When and why do I need to trim my dog's claws?

When the claws are too long, it can lead to health problems. For example, it can cause deformities and postural damage, hinder your dog when walking and cause pain. So-called dewclaws can grow into the dog's leg and cause inflammation.

We would like to explain to you here how the claws should be cut and what options you have.

When are the claws too long?

The claws are too long when they touch the floor. Either you kneel down or you put your dog on a table. When the claws touch the ground, it is time to shorten the claws. If you can't see it properly, take a piece of cardboard (3 - 4 mm thick) and push it under the claws. If the cardboard can be pushed under the claws, everything is still fine. Most of the time, you can also hear if the claws are touching the floor when your dog walks on the parquet or stone floor at home.

Also watch out for the so-called dewclaws, which is a toe on the inside of the hind or front legs that has no contact with the ground. These claws very often grow around and can grow into the leg if they become too long.

On the left, the length of the claws is ideal, whereas on the right, the claws are too long.

Claw growth, natural wear

Generally, dog claws grow relatively round. However, there are also dogs with very short claws, which grow very little curved and usually do not need to be shortened so often.

The growth of the claws varies for each dog and depends mainly on the surface on which the dog regularly walks. By nature, claws wear away on hard surfaces, such as asphalt, stony paths, etc… Digging also helps the claws to naturally wears off. Dogs that move and run around a lot, wear their claws more, whereas older dogs that move slowly need more attention.

Light and dark claws

Some dogs have light - almost white/translucent - claws. In these claws, the nerve is very well visible. Here you can - no matter with which tool - cut the claws yourself very well.

Other dogs have dark - almost black - claws. With these claws, it is a little more difficult because the nerve is barely or not at all visible. Try to shine a small but bright flashlight through the claws. Often this helps, and you can see the nerve well. If you are uncertain, we strongly recommend a claw grinder. The claw grinder grinds only very little, so you approach the nerve slowly. You could cut the nerve with claw clippers, but not with a claw grinder, you would only touch it and not hurt it badly.

The different tools

Whether claw scissors or clippers, it is important that your tools are really sharp. Unsharp tools crush the claw and can also lead to injuries of the nerve. Good claw clippers can be resharpened, ask your scissor grinder if he also resharpens claw clippers.

Claw scissors

Depending on the size of the scissors, they are only suitable for thinner/smaller claws. Several millimeters can be shortened with them, so they are quite practical - but more suitable for smaller dogs/pets.

When shortening the claws with scissors, the claw can splinter and sharp edges can form. You can round these with a normal nail file or with a claw grinder.

Claw clipper

Claw clippers are often available in different sizes, they are a little stronger than claw scissors and are therefore suitable for any pet (from guinea pigs to large dogs). With claw clippers, you can shorten the claw several millimeters at once. Because they are made of stronger material, claw clippers- in my experience - tend to stay sharp longer.

Again: When shortening the claws with clippers, they can splinter and the edges become sharp, that you can round with a normal nail file or with a claw grinder.

Claw grinder

A claw grinder is very versatile and extremely practical. The big advantage is that you practically cannot hurt the nerve. The disadvantage is that the claw grinder can only be used for a few seconds at a time (otherwise the claw gets hot), so you can't shorten more than one or two millimeters at a time.

But if you use the claw grinder regularly, this is no problem. I recommend taking care of all the claws every one or two weeks, so they won't get too long.

Good claw grinders are also equipped with a safety cap and a safety stop. If hair gets caught in the machine while grinding, it stops immediately to prevent injury.

Now and then a claw splinters when shortening with clippers, this will not happen when using the claw grinder. If you have a splintered claw, the claw grinder is handy to finely grind off the splintered area. Like that, the expensive parquet won't be scratched by the sharp claw.

Most claw grinders come with two different heads, a normal and a pointed one. Use the normal head to start with the claw care and use the pointed head to round it off. The pointed attachment comes to use when the dewclaw has grown somewhat close to the leg, and you can no longer cut it with claw clippers.

Combination claw clippers and claw grinder

Should the claws already be too long, you can clip a few millimeters (2-3 mm) with claw clippers. This is usually safe enough (if the claw has really become too long) and you can continue with the claw grinder.

If you are uncertain or don't have the courage to shorten the claws by yourself, please visit a groomer or your vet. Your dog knows exactly how you feel and if he then associates the claw clipping with your fear, the dog himself becomes insecure and may develop fear towards the claw clipping.

Ingrown claws

If you are too late and the claw has already grown into the leg or paw, you should consider having the claw shortened by a veterinarian. He can then also decide whether the injury needs a special treatment (e.g. against inflammation).

Ingrown claws can only be shortened with pointed nail clippers. For such cases, I always had such a pair of clippers from the pharmacy or drugstore at hand:

Be very careful not to make the injury bigger, then disinfect the wound and observe it for several days. Consult a veterinarian if the area becomes oozing or inflamed.

Shorten claws properly

It is ideal if you teach your dog at a young age that you work on his claws and paws. So, you get him used to it, and he will hold its paw still. Hold the dog's paw so that he cannot pull it away if possible. Press gently on the paw, this will make the claws a little more visible. If the fur is too long, you can shorten it beforehand or hold it aside.

Place the claw clipper/scissors so that you are still 2-3 mm in front of the nerve. Tilt the clippers to the correct angle as shown in the picture below and cut. Important: Please use only sharp clippers. Otherwise, you can crush the nerve!

If you like, you can file the cut with a nail file or a claw grinder.

The same principle applies to the claw grinder, except that you grind the claw, and it won't get squeezed. Just hold it at the right angle and grind for 2-3 seconds per claw. Please do not grind longer than that. Otherwise, the claw will get hot, which your pet does not like at all. Of course, you can grind several times on the same claw, but please always leave enough time in between for the claw to cool down.

We are happy to help if you have any questions and suggestions! Just e-mail us! Now, have fun shortening your dog's claws.

Nail trim