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How to cut your dog’s nails: the importance of dog nail trimming

Your dog’s claws are constantly growing. Some dogs need their claws clipping regularly to keep them in check. Without cutting, they could do some serious damage!

But how often should you cut your dog's nails – and what’s the best way to do it?

How to cut your dog’s nails

Most dogs don’t like having their nails trimmed, so it’s a good idea to get your pooch used to having his paws handled when he’s young – and keep some tasty treats to hand to reward him for sitting well through a session. 

Experts recommend cutting dogs’ nails two millimetres away from the quick. That’s great if your dog has clear or pale-coloured nails, as it’s easy to spot the quick inside the nail. If he has dark nails it can be harder to see where the quick is. If this is the case, you may prefer to file his nails, or let your vet or dog groomer clip them for you.

There’s a wide range of types of nail trimmer available – ranging from guillotine to plier-type clippers – and each has its own instructions. Be sure to choose good quality, sharp clippers that are designed for your size of dog, as they do vary.

Many dogs have thick nails that are hard to cut. If this is the case with your dog, it can help to bathe him first, to soften the nails. 

Once you’ve trimmed the nails with cutters, use an emery board to file the nail smooth. Rear claws are often shorter and need less frequent trimming than those on the front feet.

When to clip your dog’s nails

How often your dog’s nails need to be cut depends on his age, breed, and lifestyle; young active dogs are unlikely to need their claws clipping at all as they will wear down naturally.  Older more sedentary dogs may need their claws clipping as often as once a week. It is important to check your dog’s nails regularly to ensure they do not become overgrown.  

Active dogs naturally wear down their nails each day when they’re out walking and playing – especially if you live in a town or city and regularly walk on pavement or other hard surfaces, rather than fields and grass. As inactive or older dogs walk less, their nails don’t wear down in the same way, and may need cutting or filing more regularly.

Why dog nail trimming is important

If your dog’s nails become too long it can put pressure on his pads and paws, which ultimately causes strain in the legs and knees. As a guide, your dog’s claws shouldn’t protrude over his pad, and shouldn’t touch the ground when he stands. A tell-tale sign that his nails are too long is if you can hear them tapping on the floor as he walks. 

Good luck! And remember – neatly trimmed nails lead to happy dogs. 

“If your dog’s nails become too long it can put pressure on his pads and paws, which ultimately causes strain in the legs and knees.”

Advice on grooming and dog care

For expert advice on cutting your dog’s nails and all other aspects of dog grooming and care, contact your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.