Home Grooming The Companion Old English Sheepdog

Grinding An
Old English Sheepdog's Nails

Below is just one way an Old English Sheepdog owner tends to a dog's ears.  Dogs often need to be slowly desensitized to any new process.  This process can be more challenging to some owners because some dogs are more sensitive to having hair plucked from their ears. The vibration of electric clippers can startle a dog so you need to be slowly desensitize a dog to this process.  You need to proceed slowly, respect the dog's limits, praise and reward lavishly so the dog will learn to tolerate it.  Only you know your dog and how he or she may respond.  Seek assistance from a professional if there is any chance your dog could be harmed by it's exuberance or fear or if the dog could display an aggressive behavior. Follow all product safety instructions provided by individual manufacturers.  Try to make grooming a special one-on-one time that both you and your dog will look forward to.   These instructions are offered as-is and without guarantee or warranty.

You'll find an excellent dog nail photo demonstration
on the Washington State University website-

A Note About Puppies...

I do NOT use an electric nail grinder on a puppy's nails until after they're accustomed to having their feet/nails handled and have been gradually desensitized to the sound and vibration of the grinder.  Instead, I use a standard guillotine dog nail clipper and a cardboard emery board. 

The day a puppy arrives in our home, we begin play grooming... nightly combing, ear checking and foot handling. I begin by briefly playing with the feet, gently rubbing the toes and between the pads.  Food rewards or a special toy given only at this time can make it fun for the pup.  I then introduce a cardboard fingernail file.  Just one sweep across each nail tip and that's it for the day.  I repeat it every night until the puppy is comfortable with this handling.

I then introduce the guillotine nail clipper.  I first pretend-clip them.  Just going through the motion of pretend clipping by touching the end of the nail clipper to the top of the nail and making the clip.

If the puppy is accepting all of this and the nails are long enough to be trimmed, I then begin to actually clip the nails.  In order to take off only the desired amount of nail, I use my thumb and index finger as a stop... only the portion of the nail that extends beyond my thumb and index finger can be cut off.  Holding the nail this way helps prevent accidentally taking off too much of the nail if the puppy should move. I then round up the nail with an emery board.  If the puppy tolerates it, I do all the nails... otherwise, I'll just do one and another the next night until all have are completed.

Note that there are other types of clippers that have a built in stop which allows you to only remove thin slices with each cut.

   Using a Dremel® Tool and Peticure®  Safe Guard To Grind Nails  

I use the Peticure® Safe Guard attachment on a Dremel® tool to grind my dogs' nails.  I feel it gives a little better protection to the dog because the sandpaper drum and moving parts are covered except for the small circular area that actually does the grinding. The attachment also collects a lot of the nail dust in the cup. 

Note that this attachment only fits certain Dremel® tool models. See the manufacturer's website for
details and complete information- 

*  If you're considering a battery operated grinding tool, speak with the manufacture or someone who's used the
tool before on a large breed dog to see if it will have enough power to do all the nails and more in one sitting.

Avoiding Pain From Friction...

Have you ever quickly dragged a knee across carpet and experienced the discomfort of a friction burn? The friction caused by grinding nails also generates heat and can be painful to the dog.  So I only leave the sandpaper grinding drum in contact with the nail for a very short time... a matter of just a few seconds if the nails are longer and just a couple of seconds as I get close to the desired length and closer to the nail quick.

The revolution speed of the drill also affects the heat generated by grinding.  Visit the Peticure®
website for current information but at the time of compiling this information they recommended this speed-

Note the RPM = Revolutions Per Minute... the speed at which the drum rotates.


Avoid The Nail Quick! Determine the approximate location of the nail quick before beginning.  The following website has a great dog nail photo demonstration I'd recommend before trimming any dog's nails- .  The nail quick is easier to see in white nails, impossible to see in black nails.  If you accidentally hit the quick, it's said there will be pain and a lot of bleeding.  For this reason, I always err on the side of caution and leave the nails slightly longer than necessary.  The best advice is to proceed very slowly and take off only small amounts of nail each time the grinder makes contact with the nail until you thoroughly get to know the proper length.  Keep styptic powder close at hand just in case. If in doubt, use an emery board (nail file) to finish up.

Keep Hair Away From The Grinder's Moving Parts This goes for yours too... if you have long hair, be sure you put it up!  No matter what electric or battery tool you use to grind nails, be very careful that you do not get the dogs or your own hair near the revolving drum or the shaft it's attached too.  Some tools might automatically shut down, others may wrap any caught hair in the shaft of the tool and rip the hair out causing pain or injury.  If this were to happen, you would not only harm the dog physically but you'd also loose their trust. So keep all hair away from the grinder's moving parts.

The photo demo below shows the grinding of just one toe.  When I do a dog's nails, I do one pass on each nail on both front feet or each nail on both back feet.  I grind for a few seconds on a toenail, then move on to the next one until I've done all 8-10 nails.  I then go back and do each of them again in the same manner until I've reached the desired length.

I use a cardboard finger nail file or emery board to finish the nails.  I round up the tip to take off all sharp edges... I also drag the emery board under the front of the nail for the same reason.  I check the nail for sharp edges, then move on to the next one.  If you have an Old English Sheepdog that scratches itself a lot due to allergies, rounding up the nails will help a little in preventing the dog from damaging the skin when he/she scratches.  It helps prevent painful scratches on us too if a dog paws or jumps up to greet us.

Just an interesting side note... white nails can gradually turn black as the Old English Sheepdog ages.

Copyright 2010- J. Dunne.  All rights reserved.  The photographs and instructions on this page are the property of the author. Do not reproduce or copy for public use without written permission from the author.


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