Lab nails grow slowly and steadily throughout their lives, and most dog claws need clipping on occasion.
Your Labrador should have neat short nails. Once the claws begin to grow too long, you will notice that they have an effect on the dog’s feet. His toes will begin to splay apart slightly, which is uncomfortable for him, and make a noise if he walks on a hard floor.
The nails should not extend beyond the pad or scratch on the ground when he stands upright. If this goes on for too long, it can make walking painful.
Do Lab nails have different growth rates?
Lab nails grow at different rates. Which is why your Labrador might need his nails clipping, whilst your friend’s Labrador’s nails stay short. Even dogs whose nails are subject to the same amount of wear and tear, may differ when it comes to nail growth.
I have a Lab whose nails grow very quickly. They need regular clipping unless she is really clocking up the miles each day. My other Labrador never needs her nails clipping. And this is really quite common.
Wear and tear
Because your Labrador’s nails are in regular contact with the ground, there is a certain amount of natural wear. The nails are gently ‘filed’ by rubbing on the ground. How effective this natural nail filing is, depends on where you exercise your dog and for how long. Walking on pavements for example will wear nails down more efficiently than running around on grass. For some dogs, this natural daily filing is all they ever need. But how do you know whether your dog needs his claws cutting?
Can you cut your Lab’s nails yourself?
You can certainly clip your dog’s nails yourself, but it is a great idea to get an experienced person to demonstrate the technique to you before going solo. Making a mistake is both messy, and painful for your dog.
You only want to cut the dead end of the nail, and not the nerve and blood supply. In a dog with clear nails, you can see the ‘quick’ quite easily. But it can be a little tricky in a dog with dark nails.
Which nail clippers should you buy for your Labrador?
There are different styles of clipper. I prefer the scissor action type like the Professional Dog Nail Clippers for Medium To Large Dogs, which I use for my Labs. Other’s prefer the guillotine action of the Wahl Smartgroom Dog Claw Clipper for example.
It really is a matter of personal preference and which style you feel most confident and comfortable with.
How do you cut your dog’s nails
Ask your dog to sit or sit next to them on the floor. Lift the paw and carefully cut tiny slivers at a time. Be especially cautious if your Lab has dark nails. And have a file handy to remove any rough edges.
This works well if your dog doesn’t mind having their paws touched. If they are uncomfortable with this you’ll need to get your veterinarian or a dog groomer to trim them while you work on training.
Training your dog to accept nail clipping
Training a dog to lie quietly whilst you clip his nails does not take very long, and it is well worth the effort. In order to change the dog’s attitude to nail clipping you need to associate the process with something very pleasurable. This needs to be done in stages, only moving on to the next stage when the dog is comfortable with the previous one.
First build a positive association with having their paws touched. Start by treat streaming tasty bits of sausage or roast chicken while you gently touch the paw on the floor.
Over the course of a few training sessions, start to hold and then lift the paw whilst you continue to reward them. Don’t move on to something more challenging for your dog to cope with until they are completely comfortable.
You’ll need a friend to help you. And some tasty treats that your dog really enjoys. A little counter-conditioning completely changes this dog’s attitude towards having his nails cut. You might even find they are open to a splash of polish when you’ve finished their training!
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website