Does Walking Your Dog Trim Their Nails?

If you have recently been taking a closer look at your dog’s nails and you can’t afford a trip to the vets or a groomer and the thought of doing it yourself is a bit overwhelming, then I have some good news.

Walking your dog will help to trim their nails.

But because it’s a bit more detailed than that, let me go into more details about exactly how it works before I then move onto other questions you might have about dog nails.

Does walking your dog trim their nails?

Not only is going for a walk with my dogs the favourite part of my day it is also the best part of being a dog owner.

If you walk your dog on concrete pavements or sidewalks then this will help to keep your dog’s nail under control.

But it depends on how often or for how long you walk them on hard surfaces and on your individual dog. 

Walking your dog on concrete will not help you or the dog trim nails that are too long- these will need to be trimmed first.

Like most other things in life, walk your dog on hard surfaces in moderation.

Try not to walk them solely on sidewalks because you want to keep their nails trim because there are too many drawbacks to it

Advantages of sidewalks

Helps keep nails trim

Dogs stay clean

Sidewalks are always well lit

Disadvantages of sidewalk

Leash walking limiting physically and mentally 

Hard surfaces tougher on bones, muscles and paws because of the impact. 

How long should dog nails be?

When the dog is standing, the nail should be a few millimetres above the floor. 

And whilst they are standing, take your time to look at each foot to make sure that all the paws are flat on the floor and that each nail is the correct length. 

If you notice that your dog is not standing on one of their legs properly it could be a problem with the nail. 

It could be too long or too short. 

A nail that is too long will be touching the floor when a dog stands.

This will cause the dog some discomfort because the nail is being forced back into the paw.

A nail that is too short will be bleeding or have dried blood around it.

Within the nail is a blood vessel that “feeds the nail.”

It is called the Quick and if it is accidentally cut it will be painful for your dog. 

Dog nails too short from walking

Some dog owners have the problem that their dog’s nails are too short from walking.

Dogs with a proper gait should never have nails that are too short. 

Because of the way that a dog’s paw should hit the ground, the nails should always be worn to the perfect length.

If a dog is walking then the foot should strike the ground so that only the tips of the nail are in contact with the ground. 

If anything you would expect there to be far more damage to the paw than the nail because of how harsh the surface is.

However, I can think of two causes for nails to be too short from walking. 

Firstly, a nail might be too short if your dog is limping or dragging a paw slightly.

Bumps our 13 year old Golden Retriever is in this camp: her back legs are very weak which means that she drags her feet when she walks on pavements.

Instead of just the tips of the nails striking the ground, the tops and sides of the nails might be getting scrapped along.

If the nails aren’t short, they will be split and showing signs of extreme wear. 

And for that reason her pavement walking is severely limited. 

Also if a dog is exercising too frequently on a hard surface that might contribute.

Secondly, nails can become too short if a dog is racing around on a hard surface for instance by playing fetch, basketball or soccer. 

Any of these activities involve lots of starting, stopping and sudden turns, which will have an impact on how the nails are wearing. 

4 reasons to trim your dog’s nails

[1] Walking will be uncomfortable

[2] Won’t stand or walk properly- which can lead to injuries and sprains

I have just read an interesting theory about this. 

And it is that a dog’s brain associates long nails with running up hills.

This is because in evolutionary terms, this would be the only time that a dog would feel their nails.

So when dog’s feel their nails, they automatically alter the position of their body to better climb a hill.

And that this is what dogs with nails that are too long still do today.

Unfortunately, this body position puts a lot of strain on them.

Really interesting don’t you think?

[3] Long nails can become ingrowing or embedded in a paw. 

[4] Long nails will collect more dirt and germs than short nails.

And I think that is bad news when it comes to dogs scratching.

And this is dogs that are walked on softer surfaces, like dirt or muddy paths. 

Our two dogs need to have their ears checked at least once a month because their ears always seem to be dirty.

Longer nails would potentially attract or collect more dirt in them which would be deposited in their ears as they are scratching. 

File or cut dog nails?

I suspect that one of the reasons that you want to know more about trimming nails is because you have heard some horror stories from dog owner friends about their attempts to cut their dog’s nails.

And the fact is that there are four skills that need to be learned.

The first is to buy a decent pair of dog nail clippers.

The second is to know how to use these clippers properly.

The third skill is to know where on the nail to make the cut.

This video takes you step by step through this process. 

Dogs can be notoriously reluctant to have their nails clipped but this is because they just aren’t used to it. 

And so there is a fourth skill which you need, which is perhaps the most difficult of all.

And that skill is to have a calm and relaxed dog! 

This is a great video that will help you to build trust with your dog so that it will be relaxed enough to let you cut its nails. 

Dangers of clipping nails

Apart from wrestling with a very nervous dog, the other mistake that people are scared to make whilst trimming their dog’s nails is to cut into the quick, which is the blood supply that feeds each nail.

Bu, once you have a dog that is nice and relaxed and tolerates its paw being held, things get easier.

If your dog has cream coloured nails, then the quick is easier to see because it shows up as a dark vein.

Watch this video (I have deliberately started it part way in) for the very precise instructions about where to cut nails in order to avoid the quick.

Cutting dog nails that are black

My final piece of advice relates to dogs who have black toenails. 

How can you not cut the quick if you can’t see it?

Some really good advice given on this video is to look at all the nails on a dog and see if it has a lighter colour nail. 

If you can identify where the quick is in one nail, it will likely be in the same place for all nails.

Closing Thoughts

Are you more confident now about the role that walking your dog has on trimming their nails?

Hopefully you have some great walks locally to you that include time walking walking on concrete surfaces such as sidewalks.

But I would recommend that you moderate the time that you walk your dog on a concrete surface and make sure that they have plenty of variety.

Not only will it benefit your dog but the variety will also be of benefit to you.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!