Basic care

How Often Should I Clip My Dog’s Nails?

Some dogs trim their nails automatically by walking and running on concrete, so they don’t need to be clipped that often. If that doesn’t apply to your dog, their nails should be clipped every two or three weeks or so, depending on their growth.

If their nails are too long, you will need to trim them in tiny pieces to make sure the quick is receding. The time between trimmings vary dog by dog.

Nelly's paws
Nelly’s nails (a tad too long!)

What Is a Quick?

A quick in the dog’s nail refers to a collection of blood vessels and nerves running through your dog’s nail. It’s covered by keratin, which protects the quick.

If you cut your dog’s nails too short, you may cut through the keratin and into the quick. This will cause bleeding, and it’s very painful for the dog.

As the nail grows, so do the other parts of the nail, but that doesn’t mean that the quick grows as fast as the outer layer. The layers in the nails grow gradually if the nail is not trimmed.

Dog Nail Anatomy

Here is a drawing that I made of a dog’s nail.

Dog nail anatomy
Dog nail anatomy
  1. The quick – this is the live part of the nail, where nerves and blood vessels are located. We should avoid cutting into this part.
  2. Protective layer of the quick – it’s a soft layer (kind of like a gummy bear) and this is the point where you should definitely stop clipping/filing.
  3. Inner keratin layer – this layer is made up of dead skin cells, usually not too hard.
  4. Outer keratin layer – this layer is the firmest part of the nail. It can be really hard, especially in larger breeds.

Will the Quick Recede When I Cut Their Long Nails Regularly?

If your dog has long nails, chances are you won’t be able to cut a large part of the nail. This needs to be done in stages, so the quick is allowed to recede.

As I mentioned above about the layers, trimming the nails will have the opposite effect.

A lot of people recommend 2–3 days between trimming the nails, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Even if you can commit to it only once a month, the quick will start to eventually recede. Don’t be hard on yourself if life gets in the way!

How Do I Know if My Dog’s Nails Need Cutting?

With most dogs, their nails shouldn’t click when they’re walking on hard surfaces like wooden or tiled floors. If they do, then they may be a tad too long. And if you place their paw in your palm, the nails shouldn’t be touching you.

Nelly's puppy nails at 4 months old
Nelly’s puppy nails at 4 months old

Too long nails alter your dog’s posture and the angle of how their paw connects with the ground. As a result of that, it puts uneven pressure on all joints and causes movement problems in the future.

If their nails touch the ground, it puts pressure on their nail bed and causes discomfort.

According to research done on Beagles, their nails grow about 2 millimeters per week (~ 1/16 inch) on average. As they age, the nail growth starts to slow down to about 1 millimeter per week (~ 1/32 inch).

Dog's nails growth chart over their lifetime
Dog’s nails growth chart over their lifetime

Of course, your dog’s nail growth depends on their environment, diet, age, and type and place of exercise. It can be different from the research.

Nelly’s nails tend to get longer in the winter, as she doesn’t have as much exercise in places where she can naturally wear down her nails. Especially her dewclaws need clipping.

How Do I Keep My Dog’s Nails Short Without Clipping?

Not all dogs love to have their nails clipped, and the sound of the clippers might make them nervous. Thankfully, there are different ways you can shorten your dog’s nails without using clippers:

  • rotary tool
  • nail file
  • scratch board

Rotary Tools

A popular way of shortening Weimaraner’s nails is using a rotary tool like the Dremel. Many groomers, vets, and regular users like you and I recommend using a tool with variable speed that has at least 5000 RPM with 240 grit.

Dremel 8220
Dremel 8220

Since you sand away a little bit each time, it’s less likely you will cut into the quick.

A lot of Weimaraner owners use the Dremel, especially the 8220 and 8050 come recommended by them. Rotary tools can be quite loud and will cause more vibrations, which can be uncomfortable for some dogs.

Nail File

If you’re nervous about using a rotary tool (which is understandable), you can start with a regular nail file. You don’t need to buy a special pet nail file right away, I recommend using a jumbo (XXL) nail file for gel and acrylic nails, at about 100/180 grit (see on Amazon),

Nail files I bought for Nelly
XXL Nail files I bought for Nelly

Advantages of a nail file:

  • inexpensive
  • no sound or vibration
  • doesn’t look like clippers
  • less chance of injury to the quick since you work slowly
  • slower filing can be more comfortable for the dog
  • you’re not projecting your worry from cutting to your dog
  • the dog may fall asleep


  • if your dog’s nails are too long, it will take some time

As you can see, the advantages of a nail file far outweigh any disadvantages. And since the comfort of your dog should come first, a little bit of patience isn’t much to ask for.

If you find that the grit is too fine, you can try 80 grit, but I think the 100 grit should be enough in most cases. The nail file is also great as a finishing touch after clippers.

Scratch Board

I found out about scratch boards only recently and thought it was a great way to file the dog’s nails. With some training, you can teach your dog how to do this, and it will be less stressful on them and more on their terms.

If you have a dog that’s really uncomfortable with their paws being touched, a scratch board is a good way to avoid any stress of handling their paws. Plus, some dogs really enjoy it!

Besides, you can quite easily DIY a scratch board with a few supplies from a hardware store instead of buying a ready-made one!

We usually have Nelly’s nails (especially her dewclaws) done by the vet, but I decided we should just try it ourselves, and we’ll start with a nail file, since we’re beginners.

Further Reading


  • Orentreich N, et al. 1979. The effect of aging on the rate of linear nail growth. (link)
Dana - site owner


I’ve always loved dogs, ever since I was a child, but I wasn’t allowed to have one. I dog-sit my sister's Weimaraner often. I decided to start this blog and share what I’ve learned about Nelly, the Weimaraner breed, and dogs in general from scientific papers and journals and my own personal experience. Learn more about Dana.

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