How Long Should Dog Nails Be?(+Important Dog Nails Info)

One of the most dreaded elements of a dog grooming regime is nail clipping. While some dog owners have this down to fine art, others struggle with the process – either due to a lack of confidence in their own skills or because of the anxiety of their pet. As a result, some owners may neglect the process and allow the dog’s nails to grow.

How long should dog nails be? They should be long enough to be functional but just short enough to sit above the paw pad and not touch the ground. If a dog’s nails are too long, you will hear them touch the ground. If the nails are too short, dogs might struggle with their traction or their grip on objects.

Others may go too far the other way and cut the nails really short so they don’t have to do it so often. So, what is the best approach here? What is the ideal length for dog nails and what else should you be aware of? 

How Long Should Dog Nails Be?  

Dog nails can’t be too short because they are so important for helping dogs keep their balance, grip their food and toys, and dig a hole. However, if they are too long they can cause discomfort and potential medical issues. Therefore, it is important to find the right length. They should be long enough to be functional but just short enough to sit above the paw pad and not touch the ground. Regular wear and efficient nail clipping practices can ensure that your dog’s nails stay at the appropriate length.  

Are Dogs Supposed To Have Long Nails?  

Dog’s are meant to have nails of an appropriate length so that they can use these tools in their daily lives. There are some dog owners that would prefer that their dogs didn’t have any nails at all, and there is even the practice of removing the dewclaw at the back of the foot for cosmetic reasons. However, these nails are important for providing stability when the dog walks, traction on slippery ground, and a better grip on food and toys. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the animal not to cut the nails too short. 

Can Long Nails Hurt My Dog?  

On the other side of this, you don’t want to allow your dog’s nails to get too long either. Long nails can be a problem as they can make it more difficult for a dog to walk. You can also find that the nails start curling under and rubbing against the paw pad. This can cause pain and discomfort, with perhaps some cuts and bleeding if the situation gets too bad. The worse this gets, the harder it will be for your dog to walk normally. They may show more disinterest in activities and take a slower pace. They may also favor a specific paw if there is a problem with one nail. It is important to watch out for these issues and to check your dog’s nails regularly to make sure that they are the right length.   

How Do You Know If A Dog’s Nails Are Too Long?  

The issues above are all massive red flags that you let your dog’s nails grow too long. However, it shouldn’t ever get to that situation. Instead, you should be able to maintain an appropriate length. Make sure to check your dog’s paws whenever you spend time grooming and cleaning them. This regular attention not only allows you to look at the length and any issues with the paw pad, but it lets the dog get more comfortable with you touching their feet. Look at the length in relation to the paw pad. The tip should be level with or slightly above this point. If the nails continue past this point or seem to be curling into the pad, it is time to give them a trim.  

Will My Dog Be OK If I Cut His Nails Too Short?  

It depends on how short they are. If the nails are too short then they might struggle with their traction or their grip on objects. You also run the risk of cutting the nails too deep into an area called the quick. This isn’t so risky when you have dogs with paler nails as the quick is more visible, you should be able to make note of where to stop before there is any risk of damage. This isn’t so easy with darker, thicker nails. Here, it helps to either be cautious and cut only a little or to go slow and steady with a grinder.  

Can Dogs Feel When You Cut Their Nails?  

It all depends on where you cut. It is a little like working on our own nails. The white keratin part of our nails has no feeling at all and can be trimmed and broken with no ill effect. But, once we get to the part connected to the tissue and blood vessels, it is a different story. A dog’s claw is similar in that there is a keratin part that feels nothing and then it gets much more sensitive. That internal quick houses nerve endings and blood vessels. Therefore, they shouldn’t feel a thing if you cut their nail at the right length, but can if you get to the quick.   

With that said, it is still very important that you try and cut your dog’s nails as cleanly and gently as possible. You don’t want to tug at the nail and cause discomfort that way. You don’t want to leave a rough edge that could lead to further discomfort and injury down the line. You don’t want to be too forceful with a nail grinder as this can cause unpleasant vibrations in the dog’s paw.  

Does It Hurt A Dog When You Cut The Quick?   

It is important to avoid the quick as best you can because this is where those nerve endings are. If you cut too far and hit this area, you could find that your dog yelps in pain and the area may bleed. This is why it is better to either cut the nails less than you think you need to to be safe or to go slow with a nail grinder. A bad experience like this could put your dog on alert the next time you need to trim their nails and could be a setback when trying to train them to understand the process is safe and pain-free. If you do end up hitting the quick, it is important that you immediately put down the tools and comfort your dog. Check the area for bleeding and use some styptic powder to stem the blood.  

Does Walking Your Dog Trim Their Nails?  

Walking your dog should help to keep their nails in better condition. There is a reason that wild dogs don’t suffer from overgrown nails. Their regular exercise on different terrain helps to wear down the ends of the nails and keep them the appropriate length. Therefore, regular exercise and walks around the neighborhood on paved sidewalks should create a similar effect on the nails of domestic dogs. You could also find that time spent running around in the yard can offer a similar effect, especially if you have a paved area. However, there are lots of little companion dogs that spend long periods of time walking around on carpeted floors or playing on the grass. Here, their nails may become overgrown and in need of intervention. This is where it is vital that you can create an effective nail cutting regime at home for the best results  

How Can I Cut My Dog’s Nails At Home?  

It is perfectly fine to cut your dog’s nails with the appropriate tools in your own home. Your dog may appreciate this more than going to a groomer because they trust you and can stay comfortable in a familiar place. You can use a clipper or a grinder and work paw by paw with clean cuts.  

What Do I Do If My Dog Won’t Let Me Cut His Nails?  

This isn’t uncommon at first. Some dogs don’t like having their paws touched too much. Others may be afraid of the tools used. For example, a lot of dog owners prefer to use dog nail grinders rather than clippers because there is more control over the length and a smoother finish. However, the noise and vibration aren’t ideal.

The first thing to do is to try and get your dog used to having their paws handled from an early age and teach them the “give paw” command. Normalize the act so they don’t get so freaked out when it comes to having their nails. Next, get your dog used to the feel and sound of the tools before using them on the nails. Take small steps to get them comfortable.  

On that note, it also helps to create a comfortable place for them to sit while giving their paw. Bring a soft toy if needed. You can also use food rewards to train them when having their nails cut. Start with one treat per paw and reduce this later to one treat after the whole session. Be patient and give lots of praise for a job well done. It will get easier.   


In short, it is important to maintain an appropriate length when looking after your dog’s nails. Cut them too short and you could risk injuring your pet by cutting the quick or leave them with nails that aren’t as functional as they should be. Leave them too long and they could end up causing pain and mobility issues. Don’t rely on exercise alone to wear down the nails. Keep an eye on the length and learn how to cut your dog’s nails in an effective manner.