So How Often Is Enough?
Like many such questions there are of course several factors that affect the answer. With regard to the frequency of nail trimming, these factors can include, amongst other things:
- The type of surface your dog spends most of their time on. Are they indoor mostly and only touching carpet? Outdoors on grass or dirt? Or do they go for frequent walks on asphalt or concrete?
- How much time their feet actually spend on the ground. Do they spend most of their day in your arms or on the couch? Or do they get around under their own power?
- What they eat. Your dogs nutritional plan, particularly the balance of certain minerals and vitamins can have an impact on the health and growth rate of your dog's nails.
- Certain health conditions. Dogs can get nail bed infections, auto-immune disorders, and tumors that can affect the health and growth rate of their nails.
The Rule of Thumb
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 (just like in the inset photo). And while this frequency will be different for each dog, the more often you do it the more accustomed to and amenable to it they will be. Especially if you start young, go slowly, and take care to avoid the nerves and blood supply to the nails. So if it's possible and practical to trim your dog's nails weekly or at least every other week, you'll likely see better results, have a much less stressed dog, and experience less stress yourself in the process.
Aim to take enough off of each nail to keep it short, yet not so much that you cut the quick (blood supply) or the nerve endings that extend just beyond the leading edge of the quick. Of course this is easier to do in dogs with clear nails then it is in those whose nails are dark. With either colored-nails though, it's important to go slowly and give your dog lots of praise and positive rewards (treats) throughout the process.
Training Your Dog To Accept Getting Their Nails Trimmed
For some great, step-by-step advice on using clicker training to get a dog to accept — and even like — nail trims, check out this helpful video. If your dog ever gets too stressed and resists the procedure, don't dig in your heels and persist but rather take a break, reassure and play with him, and try again later. Perhaps going slower and doing just one nail, or one paw, at each session.
Why You Don't Want To Let Your Dog's Nails Get Too Long
- Long nails can actually be painful for your dog when they strike the pavement with each step.
- Long nails can make it difficult for your dog to have a good grip as they walk along slick floors (hardwood, linoleum, etc.)
- Long nails are more likely to get hung up on things and torn off. (Ouch!)
- Untrimmed nails can curl and grow into your dog's skin or paw pads, resulting in an infection and pain. This is true of all nails, but especially the dewclaws.
- And then there's the damage that long nails can do to your floors, furniture, and your skin.
Cutting The Nail Too Short
Should you ever cut your dog’s nails too short — which many people, including professionals, have done — you'll want to have something on hand to stop the bleeding. You can get styptic powder at any pet supply store, but if you ever catch yourself without some, cornstarch works just as well. Of course, with patience, care, and a well-acclimated dog, you’re less likely to ever need either.
Good luck and happy clipping (or filing)!