Is It Ok To Walk Dog With Long Nails?

Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Nails

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed to a healthy length is extremely important. According to, neglecting nail care is one of the top reasons dogs are brought to the veterinarian(1). Overgrown nails can lead to pain, mobility issues, and even serious infections. But with some basic at-home care, you can keep your dog’s nails at an optimal length.

Why Dogs Need Their Nails Trimmed

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is important for their health and well-being. Untrimmed nails can cause problems by growing too long and causing discomfort, pain, and other issues for your dog. According to CollarCuts, one of the main reasons to regularly trim your dog’s nails is that it prevents injury and joint issues from uneven walking.

When a dog’s nails get too long, it forces their feet out of proper alignment and changes their gait. This puts more pressure on one side of their legs and joints. It can lead to arthritis and ligament tears over time. Long nails may also get caught on surfaces and tear off painfully. Trimming them prevents these injuries.

Trimming also keeps the nails from scratching you or snagging on fabrics and furniture. Blunt nails help your dog walk normally and comfortably without pain or future joint problems. Keeping them neatly trimmed is a simple way to care for your dog’s health and well-being.

Signs Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

There are a few clear signs that indicate your dog’s nails have grown too long:

  • Nails are touching the ground while your dog is standing still. This causes the toes to splay unnaturally and can lead to pain and pressure on the joints.
  • You hear clicking or tapping sounds when your dog walks on hard floors. The nails should not be making contact with the ground when walking normally.
  • Your dog’s paws appear flat on the floor instead of making a natural “cat foot” shape. Overgrown nails force the paw flat.
  • Your dog is hesitant to jump up or go down stairs. Excess nail length can make these activities uncomfortable.
  • You see light coming through underneath the nail. Healthy nails should not have visible space between them and the paw pad.

Paying attention to these signs and trimming overgrown nails promptly can prevent pain and future nail problems for your dog.

Dangers of Long Nails

Allowing your dog’s nails to grow too long can lead to a number of health issues. One of the most common problems associated with overgrown nails is pain and discomfort. As the nails get longer, they start to curl and press into the paw pads with every step your dog takes. This constant pressure can be very painful for your dog.1

Long nails can also lead to arthritis and joint problems, especially in older dogs. The unnatural angle of the overgrown nails forces your dog’s feet into an abnormal position, putting more pressure on the joints and possibly causing inflammation. Dogs with long nails may start limping or become reluctant to go on walks. Keeping the nails trimmed can help prevent these types of issues.2

Finally, overgrown nails have an increased risk of infections. With the nails constantly dragging on the ground, they are more prone to cracking, splitting, and tearing. These injuries expose the quick of the nail, which can allow bacteria to enter and cause infection. Ingrown nails that curl back into the paw pads can also lead to painful infections.

When Should You Trim Your Dog’s Nails?

Most dogs need their nails trimmed every 2-4 weeks. As a general rule, if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor when they walk, it’s time for a trim. The exact frequency depends on factors like the dog’s activity level and whether they regularly walk on hard surfaces that help wear down the nails.

According to PetMD, “It’s best to use the nail grinder every 7-10 days for maintenance.” For dogs that are very active outdoors, their nails may naturally wear down enough to go slightly longer between trims, like every 3-4 weeks. But indoor dogs or dogs that don’t walk much on pavement generally need more frequent trims, closer to every 2-3 weeks.

Puppies may need their nails trimmed as often as once a week, since their nails grow rapidly. Senior dogs may only need nail trims every 4-6 weeks due to slower nail growth. It’s ideal to inspect your dog’s nails weekly and trim whenever needed to avoid overgrowth.

Source: PetMD

Tips for Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

When it comes to trimming your dog’s nails, going slowly and making it a positive experience is key. Here are some tips to make nail trims less stressful for both you and your dog:

Use the proper nail clippers or grinder. Invest in a high-quality pair of clippers designed specifically for dogs. Make sure they are sharp so they cut cleanly through the nail. A nail grinder can also be used to slowly file down nails.

Give treats during trims. Give your dog praise and small tasty treats throughout the process to create a positive association. This will make them look forward to nail trims instead of dreading them.

Take breaks. If your dog seems stressed, stop momentarily and let them relax before continuing. Go at their pace.

Trim a little at a time. When in doubt, just trim off a small amount of the nail. It’s easier to take off more later than to over-trim.

Know where to cut. Be careful not to cut into the quick, which is the blood vessel inside the nail. The general rule is to cut off the hooked nail tip.

Ask your veterinarian or groomer to demonstrate proper technique if you are ever unsure about the process. With positive reinforcement and patience, regular nail trims will get easier for both you and your dog.[1]

What If You Can’t Trim Your Dog’s Nails?

If your dog absolutely refuses to let you trim their nails or becomes too stressed and anxious, there are still options to keep their nails short:

Take them to a professional groomer or vet – Many groomers and vets are experienced in safely restraining dogs for nail trims. They may use treats, muzzles, or other techniques to keep your dog calm during the process. This can be less stressful than you attempting to trim nails at home. Check reviews and get recommendations to find a good option in your area.

Try conditioning them slowly – With time and patience, some dogs can be conditioned to accept nail trims. Start with just touching their paws gently, treating, and praising. Slowly work up to holding the paw longer, showing the trimmer, and just lightly filing. Don’t rush the process. Reward calm behavior and stop if your dog seems scared. It may take weeks or months, but this classical conditioning can work for some dogs. Consult a trainer for advice.

As a last resort, speak to your vet about sedation options for nail trims. This allows the vet to safely trim the nails while your dog is relaxed under medication. However, sedation does come with risks and should not be done regularly. It’s best to try conditioning first. But for dogs with extreme fear, it may be needed in some cases.

Keeping your dog’s nails short is important for their health and comfort. If you are unable to trim them yourself, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. With patience and the right techniques, even extremely resistant dogs can learn to tolerate nail trims.

Teaching Your Dog to Accept Nail Trims

Nail trims can be stressful for many dogs. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog learn to accept having their nails trimmed.

Start by letting your dog inspect the nail clippers while you reward them with treats for calm behavior. You want them to associate the clippers with something positive. Leave the clippers out so your dog can get used to seeing them.

When your dog seems comfortable with the clippers near them, touch their paws briefly while giving treats. Gradually increase how long you hold their paw. Praise calm behavior. Don’t rush this step – it may take multiple sessions over several weeks.

Next, while rewarding your dog, gently touch the clippers to their nails without actually clipping. Take it slow and keep sessions short. Stop if your dog shows signs of stress.

Finally, trim just the very tips of the nails, followed immediately by treats and praise. Slowly work up to removing more length as your dog learns to accept the process.

Stay patient, keep sessions positive, and pause or stop if needed. With time, regular nail trims can become less stressful for you both. Seek advice from your vet or trainer if your dog remains very resistant.


Signs You Should See the Vet

While most dogs tolerate nail trims without issue, there are certain signs that indicate you should take your dog to the vet for an examination of their nails and paws instead of trimming at home. These include:

Bleeding: If your dog’s nails are bleeding significantly when you trim them, see your vet. Some minor blood is normal, especially if you trim into the quick, but excessive bleeding could indicate an underlying health issue.

Infection: Signs of a nail infection include swelling, redness, pain, and discharge around the nail. Infections require medication prescribed by your vet to clear up.

Abnormal growths: Lumps, bumps, cysts or tumors around the nails may be harmless or could require veterinary attention. It’s best to have your vet assess any abnormal growth on your dog’s paws (source).

See your vet promptly if you notice these or any other signs of illness around your dog’s nails. They can examine your dog, diagnose any issues, and provide appropriate treatment.


Keeping your dog’s nails properly trimmed is essential for their health and wellbeing. Long nails can cause pain, mobility issues, and increased risk of injury. By regularly inspecting your dog’s nails and trimming them as needed, you can avoid these problems.

Look for signs like nails touching the ground when standing, clicking noises when walking on hard surfaces, nails splitting or getting caught, or licking/chewing at their paws. Use clippers and files to carefully trim just the tip of the nail above the quick. Give rewards to make it a positive experience.

With some patience and practice, most dogs can learn to accept regular nail trims. But if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, seek help from a vet or groomer. Maintaining short, healthy nails is an important way to keep your dog comfortable and safe.

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