How Long Should Dog Nails Be?
The Correct Length
One of the fundamentals of looking after your dog’s nails is knowing when they’re going out of shape. It can be hard to tell from breed to breed how long dog nails should be.
In today’s guide, we’ll chat about what the ideal dog nail length is so you know when to grab your dog nail grinder to give those nails a trim! To source the best information for you and your pup, we teamed up with professional groomers, veterinarians, and devoted dog parents alike to form an independent team of experts.
In doing so, we discussed what owners need to know about keeping their dogs' nails healthy and how to make nail trimming a comfortable experience for human and canine alike. Let's get started!
The Perils Of Long Dog Nails
We often neglect nail care as dog owners because of the nature of nails themselves. For one, cutting your dog’s nails is a time-consuming process that could result in mild annoyance at best and injury at worst. Neither you nor your dog will particularly enjoy the nail clipping process so naturally, we tend to avoid it.
Secondly, a dog’s nails can be deceptive. They may appear healthy and well-groomed for quite some time when they could actually do with a quick trim. We only tend to notice them overgrowing when they are in a dire state. Our panel of independent experts aim to make you more confident with your dog's nail care to prevent that state from happening in the first place.
If you don’t trim your dog’s nails regularly, you could face the following issues:
How Short Should Dog Nails Be?
The short answer is there is no such thing as a correct dog nail length. A highly unhelpful statement, right?
Well, even if there were a mathematical equation to determine how long a dog’s nails should be, it would differ wildly from breed to breed. Naturally, some dogs have longer quicks.
The quick is that pink fleshy part in the interior of the nail that has lots of nerve endings and blood vessels. If you nip the quick, you will cause a very bloody mess and an awful amount of pain for your dog. Where the quick starts in your dog’s nail vary individually.
Our team of experts note that you also have the fact that the anatomy of dog paws vary by breed. Some dog breeds naturally withstand much longer nails than others.
This is why dog nail length is not an exact science. So how are you to know the correct length of your dogs nails?
Luckily, there are some rules of thumb we can keep in mind when it comes to dog nail care. The best way to determine if your dog’s nails are too long is to look out for tell-tale signs.
How To Tell If Dog Nails Are Too Long
Here are the five main ways you can tell if your dog’s nails are too long.
1. Your Dog’s Nails Tap On The Floor
The tip-tap of your dog walking into the kitchen may be a comforting sound to you. It certainly was for me. At least that’s what I used to think until I discovered that your dog’s nails should not be touching the floor when they walk around. Of course, this measure only works if you have hardwood floors or tiling in your home.
As a rule of thumb, your dog should be able to walk around the house without their nails dragging on the floor, and therefore, you shouldn’t hear them clicking as they walk.
2. Your Dog Is Tip-Toeing
If your dog’s nails are very overgrown, they may appear to be tip-toeing as they walk. It’s difficult to explain but essentially, sometimes they are doing this to relieve pressure from their paw as they walk around due to the discomfort of having long nails. It could also be that their nails are so overgrown that their paws can’t touch the ground. Their nails become stilts! (1).
Related: What To Do If Your Dog Has Nail Problems.
3. Your Dog’s Nails Scratch You More Often
We’ve all felt that slight scratch when your dog jumps on you or gives you their paw. However, this shouldn’t be a painful experience for you or them. It may be that your dog’s nails have been recently clipped but need filing with a dog nail grinder to soften those edges. It could be that your dog’s nails are so overgrown that they are curling under the paw and inadvertently scratching everything they touch. (We’ll expand on that a little later).
If you feel sharp scratches when your dog is showing you love, it’s time to inspect those paws.
4. Your Dog’s Nails Are Curling Under Their Paw
As I briefly mentioned in the previous point, a very clear sign that your dog’s nails are overgrown is they curl under the paw. Your dog’s nails will have a slight arch to them naturally, just as human nails do. Some dogs have curlier nails than others. But they should never curl underfoot. That full 180 degree curl is a really bad sign that your dog’s nails need grooming asap.
Related: Should You Trim Your Dog's Dewclaws?
5. Your Dog Is Limping Due To Discomfort
On the extreme end, extremely long nails that curl uncomfortably or prevent your dog from fully putting their weight on their paws can lead to strange walking patterns. A clear sign is limping. If your dog is limping at any point, you should clearly inspect their paws.
They may have an injury or a stick stuck in their paws. Or they could just have extremely long nails that they are struggling to walk on. Time to get out those clippers so that your dog can walk comfortably again.
How To Deal With Overgrown Dog Nails
Clipping or grinding your dog’s nails regularly is the only way to ensure they don’t get to an overgrown state.
Need expert tips on how to make the experience better for you and your pooch? We’ve written a complete guide on how to cut your dog’s nails for your reference.
Final Thoughts: Be Observant To Prevent Long Dog Nails
There isn’t a clear answer when it comes to how long your dog’s nails should be. To know if your dog’s nails are getting too long, you need to keep your ears and eyes open to your dog’s behaviour.
With this guide compiled alongside our panel of independent experts, you’ll be able to spot the signs before they get worse.
There isn’t an exact science as to how long it takes for dog nails to grow. It depends on several factors such as your dog’s nutrition and the type of walking they do. If your dog is very active on asphalt or concrete ground, their nails naturally file as they walk. Therefore, their nails may appear to grow slower, when in fact the ground is helping to maintain them.
On the contrary, if your dog is older, less active and/or primarily plays on soft grass, their nails may appear to grow faster.
Because each dog has a different rate of nail growth, it’s hard to say exactly how often you should clip or grind your dog’s nails.
Beth Turner, BVetMed, of Preventive Vet, writes “A good rule of thumb (pun definitely intended!) is that you should trim your dog's nails, or have them trimmed, as often as it takes to prevent their nails from touching the ground when they're standing.” (2)
Generally, most dog owners find that a clip every 1-2 months is sufficient for their dogs. But again, see what works best for you and your dog.
- Price, T. September 16, 2020. “7 Ways to Tell Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long”. Great Pet Care. Retrieved July 24, 2023. https://www.greatpetcare.com/wellness/7-ways-to-tell-your-dogs-nails-are-too-long/
- Turner, B. March 4, 2022. “How Often Should You Cut Your Dog's Nails?”. Preventive Vet. Retrieved July 24, 2023. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/how-often-should-you-cut-your-dogs-nails