5 min read

Clipping vs. Grinding Dog Nails - Which is Best?


By hannah hollinger

Published: 07/15/2019, edited: 01/05/2022

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For many pet owners (and their dogs, for that matter), trimming the nails is one of the most dreaded parts of the grooming process. A bath for a dog who despises water or a tooth brushing session for the dog who tries to bite the toothbrush are two apprehension-causing steps to a handsome doggy, but for some reason, cutting the nails tops out as the number one activity that has owner and dog trembling with dread.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Finding the tool that works for both you and your pooch is key to making this part of maintenance and care much less stressful. To relieve the anxiety and skip the drama of the whole affair, start slow and figure out which way is best for trimming your dog’s nails.

Why is nail care for dogs essential?

A canine’s nails serve a purpose. Anyone who has a furry buddy that consistently digs in the same spot in the yard knows that dogs have an innate instinct to dig for treasure. They could also be making a den for themselves to cool off in on a hot day. As well, a dog’s claws them to grip their toys or hold a tasty treat. 

The nails also provide traction for your companion, for running up hills alongside you when out for a run. If you allow your dog’s nails to become too long, you risk them experiencing a deep tear or broken nail. The natural sense of balance can be offset as well if the claws are not maintained at the proper length. Additionally, long nails will sometimes curl under and irritate the pad of the foot.

brown and black animal paw - nail care for dogs

Clipping Dog Nails - Clipping vs. Grinding

Clipping Dog Nails: what it is

There are two types of tools for those who prefer to clip. The guillotine clipper has a round hole (which the nail fits into nicely) with a blade that crosses through it to produce a quick and precise cut. This tool allows for snipping your dog’s nails at a steady and even pace but does not always work well on thick claws. This tool can sometimes causes your pooch to feel pressure on the nail. If you have to use force, then this is not the proper clipper for the job.

Scissor-type clippers can be more efficient for trimming nails that are dense and strong. As with the guillotine tool, using them requires a steady hand. One has to watch out for the quick of the nail (the section near the top where the blood vessels are) because if you nick that, your dog may associate nail trimming with pain. Using a small scissor as opposed to a large one can give you optimum control. Make sure they are sharp, not dull.

The benefit of using the clipping method to trim your pup’s nails is that if they are of the fearful type, you can quickly trim one or two claws, praise them and give a treat for good behavior, and then trim another nail or two later in the day or even the next. There is nothing to set up for the procedure.

Grinding Dog Nails: What it is

Some pet owners prefer to use a grinding tool, such as the nail Dremel for dogs. This method of trimming can be quite effective, although using a grinder necessitates doing the job more often. But, many dogs are quite relaxed around the tool. Investigating this method may prove the same for your furry companion. Before investing in a nail Dremel for dogs, talk to others who use that method, and ask their opinion on the best rotary tool for dog nails.

A grinding tool can give a smoother finish to the nail than the clipper and works well on thick nails. When working with dogs that have black nails, there is less chance of hitting the quick because owners feel that they have more control in the trimming process. It is slower than clipping, and some dogs do not like the vibration of the tool. An important thing to know is that the Dremel heats up and can make the nail hot, causing pain if you are not careful.

There is a bit more set-up for a grinding session than with a clipping tool. You will want to have the grinder charged up or plugged in and placed in an area where your dog feels relaxed, such as on a comfy mat in the sun. Have scissors there as well in case you need to cut the fur around the nails. Catching long fur in the rotating attachment will have your dog afraid of the tool for life. Watch out for the pad of the feet, too.

What is best?

The best tool to use is the one that allows your four-legged friend to go through this necessary grooming process without stress. The method you choose depends on your dog. Are they easy to groom in general? Do they hold still and do they have patience?

white and brown short-coated dog with paws lying on the floor

Clipping Tips - What to consider when you're clipping a dog's nails

As you and your companion get used to a quick trim regularly, the session will get easier.

  • Use your fingers to separate your pup’s toes as you cut the nail
  • Trim often, every two weeks for an easier job
  • Exercise your dog first, so they are tired and content
  • Treat and praise after every session

Grinding Tips - What to consider when you're grinding a dog's nails

Ask at the dog park for nail Dremel tips and never trim your dog’s nails if you are anxious because you pass the anxiety on to them.

  • Before trying the grinder, turn the tool on several times (over days or weeks) while sitting beside your dog to get them used to the sound
  • Always be in control of the grinding session; do not let your dog decide that the job is complete
  • Cut the fur around the nails first so that you do not catch it in the grinder
  • Praise your patient dog and give a treat when done

Both the scissor method and the grinding method are effective ways to trim the nails. Always have a styptic pencil on hand to quickly stop bleeding if you hit the quick. Give them a treat in this case and do not make a big deal of it. When cuddling your pet on the couch while watching a movie, make a habit of massaging their feet and manipulating the nails at the same time to desensitize them to touch.

Paying for claw and paw disorders out of pocket can be a major financial burden. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

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