Trimming Your Labrador’s Nails


In this article we prepare you for trimming your Labrador’s nails. We’ll help you recognize when your dog’s claws need cutting, and talk about which tools are best for the job. We’ve also got a video showing good nail trimming technique, and how to take the stress out of puppy pedicures.

0001-135967174Some Labradors live out their entire lives without ever needing their claws cutting. Others are not so fortunate. Many dog owners put off cutting their dog’s nails because he hates it. And because they are really worried about hurting him. But there is a way to help make this process a lot less stressful for both you and your dog. We’ll have a look at that in a moment

How do I know when my dog’s nails are too long?

Your Labrador should have neat short nails. Once 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.

You will know when it is time to clip them if they click when he walks on hard flooring. You can also tell by examining them, as 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. So obviously you want to take steps to shorten the nail, long before it gets to this point.

Different growth rates

Dog’s 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 two dogs whose nails are subject to the same amount of wear and tear, may differ when it comes to nail growth.

I have one 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 dog’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 a Labrador?

614QfYSYQ0L._SY355_There are two 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

There is an excellent and well illustrated article on nail clipping on Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine website. Remember to take very tiny slivers off in a dark-nailed dog. And have a file handy to remove any rough edges.

The correct way to hold and use clippers is clearly demonstrated in the article. There is also information about restraining your dog. However, if your Labrador hates having her claws cut, or even resists having her paws touched, there is a much better way of overcoming this problem.

Teaching 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.

You’ll need a friend to help you. And some tasty treats that your dog really enjoys. You can watch this process in Sophia Yin’s excellent youtube video.

As you can see, a little counter-conditioning completely changes this dog’s attitude towards having his nails cut.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

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More information on Labradors

labrador-jacket-800Check out our Labrador Care section for more information on every aspect of looking after your Labrador. If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life. The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.

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


  1. My 11 year old Chocolate Lab Claws got so long ,she couldn’t make it up her doggy ramp without slipping .
    I can’t get her into the van anymore to the groomer .
    So today 2/05/15 I decided to use both my hands to press down on the professional large dog clippers.
    I cut off the curve about 3/4 inch .
    I did it very fast while she set on the floor, and I with difficulty set on a low Ottoman.
    We where both relieved when it was over . A nice treat , and dress rehearsal on the ramp worked great .
    Wow, now I can breath again till next time.❤️❤️❤️

  2. My lab is a little over a year old. I want to know why my girl smells 2or 3 days after her bath. She kind of smells like vomit in a way. It always happens about 2 days after her bath. I have even tried to spray her with dog perfume and that don’t help. She stays inside so the smell is becoming a problem. What can I do to get rid of the smell.

    • is it her food? I am a lab owner of two great labs and alot of our friends have labs as well. Our dogs don’t smell but I would notice that they would shed more when we tried a certain brand of dog food. Once we switched to Diamond brand dog food they stayed full longer and didn’t stink. One of our close friends also mentioned that when he had his Lab on Pro Plan by purina it made her small badly so he switched her to Diamond and she stopped stinking.
      I also use an Organic shampoo purchased at Petsense and it makes our labs smell delicious for two weeks (our labs are half inside/ half outside)
      Hope this helps.