Depending on where your German Shepherd walks the most, nail care may be needed often or only very rarely. Long walks on city sidewalks can slowly wear down a dog’s nails to an acceptable level. But if you live in the country, or the dog spends almost all its time in the house or the back yard, you may need to trim his nails about once a month.
As with any dog, it’s important to use the proper tools and technique. Dogs have a small blood vessel called a quick that runs from the foot out to about midway into the nail. If you nick that quick while cutting the nail it hurts the dog and produces blood. Keeping the nail trimmed, while avoiding injury requires some care and practice. Start conservatively.
There are three different types of tool to use and personal preference varies.
Guillotine cutters slice the nail like a guillotine, but from the opposite direction. They clamp it on the top and slice it from the bottom. It’s possible to reverse the direction, just one of the problems with using this type of tool. They also tend to put more pressure on the nail, potentially squeezing the quick uncomfortably. Scissor-style cutters, if properly sharp, can do a great job of slicing cleanly and quickly with just a little practice.
An alternative to cutters is some type of grinding method. A nail file is an option, but a slow one. Dremel tools, which operate like a small wood grinding drill, have to be used with great care, however. They have a round end on an attachment and a drill that can grind the nail down to the desired length.
But at high speed they can become too hot too quick. Test one by grinding something nail-like, then touching the end after it’s stopped spinning. If it’s too hot to hold, it’s too hot to apply to your dog’s nail.
Get your German Shepherd on the floor on its back. If the dog is over six months old and you’ve developed a good bond, fussing is usually minimal. It’s important they stay calm and don’t jerk a foot at the wrong moment.
One way to judge where the dog’s quick begins is to make it more visible. Washing the nail makes the pinkish vessel stand out more against the dark nail. Never get closer than about an 1/8th of an inch. Even if you don’t clip the quick, pressure from walking can cause pain if the nail is cut too close.
Clip or grind each nail in turn, taking special care with any dew claw nail, if your dog still has them. To keep any hair out of the way (the dog’s, not yours), you can take a baby sock and poke a hole for the nail, then slide it over the foot. That will push the hair back away from the nail. With most German Shepherds, though, it won’t be necessary.
Proceed carefully and give your dog a reward afterward.