The above pictured nail clipper is the best of all the different kinds I have tried, for clipping the toenails of a German Shepherd Dog. This kind of clipper also has proven to last the longest of the various types I have used. Any clipper you use, however, must have a sharp cutting edge, be clean, and the moving parts must be well lubricated.
The German Shepherd Dog usually has a thick heavy nail, and it takes heavy duty nail clippers to cut through it. Some of the most inexpensive types of clippers can be so flimsy that the handles may even bend or break off when the clipper is used (and the most commonly marketed style of inexpensive nail clipper is the worst offender!) It is better to buy a quality clipper like the one pictured above, and have a tool that will do the job well and last for a long time (if properly taken care of, and kept clean and out of the weather when not in use!)
Another tool I will mention, because it is very effective, is the Dremel grinding tool, with an appropriate grinding bit. These have the advantage of being easy to control as to how short the nail is cut, since it grinds gradually at the nail. It also produces a nice blunt nail. The disadvantages of this tool are that the tool is quite expensive (unless you have other uses for it besides dog nails, or have to do nails frequently!) and it can be tough to control and accustom some dogs to the noise and vibration of the grinder.
Although the German Shepherd Dog standards prefer black nails, the light nails are much easier to clip, because you can see where the blood vessel in the nail is, since the pink color of the blood vessel shows through the lighter nail, whereas, with black nails, you don't have that advantage. The "quick" as the blood vessel is commonly called, lengthens when a nail grows longer, and will shrink in size after a nail is clipped. When faced with a really long nail, it is possible to clip just the thinner end portion, and then wait two or three days before clipping that nail again, allowing the quick time to recede.
If you do accidentally clip the nail of a normal healthy German Shepherd Dog (meaning it is not one of those rare individuals that are hemophiliac or affected with von Willebrand's Disease-another bleeding disorder) and it bleeds, don't panic. You can use commercially made products such as QuikStop to stop the bleeding, styptic pencil, or powdered or granulated alum(found in the spice rack at the grocery store!). Sometimes, just applying finger pressure to the end of the nail a couple of minutes will stop the bleeding. If you don't have any of these, or don't want to use them, keep the dog quiet (crating is preferable-so the dog has to settle down and so the dog does not spread or track bits of blood everywhere)so the bleeding will stop on its own. It takes very little blood to produce a dramatic looking mess, and if the dog is jumping around, running, etc, it will make the bleeding worse.
Try to be as careful as you can to avoid cutting the nail too short. Causing a nail to bleed does cause pain and teaches the dog that nail clipping is more unpleasant than it already is (because dogs do not like their paws, particularly the front ones, handled and messed with, and most dogs have to be taught to cooperate for nail clipping because of this attitude).
Most dogs need to have their nails clipped or their nails become quite long, and can cause a number of problems. Dogs can develop splayed feet because of long nails. Long nails can also contribute to a variety of foot injuries. Long dog nails also can be really unpleasant if they come into contact with human skin, especially the smaller sharper nails of pups.
Puppy nails are usually smaller, harder, and sharper than the nails of adult GSDs. They also grow more quickly and need clipped more often. Although the same clipper for adults works on young puppy nails, I often use my cat claw clipper (the scissors type of cat claw clipper, not the other types) for young pups. The cat claw clipper's size is better for the size of the job with young pups, and it is easier to clip a small puppy nail cleanly and quickly with the cat claw scissors. Expect a puppy to throw a temper tantrum when he is first having his nails clipped, but you have to finish the job (even if you end up wrapping the pup in a towel to control him-I haven't had to do this with a pup yet, but the towel is a very handy way to confine a cat except for the part of the cat you are working on!) Some pups may snap, growl, kick, scream, or try other ways to get out of having nails clipped (or anything else they don't want done!) Firmly get your job done, and then after it is all finished (which YOU, not the dog, determine!), praise the pup, play with him, give him a treat, whatever you use to get him in a positive mood. Always follow up something unpleasant with something else that is pleasant, so your interaction with the dog finishes with a good ending. This little rule can go a long way toward gaining your dog's cooperation.
More will be added to this article soon (hopefully including an illustration of nails and how to gauge the approximate length of nail that usually can be clipped without clipping too short.)
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