How Long Should Dog Nails Be? All You’ll Need To Know

How Long Should Dog Nails Be? Photo of a dog paw with long dog nails.

Is there a set length for dog nails? Are your dog’s nails making them uncomfortable? Here’s what you’ll want to know about everything to do with how long should dog nails be.

Generally, your dog’s nails should be no longer than their paw. If your dog’s nails go further past their paw pad, they are too long and should be trimmed properly. Other signs to watch for to help you see that our dog’s nails need trimming include their nails curling into their pad, clicking on the floor, and their nails getting caught on furniture, clothing, etc.

Neglecting nail health can lead to health concerns, so it’s essential to make it a priority for your dog.

Why is nail trimming a health concern for dogs?

The best way to understand a dog’s nail health is to look at it as if it were human nails. If we didn’t have access to nail cutters, our nails would grow continuously and catch on to everything.

Many of us would also have nails that would curl in on themselves since we would continue to use them. Eventually, the strain would curl the tips back forward, and they’d bite into our finger pads. They’d also splinter and break. In essence, we’d be in a mess.

This is your dog’s natural situation. Since they can’t grab a pair of nail clippers, they rely on us to help keep their nails the correct length for their health.

Is it okay not to trim dog nails?

If you’ve ever tried to trim your dog’s nails only to have them fight you endlessly, you might be too upset to try again. It’s perfectly fine not to trim your dog’s nails yourself, but you will need to get them to a vet or a pet groomer who can do it regularly for you.

Many dogs find nail cutting stressful, so don’t overlook this if it’s something that might ease both of your discomforts.

Can long nails hurt my dog?

Yes, having nails that are too long can hurt your dog and lead to general discomfort, pain, and even infection in their paws! To best understand this, it’s easiest to take a detailed look at what it would do as far as the possible complications of the nail itself! These include:

  • Nail splitting
  • Caught nails
  • Curled nails
  • Paw pad discomfort
  • Painful walking

Nail splitting

When nails are too long, their tips are constantly under pressure. Over time and with abuse, those tips can splinter and essentially crack. This splitting would feel like a hangnail feels to us, humans.

It’s very painful and leads to inflammation at the nailbed and is something that can make the impacted finger hard to use. Since dogs walk on their “fingers,” it can make any and all movement difficult.

Caught nails

The longer your dog’s nails are, the easier it will be for them to get them caught on things. From their bed to their limbs of fur, to your furniture, and even you. Caught nails can lead to frustration and pain if they scrape against sensitive skin or get caught in their fur. It also can stress the nail further and lead to more chances of splintering and cracking.

Curled nails

Dogg nails naturally project down to the ground. So, they will quickly start to curl in on themselves and toward your dog’s paw pad. This is especially the case with their dew nail. As the nails curve and curl, they quickly cause painful walking, both on their toe joint and in their paw pad.

If left long enough, it can even throw off their gait since their nail can impact the way their feet move when striding.

Paw pad discomfort

As the nail bites into the paw pad, the paw pad itself will become uncomfortable. The nail can quickly cut right into their paw pad, causing irritation, cuts, and infection since the nail will allow dirt and debris into the sensitive skin beneath the paw pad.

Painful walking

Walking on nails are that are too long is painful at the best of times and dangerous at the worst of times. It sounds like a minor thing, but remember that dogs walk on all four feet. If all four feet have nails that are too long, any and all movement will be excruciating for them.

Photo of a dog owner cutting his dog's long nails.

How often should a dog’s nails be trimmed?

Most professionals will recommend nail trimming once every six weeks, though this is intended as an average only. Some dogs will have faster-growing nails that need to be trimmed properly every four weeks.

How do I know if dog nails are too long?

Spotting a dog with nails that are too long isn’t difficult once you know what to look for! After learning about the signs, many people are surprised to find that their dogs live almost constantly with nails that are too long!

The good news is that you can always use this to help you change your ways and support better nail health for your dog. Signs of a dog with nails that are too long include:

  • Clicking on the floor when they walk
  • Scraping furniture or you with them when moving around 
  • The nail expends past the paw pad in length
  • The nail is curling in
  • The nail visibly looks very long 

If you spot any or all of these, you’ll want to grab the nail clippers or book your dog in for a mani-pedi to help them get their quality of life back together.

Should dog nails click on the floor?

As you’ve read above, nails that click are too long. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to grab the clippers at the first sound of a click!

For instance, it’s not uncommon for dogs to click their nails when stretching or getting up, or lying down. Some will click when they are scraping at the door to go out, too. The clicking that means a nail session is needed will be evident with regular clicking like your dog is wearing high heels!

What do overgrown dog nails look like?

A dog with overgrown nails will look like they have talons! They will be long, tapered, and curled towards their paw. You’ll be able to spot them, too, by their excessively worn ends if you take their paw in your hand. Simply: overgrown dog nails are easy to spot, and you should trim them before they “look overgrown”!

How do I know how far to clip my dog’s nails?

This is often what makes many pet owners hesitant to attempt cutting their dog’s nails! If they cut the quick, their dog will yelp and blame you for a painful and bleeding nail. They’ll be much more resistant the next time, as will you, which will worsen the situation further. 

If your dog has light nails, you’ll be able to see the quick. The first few times you are cutting, stop a healthy distance from the quick. When you are ready, you can cut as close to 2mm from the tip of the quick. This 2mm distance from the quick is considered professional. 

If your dog has dark nails, it will be very difficult to see the quick. It might be a good idea to have a professional walk you through it a few times until you understand the distances. 

If you do cut your dog’s quick once or twice, don’t panic! This happens with professionals all the time, and it doesn’t mean that your dog will hate you! Stay calm, blot the bleeding, and give your dog plenty of love. Then try again.

Continuing after cutting the quick is vital because your dog will be more likely to remember the love and attention than the painful quick. 

Does clipping a dog’s nails hurt?

Clipping a dog’s nails hurt the nail or your dog. To make sure that you are minimizing any stress or discomfort from the process, here are some tips to help:

  • Get your dog used to you handling their nails and paws regularly;
  • Use good-quality nail clippers with sharp, precise blades;
  • Make it a habit and routine event, much like other grooming activities;
  • Have someone hold your dog to keep them still.

Dog nail clipping is often more stressful for us than for our dogs. That’s why going to a professional is recommended if you know that it will make you uncomfortable. Plus, your dog will get it done quickly and professionally, which helps them stay comfortable.

Does walking your dog trim their nails?

This has been floating around the internet for a few years. Is it true? Yes, actually. You can trim your dog’s nails by walking on materials such as concrete and asphalt, which they’d get when enjoying their daily walk. This will help like a nail board would for humans. However, it’s still no substitute for proper nail care!

All in all

Proper nail maintenance is much more important than most give it credit for. These tips and suggestions will help you to see why it matters and how to make it as stress-free and painless as possible for them and you.

The general length of your dog’s nails should be shorter than their paw pad when it is on the ground. Any longer and it means that they will be prone to splintering and ingrown nails.

Avoiding proper nail care can jeopardize your dog’s health and cause them a lot more stress and pain than going to a groomer would. If you can’ cut your dog’s nails properly, going to a professional regularly is recommended!

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.