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Some dogs have a thing about their feet. Perfectly well behaved dogs will become uncooperative when any attempt is made to trim or even touch their toenails. In some cases dogs who are not otherwise at all violent will bite to stop an attempt to trim their nails. For these dogs the only option is to
anesthetize the dog to do the procedure. This is both expensive and dangerous.
Wild Canids have no problem keeping their toenails at a reasonable length: they can dig in and run on abrasive materials all the time. You could assert that a domesticated dog could keep their nails in trim by running more frequently bringing the nail in contact with the ground for traction but this generally does not prove practicable. The effect of traction abrasion alone is not adequate to keep most domesticated dogs trimmed.
This is my idea: Replace the traction surface on a canine treadmill with a wide format sanding belt of very fine grit. The pads of the canine foot will be soft enough to grip without abrasion but contact with the hard toenail will quickly abrade the material, smoothly, evenly and attractively with no risk of accidental over trimming. The effect can be maximized by placing the treadmill at an incline and setting the pace at a trot for the size of the dog. For severe cases the special surface should be used for multiple sessions, otherwise it should be part of a monthly routine. I see this idea best applied as a service supplied by dog walking services and veterinarians although I see no reason why if the dog had a dedicated machine it couldn't have such a surface on it all the time.
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||I think it's the non-intuitive
"The pads of the canine foot will be soft enough to grip without abrasion but contact with the hard toenail will quickly abrade the material".
||It's not the surface texture of the pads that do that, it's the.. umm.... squishyness of the entire pad which allows the surface to remain completely still during a paw step, while the claw is actually drawn across the surface. Like putting your hand on sandpaper and wiggling it back and forth as opposed to sliding it back and forth.
||I think it will abrade toe pads. But maybe not right away; so still worthwhile. It seems to me that it is dogs with poor mobility that have the most issues - cement wears down claws just fine. I am not sure that these sedentary dogs will be able to do the treadmill.
||If the abrasive surface oscilated laterally, very rapidly,
but with low amplitude, that might grind down the claw
without abraiding the pad: same principle as an oscillating
bone saw, which cuts hard things, but not soft ones.
||I have observed that on a slope the paw curls forward attempting to dig in with the claws thus exposing them to a brief scrape on the impermeable surface, also that this is true at low speeds as well as high. Also as to to the issue of soft pad abrasion, sand paper of a high grit has a very hard time abrading leather, even at a high sheer, so I suspect it would be fine for most dogs.