Does Walking Your Dog Trim Their Nails?

does walking your dog trim their nails

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If you’ve ever owned a dog, then you know that trimming their nails is one of the most dreaded tasks of dog ownership. It seems that it’s just simply an innate trait that most dogs hate having their feet touched. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if something as simple as walking your dog would trim their nails for you? That would cut down on the stress and anxiety in both you and your dog regarding nail trimming. 

So the question is – does walking your dog actually trim his nails?

While walking on hard surfaces like pavement may help keep your dog’s nails a reasonable length, walking your dog won’t keep his nails filed to the correct length they should be. The gentle filing from the hard surfaces is a nice benefit to the walk, but you’ll still need to trim your dog’s nails occasionally.

In this article, we’ll discuss how walking on different surfaces can affect your dog’s nails and all the nail care basics. Since there’s a lot involved, let’s get started!

Does Walking On Concrete File a Dog’s Nails? 

As you can probably imagine, the type of surface you’re walking your dog on does matter in how much it can file down your dog’s nails. Walking your dog on a hard surface won’t take care of all your dog’s nail maintenance needs, but it can certainly help.

Walking on a hard, paved surface like concrete or pavement can help gently file your dog’s nails. As mentioned above, while you’ll still have to care for your dog’s nails because this won’t file them to the correct length they should be, walking on concrete can help file them down gently.

On the other hand, walking your dog on a soft surface like dirt or leaves packed on top of a trail in the woods isn’t likely to do much filing of your dog’s nails. Similarly, while walking on the beach might be fun, the soft sand doesn’t provide any benefits in filing your dog’s nails.

While walking on a hard surface will help file your dog’s nails, it won’t take them to the perfect, short length that they should be. Why is that? Well, the answer is simple!

When your dog walks on a hard surface, only the tip of their nail will come into contact with the concrete. As your dog walks, that tip will get gently filed. Once that tip has been removed, your dog’s nail will no longer be touching the concrete so no further filing will happen. 

Instead, if you spend time carefully trimming their nails, you can trim them to be much shorter. Frequent nail trimmings can help your dog’s quick recede, which means that over time, you’ll be able to trim your dog’s nails shorter and shorter.

What’s The Proper Nail Length for Dogs? 

Dogs actually do need their nails! While it’s annoying to hear the click-clack on hardwood floors from nails that are too long, dogs use their nails for traction when they’re running around and digging.

In general, a dog’s nails shouldn’t be touching the floor when they’re standing. They should have a small amount of nail left that is neatly trimmed and rounded off right to the quick without causing any bleeding or pain.

Importance of Keeping Your Dog’s Nails Trimmed

If you’ve ever owned a dog, then you’ve probably experienced how feisty and even angry they can become when you try to trim their nails. Even though some dogs hate having their nails trimmed, it’s essential to stay on top of it and keep their nails the proper length.

Overgrown nails can cause issues with how dogs place their feet when standing, and some nails can even grow so long that they cut through the paw pad. In a nutshell, overgrown nails can be uncomfortable and painful for your dogs to walk on.

In some cases, long nails can even cause dogs to place their feet differently so that they aren’t in as much pain. Placing their foot in an unnatural position like this can cause medical issues with deformed feet and injured tendons.

Now that we’ve established how important it is to keep our dogs’ nails the proper length and that, unfortunately, simply walking alone won’t do it, let’s discuss how we should trim our dog’s nails.

How Often Should You Trim a Dog’s Nails?

Every dog is different and will require a different nail-trimming schedule. When a dog stands, their nails should be just shy of touching the ground. 

Generally to maintain that length, most dogs will need their nails trimmed once or twice per month. This will depend on how quickly your dog’s nails grow, how long their nails are, and how often they walk on hard surfaces.

How to Trim A Dog’s Nails 

As we mentioned above, if you’ve owned a dog, then you are no stranger to the fact that many dogs hate having their nails trimmed. 

So, how do you trim their nails if they barely even let you touch their paw? The good news is that by going slow and using good training techniques, most dogs will eventually allow you to trim their nails. There are also many techniques and nail-trimming equipment to see what works best for your dog. 

Have the Vet Trim Their Nails

Most vets have specific appointment slots throughout the day to accommodate nail trims. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle or are afraid of quicking your dog, the easiest option is to let the professionals do it. While you will have to pay for this service, it’ll be well worth it.

Find the Quick

The quick of the nail is the center of the nail that contains the nerves and blood supply. To the best of your ability, you’ll want to avoid cutting the quick. Cutting the quick usually results in a bloody mess, and it can be painful for your dog. 

You can easily see the quick on white nails. The quick is the area of pink at the base of the nail. It’s impossible to see on black nails unless you start trimming. When you get close to the quick on a black nail, you’ll notice a white dot in the center of the nail. That white dot is the quick. 

It’s best to trim nails at an angle away from the center of the nail or the quick. Trimming little bits at a time from the left, right, and bottom of the nail will actually expose the quick just enough so that it can start to recede. 

Do It Yourself

When trimming your dog’s nails at home, you have options with the tools you want to use! Some dogs have a preference, so consider experimenting to see if your dog responds to one of these options better than the others. 

You can choose from the standard plier-style trimmers or opt for nail scissors or even nail clippers with a guillotine.

Some dogs prefer and do much better with a nail grinder or Dremel instead of nail clippers. If your struggle clipping your dog’s nails with trimmers, try a Dremel. Dremels file the entire nail down smoothly, leaving no sharp edges like trimmers. 

Here is the process for training your dog how to trim their nails: 

  1. If your dog hates having his feet touched, it’s essential to go slow at this step. Gently touch your dog’s paw and then reward him. Do this with all four paws until your dog is comfortable with you touching their feet. This can take quite a while for some dogs!
  2. Once your dog is comfortable with you touching his paws, bring out your tool of choice, whether it’s nail trimmers or a Dremel. Let your dog look at and smell the tool and reward them. 
  3. When your dog is comfortable near your nail-trimming tool of choice, touch the tool to his paw. Keep the tool turned off if it’s a Dremel, and do not actually clip the nails yet. Simply touch the tool to your dog’s paw and reward. 
  4. Once your dog is comfortable, trim just one nail and reward. 
  5. Repeat trimming one nail per day and rewarding your dog for that. 
  6. Once you’ve trimmed all of your dog’s nails, increase to trying to cut all the nails on one paw per day. Don’t forget to trim the dewclaws too!

Some dogs hate having their feet touched so much that they may never be truly comfortable with this process and may only allow you to trim one paw per day, and that’s okay!

Trimming nails is one of those tasks where practice makes perfect. Remember that it’s always best to go slow and take little bits off at a time instead of big chunks. 

The video below has some tips and tricks from a professional on how to make your dog more comfortable when trimming his nails.

Make Nail Trimming Fun with a Scratchpad

For the dogs that seriously hate nail trimming and may become aggressive, consider trying a scratchpad. A scratchpad is a large piece of gritty sandpaper that is adhered to a board. Simply hold the board at an angle and teach your dog to swipe his paw. As dogs lift their paw, they’ll naturally extend their nails, thus filing them down with every swipe they take. 

This can be an easy and fun thing to teach your dog that removes the stress from the traditional way of trimming nails.  

What To Do If You Quick Your Dog?

Ask any groomer or vet professional, and they’ll tell you that quicking a dog really does look worse than it is. While you want to avoid quicking your dog as much as possible by doing smaller cuts more frequently instead of larger cuts, accidents sometimes happen. Don’t fret! While it can be a bit of a bloody mess, your dog will recover pretty quickly.

If you quick your dog, give him more treats but remain calm. Remember, it does usually look worse than it is. Immediately apply styptic powder to the affected nail and hold it there for a few seconds. The styptic powder will stop the bleeding. If you don’t have styptic powder on hand, you can also try using cornstarch or flour.

Final Thoughts

While walking your dog on a hard surface will help keep their nails filed a little, you’ll need to do some additional nail maintenance to keep them at the correct length. It can also help reduce damage to things around the house (like your hardwood floors) but it’s still not the best solution. 

Many dogs fear having their paws touched or their nails trimmed, so remember to go slow with your dog. If your dog really hates having their nails trimmed, consider consulting a professional or using a scratchpad.