Trimming Labrador Nails: How Short Should They Be?

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I have yet to meet a dog that enjoys getting a nail trim, but it's just one of those things that must be done. If you want to take care of this task at home rather than at the vet's office or groomer, you may be wondering how short your Labrador's nails should be.

When your Labrador is standing up, the nail should be right at the edge of the pad, approximately 2 mm (0.08 in) from the quick. If the nails are touching the floor (or you hear them clicking), you should trim them without cutting the quick.

It is essential to know when, how, and why to cut your Labrador's nails. Before actually doing it, you need to know how to determine the appropriate length to avoid injuring your dog.

In this article

How to Know When Your Labrador's Nails Are Too Long

According to the ASPCA, your dog's nails are too long when they're about to touch the ground when it's walking around. So if you can hear the nails "clicking" around on a hard floor, it's time for a nail trim.

If your lab is more of a homebody or only plays in the grass, her nails may grow out more quickly than a dog that takes its walks on city streets and sidewalks.

You should check your lab's dewclaws regularly to make sure they haven't grown too long. Do this every time you bathe them, so every 1-2 months, at an absolute minimum. Because the dewclaws don't get as much action as the others and aren't usually in contact with the ground, they are more prone to growing out excessively or even becoming ingrown.

The dewclaw can also get snagged or broken off if it's not trimmed appropriately, which can be painful for your pup.

Why Trim a Dog's Nails?

Long nails can be uncomfortable for your dog to walk on. Leaving overgrown nails unattended for a long time can cause your dog to change their walk to avoid putting pressure on the nails. These changes can lead to injuries, joint problems, and even arthritis.

Just like humans, dog's nails continuously grow. If they don't wear down naturally during their activities, the nails can grow too long and need trimming. It's essential to keep your Labrador's nails short because it prevents them from getting snagged, breaking, or tearing, which can cause painful injuries.

Trimming Your Labrador's Nails

Trimming your lab's nails can be a quick and easy process if you start training her early to be comfortable with having her feet handled. However, the process can be a little trickier for older dogs or those who aren't used to it.

Before we get into the specifics of cutting your lab's nails, we need to look at the tools you'll use. 

Types of Nail Clippers

There are two main types of nail clippers for pets: 

  • Guillotine style 
  • Scissor style 

Some people also use a nail grinder as an alternative to cutting the nails. The two types of clippers are similar, with slight differences in their designs.

The American Kennel Club recommends the scissor-style clippers for larger dogs with thicker nails and the guillotine-style for small- to medium-sized pups. 

Scissor Style

I highly recommend the Boshel Nail Clippers clippers because they have a safety stop blade that helps prevent cutting the nail too short. 

What's great about these clippers is that they come with a small nail file stored in the handle. You can quickly smooth out a rough edge or get the nail a little shorter without having to make another cut.

Guillotine Style: 

For a guillotine clipper, I recommend the Resco Clippers.

Resco invented the guillotine-style nail clipper, so you can't go wrong with their products. They are of excellent quality, and the blades are replaceable. So, when the blade starts to dull, you can order a new blade. 

Resco also offers a lifetime warranty on their products.  

trimming lab's nails

How to Trim Your Labrador's Nails

If your lab isn't used to getting a pedicure, you'll probably have to restrain them for this process. 

The veterinary medicine department at Washington State University recommends placing the dog on a table and standing next to the table with your arms draped over the body to hold your pup still. 

You can also lay the dog on their side if they're moving around too much.

Here's how to trim your Labrador's nails:

  1. Grasp the paw gently but firmly, isolating the nail that you're going to cut. 
  2. If you're using the scissors type of nail clipper, you should hold it at a right angle to the nail and squeeze firmly to cut, taking care to not cut into the quick (the pink nail bed that's visible in light-colored nails).
  3. Slide the nail into the ring for the guillotine style and squeeze the handle firmly to cut, again ensuring that you don't cut into the quick.
  4. The ideal length should be as close as you can get to the quick within 2 mm (0.08 in) without cutting into this delicate area.

Note: Ensure that the cutting blade faces you rather than the dog to avoid cutting the nail shorter than you intended.

black labrador's nails

Trimming Black or Dark Nails

If your Labrador has black or dark nails, it can be challenging to see the quick and know how short to cut the nail. In this case, it's best to do several small cuts rather than one cut to the desired length. 

Start with a tiny cut and look at the edge of the nail. You can continue to make little cuts, looking at the cut edge each time. Once you see light coloration or a small pink area at the top of the cut nail surface, you'll know you've reached the quick. It's always better to stop short than to cut too far.

If you accidentally cut into the quick, it'll be startling for you and your pup, who may yelp and bleed. You can use a styptic pencil or powder to stop the bleeding if this occurs, though the bleeding should stop on its own in a few minutes.  

Final Thoughts

You should trim Labrador nails short enough so that they don't touch the floor. However, you want to be careful not to cause injury to them. It's also essential to check the dewclaw and make sure it's not overgrown.

When clipping your dog's nails, cut them to the edge of the pad or within 2 mm (0.08 in) of the quick.