How Long Should Dog Nails Be?

Julia Henriques
How long should dog nails be

Trimming your dog’s nails or figuring out how long dog nails should be is sometimes a confusing topic, filled with guesswork. But it doesn’t have to be. 

In fact, figuring out how long your dog’s nails should be is simple! 

So ... how long should dog nails be?

The length of your dog’s nails should be about 2mm away from the quick. 

Another rule of thumb is that the nails should extend far enough out of the quick that they are visible, but not long enough that they are going past the paw and touching the ground. 

Another way to think about it: your dog’s nails should ideally be short enough that they don’t touch the ground while standing on a level surface. But they should still be long enough to provide traction when walking uphill or downhill. 

How to Find the Quick on Dog Nails

So what is the quick, and how do you find it on your dog’s nails? 

The quick is the core of living tissue in your dog’s nails. The nails grow around this central core of pink tissue. Since the quick contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels, it bleeds profusely and is painful when clipped. 

To find the quick on your dog’s nails, gently hold his paw in your hand. Make sure no fur is covering the nails so you can see them clearly. Since your dog’s nails are semitransparent, you should be able to see a pink region toward the center of each nail. This pink area is the quick, and you want to avoid cutting it when trimming your dog’s nails so that you don’t hurt him. 

This works for dogs with dark nails too. In fact, it’s easier to see the nail structures on pigmented nails than on white ones.

How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails Without Hurting Him

1. Introduce Clippers And Build Comfort

Before doing any clipping, handle your dog’s paws often and introduce clippers frequently without any clipping. Use lots of praise and delicious treats as a reward. This will build comfort with the clippers and with you handling his paws. Make sure you get a quality pair of clippers. We recommend the plier style that comes with a guide, as this will help you avoid cutting the quick. 

2. Clip a Little At A Time 

When you’re ready to clip, hold your dog’s paw gently but firmly. Cut the nail below the quick at a 45 degree angle. To avoid cutting the quick while clipping, you want to trim just a small amount off the nails at a time. This is where the guide on your clippers comes in handy. You can safely cut the nail right to the guide. 

3. Continue to Trim

Continue to trim, but stop when you see the white inside the nail with a small dot of black at the center. If you don’t see the black, you can continue to cut a bit closer. But be careful to take just a small amount off at this point or you will cut the quick. 

How to Tell If Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

How long should dog nails be? Are your dog's nails too long? A good guideline is to trim once his nails start touching the ground while he’s standing on a flat surface. You may also hear his nails clicking as he walks around on a hard floor. That’s another sign that it’s time to trim. 

How Often To Clip A Dog’s Nails

You should clip your dog’s nails as often as needed to keep them from touching the ground and clicking when he walks. We recommend you check and or cut your dog’s nails every three weeks depending on how active he is. 

Most dogs need their nails clipped at least every three to four weeks, but some may benefit from more frequent clippings every week or every other week if possible. The quick actually recedes if your dog’s nails are cut more frequently. So while more frequent clippings may seem like a pain, they actually make the process less stressful for you and your dog. 

Do Vets Cut Dogs' Nails? 

Lastly, if you truly can’t bear cutting your dog’s nails yourself, most groomers and veterinary clinics will offer nail trimming service. Obviously, they'll charge for this, so you have to decide how much this convenience is worth to you. 

You should also keep in mind that some dogs may be stressed by strangers handling their paws and nails. If you can build trust by handling your dog's paws frequently and introduce the clipper without trimming, as described above, your dog is likely to trust you more than a professional to clip his nails.

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© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.