Dog Nail Grinder vs Clipper: Which to Choose?



Meg Marrs


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nail clippers vs grinders

Hearing that clickity click sound on your kitchen floor? It may be a sign that your dog is in desperate need of a nail clipping!

Owners who want to trim their dog’s nail at home may struggle in deciding exactly how they want to trim their dog’s nails. Should they choose a dog nail grinder or opt for a classic clipping? What is best in the dog nail grinder vs clipper debate?

We’ll cover several different types of dog nail trimming tools owners can use, and go through the advantages and disadvantages of each tool to help you decide which is best for your pup!

Dog Nail Grinder vs Nail Clipper: Key Takeaways

  • You need to keep your dog’s nails trimmed to the proper length to keep Spot happy and healthy. Nail care isn’t just cosmetic for our furballs; it’s mandatory. Overgrown nails are uncomfortable and can lead to long-term health ramifications.
  • You can trim your dog’s nails with a set of traditional nail clippers or a grinder. Some dogs may prefer one tool to the other, but both clippers and grinders can successfully maintain your mutt’s nails. For that matter, you may prefer one to the other.
  • In some cases, you may use both a grinder and clipper. Pet parents sometimes use a clipper for the bulk of the job and a grinder to smooth out rough edges of the freshly cut nail surfaces you just need to figure out what works best for you and your doggo.

Nail Clippers & Grinders: Types of Tools

nail trimmers for dogs

Dog nail trimming tools come in several varieties and provide a few different approaches.

Guillotine Nail Clippers

Guillotine-style clippers require you to place your dog’s nail through a hole and squeeze the handle. This will allow for the single blade to slice down across the hole and cut off the excess nail.

A guillotine clipper is recommended for small to medium dogs, as the guillotine style isn’t usually strong enough to cut thick nails for pet parents with larger breeds. These style of clippers has blades that need to be replaced regularly to keep them sharp.

If you want to use guillotine nail clippers, we recommend the Resco Pet Nail Clippers.

Best Guillotine-Style Nail Clippers for Dogs

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resco dog nail clippers

Resco Nail Clippers

These sturdy, US-made clippers have a lifetime warranty and come with a replaceable nail blade for long-term use.

Scissor-Style Clippers

Scissor-style dog nail clippers work in a similar style to — you guessed it — scissors. The blades have small, round indentations, where you’ll position your dog’s nail for cutting. They are also sometimes referred to as plier-style nail clippers.

Plier-style clippers allow you to impart a significant amount of force, making them good for dogs with larger nails. However, the handles may not be ideal for those with arthritis.

If you want to use a scissor-style dog nail clipper, we suggest going with the Safari Dog Nail Trimmers.

Best Scissor-Style Nail Clippers for Dogs

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safari nail trimmers

Safari Professional Nail Trimmers

These professional-caliber dog nail trimmers are easy to operate and feature a built-in safety stop, making them good for beginners.


Grinders use a small, rotating section of material (similar to sand paper) to grind down your dog’s nails.

Also referred to as “Dremels,” or “Dremel tools,” or even “Dremel grinders,” these grooming tools are electrically-powered and wear down a dog’s nails through the use of friction.

Note that some dog nail grinders come with a nail guard. A nail guard provides a small hole through which you can insert your dog’s nail — this will help protect your pupper’s paws from the rough and spinning parts of the grinder. These attachments are not necessary, but they can be helpful for first-time owners.

If a dog nail grinder seems like the best bet for your doggo, we recommend going with the Pet Grinding Dremel 7300.

Best Nail Grinder for Dogs

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dremel for dog nails

Dremel 7300-PT Dog Nail Grinding Tool

This quiet nail grinder is comes with a variety of accessories (including a rechargeable battery), and has two speed settings.

Plan for Long-Term Use

Because friction will cause the sanding bands of your nail grinder to wear out over time, you want to be sure that you purchase dog nail grinders that are sold with replacement bands.

Some brands may require you to purchase these separately, but that’s not a huge problem — just make sure that you skip ones for which replacement bands aren’t available at all.

Canine Nail Care Tools: The Good and the Bad of Each Option

dog nail grinder vs clipper

As with just about everything relating to dog care and dog grooming, there are pros and cons to using either nail clippers or nail grinders. Otherwise, everyone would use the same option!

So, you just have to figure out which ones will work best for you and your pooch. We’ll try to help by outlining some of the benefits and drawbacks of each, starting with clippers.

Dog Nail Clippers: Pros & Cons

dog nail clippers vs grinders

The pros and cons of using a dog nail clipper include:


  • Quick and Quiet. Nail clippers are quiet compared to the buzz of a pet nail grinder, which can sometimes frighten dogs. Clipping your dog’s nails takes also takes just a second, so the process can be over in the blink of an eye. Incidentally, it is because nail clippers allow for quick nail maintenance that professional groomers often go this route.
  • Cheap. Dog nail clippers are usually very affordable, and it doesn’t cost much to own a pair. However, don’t get too cheap — it’s worth it to spend a bit more to get a higher end nail clipper from a reputable brand. Cheaper clippers won’t get the job done, won’t be sharp, and are more likely to hurt your pet during the trimming process.
  • No Electricity Required. Nail clippers are manual tools and don’t require batteries or electricity to work.


  • Easy to Cut Your Dog’s Quick. If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to cut into the quick (the sensitive bundle of nerves and blood vessels inside your dog’s nail), causing severe pain, discomfort, and bleeding. Once you cut into your dog’s nail quick, they won’t be too keen on letting you cut their nails again!
  • Can Cause Pinching. The other major disadvantage to using a dog nail clipper is that it can squeeze and pinch your dog’s quick, which may cause pain and discomfort for your dog, even if you don’t actually cut the quick.
  • Potential Nail Breakage. While uncommon, a pair of nail clippers can, in rare cases, cause your dog’s nails to split or crack. Always make sure your clippers are sharp to prevent this risk (this is more of an issue with guillotine-style clippers, but all clippers should be kept sharp).

Dog Nail Grinders: Pros & Cons

dog nail grinder vs clipper

Shifting our focus to grinders, here are a few of the perks and problems they present:


  • Good For Dogs With Nail Clipper Anxiety. If you’ve tried dog nail clippers in the past and freaked out your pooch, grinders provide a second chance — you may have better luck getting your dog to accept nail maintenance by using a grinder.
  • Rounder Nails with Smooth Edges. Arguably the biggest advantage of grinders is that you can smooth your dog’s nails and round them. This is much preferred over the sharp edges left by nail clippers. Rounded nails ensure your dog doesn’t get snagged on carpets and is especially handy for dogs that have a tendency to scratch or jump up on owners (smooth nails don’t do nearly as much damage to furniture or to your skin).
  • Great for Thick Nails. Dog nail grinders are especially handy for dogs with large, thick nails that can be difficult to clip.


  • You Can Still Hit the Quick. Even with grinders, owners may accidentally hit their dog’s nail quick. It’s easier to avoid with grinders, since you can keep an eye on the nail as you grind and watch for the small dot that signals you are nearing the quick and should stop.
  • Loud (And Sometimes Scary). Dog nail grinders can be fairly loud and can scare your pooch, especially if they’re not found of loud noises.
  • Odor & Dust. Grinding a dog’s nails with a rotary tool can create dust and odor. For this reason, it’s best to grind your dog’s nails outside. You may also want to wear a mouth mask cover and eye protection to keep nail dust out.
How Can You Identify Your Dog’s Quick?

The quick is the pink or grey tissue in the center of each of your dog’s nails.

It is easiest to see in light-colored nails, in dark-colored nails or black nails you might have to opt to find the start of the quick while clipping, which appears as a small, black ball at the top of the nail beds when looking at the cut nails head-on.

Check out the video at the bottom of this article to see an image pointing out where the quick is in dark-colored nails.

How Long Should My Dog’s Nails Be?

how long should dog nails be

Ideally, your dog’s nails should be short enough that they do not contact the floor when your dog is standing normally.

However, relatively few owners actually achieve this goal, as it requires fairly regular trims or grinding sessions. For that matter, many owners find that their dog’s nails are already much longer than this once they welcome the new four-footer into their home (especially in the case of rescue dogs).

Accordingly, in practice, you’ll want to simply keep your dog’s nails as short as you can without injuring his quicks. Ideally, you’ll want to cut or grind the nails to within 2 or 3 millimeters of the nail quick.

However, it’s better to be safer than sorry, especially with dark nails, so opt for a longer nail when in doubt. Identifying how often you’ll need to cut your dog’s nails is different for every dog, but most pups need a trim every month to two months.

Consistency Is Important!

If you trim your dog’s nails down close to the quick (without actually nicking it), they’ll usually have a tendency to recede a bit over time. So, by committing to a regular nail-trimming sessions, you can often get your dog’s nails back to a reasonable length.

The trick is to be patient, trim them a little bit at a time, and do so very regularly. Just grab your nail clipper or grinder and get to work!

Dog Nail Grinder vs Clipper: Which Is Best For You?

dog nail trimmer

Ultimately, when it comes to the dog nail grinding vs trimming debate, the best grooming tool will depend on your dog’s personality, as well as your dog grooming confidence.

If your dog is very skittish and fearful of loud noises, you may want to avoid a grinder and opt for clippers instead. If you do decide to use a nail clipper, we suggest going very slowly and only cutting a tiny bit of nail a week.

When you clip a small portion of nail, the quick will begin to retract away from the nail edge, which when then allow you to clip more the following week. However, if you clip a large amount all at once, you risk cutting into your dog’s quick. Trust me — he won’t like that one bit!

We also recommend reading our post on how often to cut a dog’s nails for more tips and nail clipping advice.

In some cases, you may want to consider using both — even if you decide to use a dog nail clipper to trim your pooch’s nails, a grinder can be used to create a smoother finish. There’s also nothing wrong with opting for a professional dog groomer instead of grooming at home — just make sure you budget for regular monthly nail trims.


Do you prefer dog nail grinders or clippers? Do you find that a nail clipper is easier to use than a nail grinder? Or do you find traditional nail clippers too difficult to use for your dog? Why do you like using one nail trimming tool over the other? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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  1. Jeanette Avatar

    So on your video I feel that you forgot the most important thing you didn’t show us how on dark nails to find the quick, so unfortunately it really didn’t help me at all

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Hey, Jeanette. Did you see the pic we included in the video?
      Admittedly, the quick is a bit difficult to see in it, but we added a red circle to help illustrate it’s location.

      You’ll just have to go slow, grind a bit, look at the nail head-on, grind a bit more, look at the nail again, and stop when you see it.
      Best of luck!

  2. Judy Morgan Avatar
    Judy Morgan

    Thanks for this article. I use the FURminator nail grinder that has the LED light. I hold it in such a way that I can see the quick on one of my dogs. It’s much easier on the dogs to use a grinder every 3 weeks or so rather than to clip them.

  3. Barbara Avatar

    As a long retired poodle groomer, who was willing to go far to treat my clients with respect and love, I ALWAYS ground their nails with my old fashioned Dremel, and holding them close under my arm, and resting when the nail started to heat, their nails were always short, veins retracted, and I never resortd to a clipper. The heat from the grinder kept the quick from growing too long. I am so sad today when I see almost beautifully groomed dogs with deformed paws!
    In my day, Dremels were huge, as they were not designed for grooming!

    1. Meg Marrs Avatar

      Yes Barbara, considering how easy it is for owners to cut a into a dog’s quick with clippers, I’m shocked more folks don’t use Dremels!

    2. Stephy Avatar

      Hello i have some experience in dog grooming but my question is since your an experienced groomer which would be better to use on a small chiuahua but not super small his nails are black and its so hard to see his quick and i dont want to accidently mess up and hurt him i have never used a grinder before on him but hes not skittish or afraid of loud noises im just having a majorly hard time trying to figure out if the clippers or the dermal would be best to successfully cut his nails without hitting the quick thank you for any advice you can give me

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