How Often Should You Trim Your Dog's Nails?

How Often Should You Trim Your Dog's Nails?

Are you wondering how often to cut dogs’ nails, and why it needs to be done in the first place? Do you know how and when to trim, or where to find a groomer who can handle the trimming for you?

We’ve got you covered with the basics of nail trimming for your puppy or adult dog, including a simple, step-by-step process below. Keep reading for more ways to tell if your dog’s nails need trimming, and what to do when it’s time. 

How often to trim dog nails

The next question is how often to trim dog nails, and that answer mostly depends on your dog. 

Whether your dog primarily spends their walks on soft or hard ground makes a lot of the difference. Dogs who walk on softer ground are more likely to have difficulty maintaining their nail length, whereas pups who walk on harder ground can sometimes keep their own nail length in check. 

Some other factors that determine how often your dog’s nails need to be cut are genetics, their diet, their breed, their activity level, and other health factors unique to your dog. Check your dog’s nails at least bi-weekly to make sure they’re not putting your precious pup’s paws in a compromising or painful posture. 

If you forget to check in with your dog’s nail length periodically, there are many signs that will let you know it’s time to pay attention to pup’s paws. These include when your dog starts to scratch you or others when they make paw-contact, and when their nails begin clicking on the floor as they walk. Other signs might include your dog sliding across the floor more often, unable to get traction with their paws, or frequently licking or biting at their paws. If your dogs’ nails curl under the foot or your dog looks like they’re tip-toeing or limping, you’ve let their nails grow too long for safety and good health.

Cutting dog toenails: the how and why

Long nails on dogs can not only damage your home, but they can hurt your body and potentially your dog, or other dogs, during daily activities. Long dog nails are also uncomfortable for your pet, and nails that are kept too long can affect your dog’s paws and the way they walk. It’s important for the health and safety of your pet to help them maintain appropriate nail length with regular trimming.

If you’re wondering how to cut long dog nails, you’ve come to the right article. Here’s our step-by-step guide to properly trimming your dog’s nails:

  1. Prepare your tools, workspace, and any other products you want to apply as part of your pet’s paw health routine. These might include a flashlight or headlamp and any balms or ointments your pet’s paws need. You might also want to get a nail styptic powder, in case a too-short trim causes bleeding.
  2. Determine the appropriate length for your dog’s nails (more in the next section), and visually inspect each paw to gauge where you’ll need to cut.
  3. Cut your dog’s nails by firmly grasping each paw and trimming parallel to the bottom edge. Do not angle the clippers upward or cut too close to the blood supply. 
  4. Reward your pet with positive affirmations and a small treat for each paw.
  5. Use a nail file to clean up any jagged edges that might hurt you, your pet, or your property. 

How short to cut a dog's nails

It’s very important to investigate your dog’s paws and nails before attempting to cut their nails. Dog’s nails need trimming for their health and safety, but trimming too short can cause severe pain and put your pet at risk of an infection. 

Your dog's nails should not press into the floor when they are standing comfortably. If they do, they are too long and might be causing your pet pain and negatively affecting his or her health. Nails should be trimmed just beyond the blood supply (or “quick”) within. 

Take your time to be sure where the blood supply is in each nail BEFORE beginning to cut. Clear and white nails make it very easy to spot the blood supply inside the nail. Darker dog nails may require the use of your flashlight. If you can’t tell exactly where the blood supply is, try shining your flashlight through the back of the nail. If you still can’t see it, cut conservatively and make as many cuts as you need to bring the nail back to an appropriate length.

Cutting a puppy’s nails

If you’re trying to cut puppy nails for the first time and want to know whether or not there’s a different technique, best method, or frequency to cutting juvenile nails, the short answer is yes. 

You should begin cutting your puppy’s nails around 6 weeks old, or when they first reach the length explained above. Even if your puppy’s nails take longer than 6 weeks to grow beyond a healthy length, it’s a good idea to “practice” nail trimming from an early age to help your pet get more comfortable with the process. 

It can also help you get more comfortable with the process. Depending on the personality, size, and eventual size of your dog, you might take this time to figure out the logistics of nail trimming. For many pet parents, it’s useful to stand side-by-side with your pet, with them perched on a surface at around the height of your hip. That way, your pet is comfortable, and so are you. 

If a surface isn’t available, take up the same stance (next to your pup) from a kneeling position on the floor. Use your left or non-dominant hand to hold your puppy's paw, and your right hand to do the trimming (or pretend trimming). Remember this is a time to reward good behavior and reinforce to your pet that they are safe and loved in your care. 

Where to find professional nail cutting for dogs

If you’re still unsure about how or when to cut your pup’s nails, most groomers will cut nails for dogs along with their hair cuts. Ask your favorite groomer to add this service when your furry friend needs it, or maybe make it a regularly scheduled service along with your other grooming services. 

Pet groomers who cut dog nails are also great for dogs who have more difficult nails to manage, like those that are not transparent, are extra thick, or belong to a pooch who does not love the nail cutting process. 

Looking for a good groomer near you? Check out our recent guide to the best Charlotte-area pet stores. Many of those that made the list are also celebrated for their expert grooming techniques and customer service that keeps your pet at ease during the visit.