When we rescued our dog, Phoebe, a few years ago, we noticed right away that her nails seemed very long. So on our trip to the vet the next day, we asked that they trim them, for her comfort and for ours. It’s a service most veterinarians provide for free during appointments.
Now some of you may be thinking “I’ve never trimmed my dog’s nails even once, and they’re perfectly fine.” That may be true. Your dog may be active enough on asphalt, rocks and other hard surfaces that their nails file down naturally and don’t need routine trimming.
In our case, it turned out Phoebe’s nails were trimmed to about as short as they could be at that point. Because she’d lived in a crate for so many years with little-to-no physical activity, her nail beds had grown quite long. We were going to have to do some very routine trimming for a couple of years to get her nail beds to recede to a more normal length.
Why is this important? Why were we even concerned about her nail length? As I mentioned earlier, it was about her comfort as well as ours. Not only is it unhealthy for dogs’ nails to get terribly long, but it can also make it easier for them to scratch you, other people and your furniture.
So, if you want to keep your dog, yourself and your furniture (and floors) in great shape, here’s what you need to know about trimming your dog’s nails.
All dogs’ nails grow at different rates. Their nail length can depend on their activity level, but also their breed, age, whether they’re most active on hard or soft surfaces and their overall health. It’s important to check their nail length periodically because long nails can actually affect their ability to walk normally. When a dog’s nails get too long, it can make their toes turn to one side, causing joint discomfort and, in severe cases, joint abnormalities and arthritis.
How can you tell when your dog’s nails need a trim?
As a general rule, if your dog’s nails are touching the floor when they’re standing normally, it’s time for a trim. If they’re curved or curling, they’re past-due.
Here’s an example of a dog’s nails that are at the perfect length:
Once a dog’s nails are too long, it’s not always easy to know exactly where to trim them. Some dogs have dark or even black nails and it can be hard to see where the quick (the nail bed) is. If this is the case with your dog, as it was with our Phoebe, you may wish to have your vet or a professional groomer do the job. You can also try using an electric filing tool that will quickly trim back your pal’s nails without concern of cutting into the quick, causing pain and bleeding.
The same is true for dogs who are anxious about having their paws touched and/or nails cut, especially if they’re already older and you weren’t able to get them comfortable with nail trims as puppies.
Teach your dog to trust you
If your dog is anxious about nail trims, you can try the following to get them used to it.
- Massage your dog’s legs and paws routinely to get them used to being touched.
- Bring the clippers or nail file out while you’re doing this, but don’t actually use them.
- If you have another dog, trim their nails in front of your anxious dog. Reward both dogs after you’re finished.
If these tricks just don’t work for your dog, your vet and professional pet groomers are knowledgeable about how to get the job done while keeping your pet safe and secure.
Whatever option you choose, know you’re doing the best thing for your furry friend’s well-being by keeping them adequately groomed, even if the experience isn’t exactly a walk in the park for them.