front lower part of the nail (4th cut).
  5. Use a rotary grinder (available from dog grooming suppliers) or a simple nail file, to smooth off the sharp areas where you clipped.
  6. When finished, give praise and a treat to your dog to reward his/her cooperation.

Note: If you nip the quick of your dog’s nail, causing it to bleed, apply styptic powder to the claw, or if you don’t have that, use baking powder. Have the powder compacted in a small open container, into which you can gently press the dog’s claw, and then release.


Cuts 2 and 3 above can be considered optional. If time doesn’t allow for you to do all four cuts, or your dog is extra squeamish, just do 1 and 4.
Having well-trimmed nails is an important part of maintaining the health and well-being of your German Shepherd. The above steps become an easy part of your routine, once formed into a habit.

In writing this post I drew on an article by Karen Gellman DVM PhD, published in the January/February 2015 issue of Dogs Naturally Magazine (click Dog’s Naturally ad on sidebar for more information).