How Long Should a Dog’s Nails Be?

The correct dog nail length is when the nails don’t touch the ground when your dog is standing still.


Your dog’s nails provide traction and digging power even when they are short. The longer they get, the higher the risk that they may cause injuries. Nails clicking on the kitchen floor is a signal that it’s past time for a nail trim.

How long should a dog’s nails be? The correct dog nail length is short. Nails shouldn’t touch the ground when your dog is standing still. As your dog runs and flexes her feet on the move, the short nails will still contact the ground to give her a good grip.

Long Nails Can Cause Pain

Dog nails that are too long can impact how your dog walks. As the nail grows outward, it will also curve. A tight curve will eventually curl all the way around and start growing into your dog’s foot pad – ouch! This is painful and can lead to infections.

Even slightly curved nails are problematic. As the nails continue to grow, they gradually curve more and more. The dog’s feet will tip back to accommodate the long nails, changing your dog’s posture. This abnormal stance changes how your dog’s joints line up and can contribute to pain and joint disorders.

Dog's long nails
Dog nails that are allowed to grow without regular cutting will begin to curl around, back toward the paw. Credit zhihao | Getty Images

How to Tell if a Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

For many dog owners, nails clicking on the kitchen floor is the signal that it is time for a nail trim.

Another sign may be splayed, flat-looking feet. Some dogs have this conformation naturally, but regular nail trims to get them short over time can help the paw tighten up in some cases.

Nails getting caught in blankets, carpeting, or clothing can also be a sign that they are too long.

Dog Nail Trims Take Patience

You probably won’t be able to get your dog’s nails to their ideal length in one sitting, especially if they have been growing unchecked for a long time. Set a recurring alert on your phone to trim your dog’s nails at least once a week, taking off as much as you can safely each time. For dogs with black nails, just trim a little bit so you don’t have to worry about hitting the quick and hurting your dog.

You can trim your dog’s nails using a pet nail grinder or nail clippers. Trimming a small amount off your dog’s nails frequently will allow you to wear the nails back over time – and then keep them there. If your dog doesn’t like to get her nails trimmed, “A Counter-Conditioning Protocol for Trimming Your Dog’s Nails” offers tips and how to gradually get her to accept this chore.

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Kate Basedow, LVT is a long-time dog enthusiast. She grew up training and showing dogs, and is active in a variety of dog sports. She earned her Bachelors Degree in English from Cornell University in 2013, and became a licensed veterinary technician in New York in 2017. She has been writing professionally about dogs for most of her life, and has earned multiple awards from the Dog Writers' Association of America. Kate currently has three dogs at home, as well as a cat, two zebra finches, and six ducks.