May 17


How Long Should My Dog Nails Be?

How Long Should Dog Nails Be

How Long Should My Dog Nails Be?

You would think that the answer is quite simple, but there are a few things you have to consider when you are thinking about the length of your dog's nails. There is no specific length that is best for your dog.

There are so many breeds and sizes of dogs that a specified length would not be suitable for everyone. The best length for nails is determined on a dog-to-dog basis.

When standing on all legs, the nails should not be touching the floor. If they touch the ground, they are too long.

When Should You Cut Your Dog's Nails?

Dog nails grow at a slower rate if we compare them to humans. Most dogs will not need nail trims for approximately 4-8 weeks. 

We must consider the breed and size of the dog, as some may need to have their nails cut sooner than others. A dog's nails on the hind legs usually grow slower than the front legs, so you may need to trim the front nails more often.

All dogs should start getting their nails trimmed when they are a puppy to ensure that they get used to the procedure and the sensations. Nails will need to be checked regularly to make sure that they are not too long, that they don't touch the ground and that no damage or infections have occurred.

Instruments You Need To Cut Your Dog's Nails.

There are a few different items you will need to make it easier to get started with nail trimming.

Some items you may need are:

  • Clippers - You need to make sure your clippers are safe to use and that they have a safety guard attached. They should be durable and made of quality stainless steel material. Stainless steel typically gives you a sharper, cleaner cut of the dog's nails as well as being a good rust deterrent.

There are a few shapes, styles, and sizes of clippers that are available for dogs:

  1. Guillotine style - this style should only be used on bigger breeds.
  2. Scissor style - like the name tells us, it's shape is typical of a pair of scissors.
  3. Pliers style - as the name suggests, these look similar to a set of pliers.
  4. Electric grinder - much like a mini sander. It is not recommended to introduce this to an older dog as they may get frightened of the noise.

  • Regular scissors - Just in case there is a lot of fur in between the paws and paw pads
  • A table - A table that is waist height is the most suitable to work on. It will help to avoid straining your back when cutting the dog's nails.

  • Good lighting - Good lighting is essential to avoid cutting your dog somewhere or cutting their nails incorrectly and causing injury

  • Restraints/dog lead - your dog might be a bit weary, so you should have a dog lead on standby just in case.

  • Muzzle: this is optional - if you have trained your dog when he/she was a puppy, you most likely won't need to use a muzzle

  • Styptic Powder - this is useful if you make a mistake when you trim your dog nails and cut too close to the nail bed and expose the blood vessels

  • Patience - dog nail clipping can be a tedious job, you will need patience to get this task sorted

  • And don't forget a treat for being a good boy!

How Do You Cut Your Dog's Nails?

Clipping a dog nail is relatively easy, once you know what you are doing. 

When nail clipping dogs for the first time, you should get a groomer or vet to show you how to do it, so you don't cause any damage to the nerves.

The first thing you should do is gather all your supplies.

The most popular and more common type of trimmers is the scissor style dog clippers. It is the most versatile of the types of clippers you can buy.

When choosing which clippers to use, use the dog as a guide. Small dogs will need small clippers, and bigger dogs will need the stronger types like the guillotine or even the electric trimmer or even a dremel - a hand-held rotary machine that you can use as a nail file.

If you have borrowed clippers from a friend, you should ensure the clippers are sharpened because if you use a blunt pair of clippers, you might end up splitting your dog's nail and causing pain to your dog.

Once you have all your tools, you can begin practicing.

  1. Practice makes perfect - You should practice first because you need to get a feel for how to use the clippers. You need to know the correct way to hold the nail clippers and how much force is needed when you are doing the job.
  2. Once you are confident, you can go and find your dog and pop him/her on the waist-height table. Check that there is good quality lighting so you can see what you are doing.

Now you're ready to get your dogs paw, secure it gently and get the clippers ready.

  1. Place the clippers in the direction you need to trim your dog nails before you secure the clippers in place.

You must not cut any further than needed, or you will damage the nail. If you can see a pinkish coloring within the nail - stop before it. This is the nerve of the nail.

Some dogs may have a dark-colored nail where it's difficult to see the quick where the nerve starts. 

  1. It is important not to hesitate here, hold your ground and get your dog's paw steady and quickly squeeze the clippers over the nail in one swift motion.

The nail has a casing over it kind of like an eggshell, this can sometimes get caught on the clippers. Be careful not to tug away at this shell. Pry open the clippers and gently remove them. This extra piece will drop off by itself on the ground.

  1. Repeat the process for each nail.
  2. Once you have finished with everything, give your dog a treat to reward him/her for being a good sport and for behaving well.

How To Cut Your Dog's Nails if They are Black 

Some dogs have darker nails than others. Sometimes they are even completely black. This can make it difficult to know where to stop nail trimming.

A good tip is to cut slowly and in smaller increments. This will help you to determine where the start of the nerve is. You will need to keep looking at the nail as you trim in small pieces.

The nerve end has a distinct marking inside another marking. To see this marking, you will need to look closely at the nail. The first marking will show up as an oval-like spot on the nail. This is usually a greyish color. As you continue to cut, you will see another spot inside this spot. This new spot is the start of the nerve. This is when you should stop trimming.

What Happens If You Let Your Dogs Nails Grow Too Long?

If you have ever had your nails too long, you will know how annoying it can be. When a dog nail is too long, it can cause a lot of issues. Not only can they be painful for your dog, but they can also cause deformities in the toes, paws, and joints of the ankle and legs. If they are close to the ground, you need a nail trimming 

What To Do If You Cut Your Dog's Nails Too Short

We all make mistakes, and if you have accidentally cut the nail too short, there is no need to panic because there is an easy solution to help.

You can place some styptic powder over the area. If you don't have any styptic powder, you can use a new bar of soap. To use the soap, rub it along the nail that is cut too short. The soap will act as a type of plug to help control any bleeding that has occurred.

If you have cut the nail too short, your dog may become reluctant to have the rest of the nails done. You may need to stop and do the rest another time. If this is the case, give your dog a treat and stop trimming for now.

Common Mistakes Dog Owners Makes When Trimming Nails

There are some common things that dog owners do that should be avoided.

These common mistakes include:

  • Trimming long nails too short.
  • Using instruments that are not sharp enough
  • Using the incorrect instrument
  • Not trimming the nails regularly enough
  • Letting the nails get too long before they get the nails trimmed
  • Not training their dogs to have their nails trimmed

A good idea is to place a reminder on your calendar or make sure you book the next nail trimming session straight away while you are still at the groomers. Some dog owners will just get nail trimming done only when they notice they are getting long nails that touch the ground, and by then it could be too late.

Nail Diseases And Disorders In Dogs Nails

There are many types of nail disorders and diseases that can become an issue.

The most common types are caused by bacterial and fungal infections. They can start to become infected if they have been traumatized in some way, sometimes a cause can be from a dog's owner, cutting their nails incorrectly or from something outside on the ground.

Other types of infections that can occur can cause your dog's nail to become brittle, or the nails can start to peel or chip away. It's Important to see your vet immediately if you notice something that doesn't look right or seems to be causing pain to your dog.

If your dog is continually licking at their feet or seems to walk funny, that could be a sign that something is wrong.

Tips On Training Your Dog To Have Their Nails Trimmed

Start training your dog to have his nails trimmed when he is young. 

Other helpful tips include:

  • Clipping dogs nails at regular intervals - Even if your dog doesn't need them to have them trimmed, it is a good idea just to do them anyway to familiarize your dog with the procedure.
  • Avoid the dewclaw - this is the claw that is on the leg, not so much the paw. It is the dog's "thumb" if you like, and it generally does not interfere with walking. 
  • Have your treats ready to go
  • Get your dog to lie on the side - try to get your dog into the habit by rolling him/her on his side even if it's just on the ground and give him a treat when he/she is relaxed.

About the author 

Stan Jones

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