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German Shepherd Nail Trimming Tips and Tricks

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

Good nail care is important!

Good nail care is important!

What do you do when your fingernails get too long? You clip them! If you don’t, they could catch on things, break or otherwise cause you discomfort or harm. Our dogs aren’t any different, that's why it's important to take care of your German Shepherd’s nails to make sure that they stay an appropriate length. If you don’t, your dog runs the risk of hurting itself, getting an infected nail, or accidentally scratching your furniture.

In this article, we’re going to teach you a bit about clipping your dog's nails and general care:

  1. Why Nail Care Is Important
  2. When You Need to Clip Your Dog's Nails
  3. Which Trimmers to Use
  4. Tips About Technique and Safety

Why Is Nail Care for Dogs Important?

Taking care of your dog’s nails is important. Fingernails are important because they help protect the most sensitive part of your dog’s paws from damage. However, if they are left unkempt and continue to grow wild, then your dog might actually run the risk of getting hurt.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure that you make nail care a regular part of your dog’s grooming routine. The main exception to this rule is if your dog is either very active or if you live in a house with hardwood floors:

  • If your dog is highly active and you take them for long walks, especially on concrete, then the nails might wear down on their own. Dogs who are free to scratch and dig holes to their leisure may also not need their nails as clipped as often.
  • If you live in a house with hardwood floors then you have probably heard your dog’s nails scratching around on the floor. In many cases, this is enough to keep their nails short—but you should still check them periodically to make sure that they don’t get out of hand.

If you clip their nails, your dog will feel better for a number of reasons:

  • They’ll be less likely to split their nails. If your dog’s nails don’t get clipped, they could split when they come into hard contact with something. This can cause them to bleed and can be very painful for your dog. If it gets infected, you might need to go to the vet.
  • Properly maintained nails will offer good traction for your dog so that they will be able to carry themselves better. German Shepherds specifically can’t walk properly without well-kept nails—otherwise, they won’t be able to display their characteristic trot.
  • Nails that grow too long can actually grow back into the foot (an ingrown nail if you will). These can be very painful and can lead to serious infections.

When to Start Clipping Your Dog’s Nails

It’s just as important to know when you should actually be clipping your German Shepherd’s nails. To understand this, you first need to know about your dog’s quick. The quick is the part of their nail that contains blood vessels and nerves; in other words, it’s the part that can feel pain.

The reason this is important to know is that the quick grows alongside your dog’s nails. Conversely, it will shrink back a bit every time that you clip their nails. The trick is to make sure that you don’t cut so far as to actually damage the quick. Regularly inspecting their nails should allow you to develop a greater understanding of what they look like when they need to be clipped.

If your dog’s nails are super long, then you’ll need to gradually cut them at first—clipping them all off could snip the quick and cause your dog a lot of pain. If you can hear nails clicking when your dog walks around on hardwood floors, then their nails are probably long enough to clip.

When to Clip Your Puppy's Nails

  • For new puppies, you should start trimming their nails within a couple weeks of bringing them home.
  • Adult dogs can be clipped right away.

Both dogs will probably require some encouragement from you, and it can be helpful for you to play with and massage your dog’s feet for a few days before you break out the nail clippers.

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Which Nail Trimmers to Get

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is get your nail trimmers. Make sure that you get one that fits your dog’s nails very well.

  • Plier nail trimmers work like wire-cutting pliers and just snip off bits of the nail. These are great for thicker nails because you can use leverage to apply more weight.
  • Guillotine trimmers require you to put your dog’s nails into a small hole in the trimmer; squeezing the trimmer causes a blade to chop down like a guillotine and remove your dog’s nails.

It’s also useful to have a nail file to help smooth down the nail after you cut it, as well as lots of treats that you can use to encourage your dog and reward them after they’ve gotten their nails cut.

Now that you have your tools ready, you can start the actual process of clipping your German Shepherd’s nails.


Proper Technique and Safety Tips

  • Go Slow: Start out by clipping a single nail, once per day. For puppies, make sure that they are comfortable with you touching with, playing and moving their feet first. Adult dogs who haven’t had their feet touched or played with may take a bit longer to get used to these sensations.
  • Be Safe: Avoid clipping the quick (this can be difficult to see on all-black nails).
  • Use Good Lighting: Make sure that you use ample lighting in the area so that you can see what you’re doing.
  • Reward Your Pup: Once your dog has sat through the procedure, even if it’s just a single nail on the first few days, make sure that you reward them with a treat or something.

Following these tips should be enough for you to get your dog’s nails shortened properly. If you’re having trouble, you can always seek the help of a veterinarian or a professional dog groomer.

Just like people, dogs need their nails trimmed. It’s important to learn how to do this properly, otherwise, your dog might get hurt! As long as you follow the procedures, you should have an easy time trimming your German Shepherd puppy's nails.


  • Palika L. and Albert T. Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month, 2nd Edition: Everything You Need to Know at Each State to Ensure Your Cute and Playful Puppy. Alpha, 2016, 352 p.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on August 23, 2019:

It becomes fairly ritualistic if it all works out and you start with a young dog. It's not the most pleasant thing for them, but they understand the care and the need to stay calm when they trust you. Understanding and trust are things that can indeed be transferred to other places in life. :)

It also calmes me when I take the time to play and care for German Shepherds so that's also a positive.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 22, 2019:

That is way cool. Kind of a parable for taking care of loved ones in general of the two legged variety.

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