A comparison between day 1 of my dog nail project and day 21. The middle two nails clear the ground now, and the side nail is visibly shorter.

In one of our earliest posts, we taught readers how to cut dog nails safely. The article goes over where the quick is, and how to know when it’s time to stop trimming. Although the method shown is sufficient to maintain healthy nails in dogs, there’s another way that can also shorten the quick.

This method is called the alternative cut line. Fortunately, if you know how to grind your dog’s nails or are handy with a pair of clippers, the alternative cut line is easy enough to do.

A Quick Anatomy Lesson

a close up of a freshly cut dogs nail

Before we begin, you should be familiar with what the inside of your dog’s nail looks like. As you probably have found out at least once in your pet’s lifetime, there is a blood vessel inside of your dog’s nail. If you cut the nail back too far, that blood vessel gets cut and bleeds. This blood vessel is called the quick.

The goal of cutting the nails is to cut them back as far as possible without getting into the quick. Shorter nails are beneficial because short nails make it easier for your pet to walk, relieves their joints, and helps them stand and move better.

Left on their own, nails can grow quite long and the quick can grow right along with it. If the quick grows out, how short the nail can be cut won’t be as short as it was the last time you tried to cut them.

Getting quicks to go back is much harder than maintaining its length, but the alternative cut line can help.

Step One: Trim Nails As Normal

You can see our post here for more details on how to do the traditional cut line. Nails should be to the quick for this, which can be done either with a grinder or with nail clippers. It’s good to note that for the next step, it is very hard to do with clippers. You can use an emery board if your dog has tiny nails and is afraid of the grinder, and big nails it’s a bit easier to do with a pair of clippers, but it’s still very hard.

The easiest thing to do is to use a grinder of some kind.

Step Two: Take the “Hat” off the top.

When you look at the dogs nails from the underside after cutting them, it looks something like this:

For the next step, you’re going to dremmel off the top of the nail above the quick, think of it like the quicks hat. Taking extra nail off of the top challenges the quick from a different direction. A little nail can be taken off the side too, but should never be taken from the bottom as it can cause discomfort for the dog as they walk around.

Think of the bottom as a little pair of slippers for their quick, so it doesn’t get hurt on the hard floor.

Traditional cut line
Alternative cut line, note additional nail taken off

Step Three: Repeat Weekly For Shorter Quicks

In order for quicks to recede, they need to be repeatedly challenged. The nails need to be done at least once a week, for anywhere between 1-12 months, for success. The picture in our feature image is a combination of the alternative cutline and frequent walks. We’ll talk about the final results of that experiment in a later post.

If you think this will help your dog and use a groomer to cut nails, we have a free printable available you can take to your groomer with instructions on how to do the alternative cut line.

Similar Posts:

By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

One thought on “What is the Alternative Cut Line?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *