How Often Should I Trim My Dog’s Nails

Proper grooming is important for both the health and for the comfort of your dog. Some owners choose to let a professional groomer handle the bathing, styling and nail trimming for them while others like to care for their dog’s grooming needs at home. One question that often comes up among dog owners who groom their own pets is: How often should I trim my dog’s nails?

While some might think the answer is as simple as ‘when they get too long’, there really is a little more to it than that. In ideal conditions, you wouldn’t have to trim the dog’s nail at all (except for the dew claw). That is because if given proper exercise under the right conditions, the nails would naturally be kept to a perfect length.

When you take your dog for walks, the nails will wear down a little with each step. This is nature’s way of keeping a dog’s nails trimmed. When a dog does not get enough exercise, the nails will grow so long that you can hear them tapping when they walk across the floor. That is when you will have to start trimming.

The exception to that rule is the dew claw. This is the claw that grows on the inner side of the paw. Because this claw doesn’t touch the ground during exercise, it will need to be trimmed regularly. If the dew claw is not properly trimmed, it could bend and grow right into the dog’s skin or pad. The only remedy for this is surgery, which must be performed as soon as you notice the problem. Otherwise, infections and other can result.

Many dogs are extremely resistant to the nail trimming portion of their grooming routine. A dog that is being uncooperative can make this chore very difficult. If they squirm a lot, they can cause you to accidentally trim the nail too short. This can result in you cutting the ‘quick’, which is the fleshy tissue under the nail. Cutting the quick will cause a lot of bleeding and is very painful for your dog. Some dogs are so bothered by nail trimming that they have to be sedated. If your dog seems very upset, do not attempt to continue with the trimming. Instead, talk to your vet or a professional groomer for some advice.

If a dog has not been properly exercised then his nails will may grown too long. When this happens, the quick may also grow longer than normal in order to provide nourishment to the entire nail. You will either have to leave the nail longer (however long the quick is) or opt for a more radical solution where a vet will cut both the nail and the quick down while the dog is under general anesthesia.

Proper grooming throughout the dog’s life can help avoid such a problem from occurring. Because it’s important to know what you’re doing when trimming a dog’s nails, the best idea is to leave this to the professionals. If you’d rather do it yourself, however, there are some tools that you will need to help make the job as simple and safe as possible.


There are several trimmers available. The two most common are the guillotine type and the scissor type. Many groomers recommend the guillotine trimmers, but you’ll want to have both on hand.

Scissor trimmers are easier to use on nails that have begun to curl. On other nails, the guillotine trimmers are the safest choice. The reason for this is that this type of trimmer features a ring that rests on the point of the nail that you want to trim. It remains in place as you cut, so it’s less likely that you’ll cut the nail too short.

Just in Case

You should keep some corn starch or a styptic pencil on hand in case you do trim too far and cut the quick. These will help stop the bleeding very quickly. Even without these items, the bleeding should stop on its own within about 5 minutes. If this isn’t the case, you’ll need to call your vet.

Whichever tools you decide to use, you will need to be careful not to trim too far. It’s much easier to safely trim a light colored nail than a darker one. That is because, with a light colored nail, the quick is easy to see, therefore you know exactly how far down to trim. When trimming light colored nails, it is safe to cut the nail in one clip. This is not the case with dark nails.

Since the quick is not visible through darker nails, it’s much easier to cut too far. To avoid this, trim in several small cuts. This will help to reduce the chance of you trimming too far.

If your dog seems especially sensitive to the trimmers, or if you are extremely nervous using them, there is another option for keeping your dog’s nails the proper length.

Dremel Tools

As an alternative to trimming, some owners and groomers have opted to use a dremel tool in order to keep their dog’s nails at an appropriate length. Dremel tools can be purchased at any hardware store. Think of them as a motorized nail file. Instead of trimming the nails, use this tool to file them down to the desired length. An important note: most dremel tools have both stone and sandpaper attachments. Only use the sandpaper, NEVER the stone attachments. Also, you will need to purchase a tool that offers several speeds. Only use the lowest setting.

So how often should you trim your dog’s nails? The answer is going to be different for every dog. What you should do is check the nails weekly to be sure they aren’t getting too long. Also, listen when your dog walks across the floor. If you can hear the click, click, click of their nails, then it is time to trim. Also, if you’re not completely comfortable completing this task, then it’s probably best to leave the nail trimming to a professional groomer.



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