Which is Best: Grinding Dog Nails vs Clipping? The Safest Way to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Many factors affect how we answer the question about whether to use dog nail grinder vs clipper for your dog’s nails. The best method depends on your dog’s size, the length of their nails, your experience with trimming dog nails, and most importantly your dog’s temperament. All of these are all factors that affect which method is best. 

The difference between grinding and clipping is in the tools. Clippers are manual, and grinders are electric. Dog clippers come in two types — guillotine and scissor styles. Grinders are typically rotary-style power tools. 

By the way, we offer both in our online store, which you can view to get a better idea of what they look like, how they work, and how much they cost. 

The best method for trimming dogs’ nails is a matter of preference for you and your dog. Some dog owners use both methods. They use scissor- or guillotine-style clippers and then use a grinder to smooth the roughly cut nail surfaces. 

When to Use Dog Clippers

Dog clippers are best used when they are sharp and when you’re working with a dog with light-colored nails so you can see the quick (the fleshy part under the nail). You never want to cut into the quick. Dogs that have light-colored nails are easier to trim with hand-held clippers because you can see the quick. 

If you use scissor-style dog nail clippers, you’ll need to ensure the blades are sharp. Think about how dull clippers feel when you trim your own fingernails and toenails — that pinch and pull feeling hurts, doesn’t it? Your dog feels the same way.

Our grooming guide, “How to Use Dog Nail Clippers (and Remain on Good Terms with Your Dog)” outlines how to use nail clippers. 

When to Use Nail Grinder on Dogs

Use an electric nail grinder on your dog if he or she has overgrown nails, dark-colored nails, or nails rough edges. You can also use the nail grinder on your dog’s nails for regular trimmings. It’s a gentle tool that helps prevent cutting into the quick, which can cause your dog’s paws to bleed (and hurt!). 

An electric dremel-style grinder allows you to gently and slowly file your dog’s nails. You can use a regular dremel on dog nails, but we recommend a rotary grinder that is specifically made for pets’ nails. Why? They have guards that protect the paw, and their motors tend to be quieter, which is less scary for your pets.

Some people ask us why we can’t just file a dog’s nails instead of clipping or grinding. Great question. You can, especially if your dog is super-chill and doesn’t mind the manual back and forth filing motions and the time it takes to get file nails “just right.” Most dogs aren’t keen to sit still for this long and let you have your way with grooming their paws and nails. 

The pet nail grinder is a much better option for shaping dogs’ nails because it has a guard that protects the paw, and the electric rotary file is quiet, gentle and gets the job done in a fraction of time that a manual nail file does. 

Pros and Cons of Nail Clippers for Dogs

These are the advantages of using scissor-style or guillotine-style nail clippers on your pets:

  • Cost — nail clippers are cheaper than electric clippers and grinders.
  • Sound — skittish animals might not like the sound of the electric grinder at first.
  • Speed — sharpened nail clippers with safety guards are quick and easy to use.

The disadvantages of nail clippers:

  • Safety — if you use a nail clipper that doesn’t have a guard to protect the quick, you can cut too deeply and hurt your pet. This is especially true with dogs that have dark nails.
  • Maintenance — nail clippers need to be sharpened; dull clippers can pull on your pet’s paws, which hurts them.
  • Rough edges — nail clippers can leave rough edges, which can snag on furniture, rugs, and fabrics. 

Pros and Cons of Nail Grinders

And, here are the advantages of using electric grinders on your pets’ nails:

    • Safety — a dog nail grinder with a guard lets you slowly and gently trim back pets’ nails, especially those that have longer quicks.
    • Maintenance — grinder heads last a long time and when they dull, they are easy to replace.
    • Smooth edges — because the grinder is actually filing down your dog’s nails, you won’t have any rough or sharp edges that can catch on carpets, rugs, fabrics or bedding.

The disadvantages of electric grinders are:

  • Cost — the initial outlay for a dog nail grinder is more than manual nail clippers and you will need to replace the grinder heads occasionally. However, DIY nail grinding will be less expensive and less traumatic than a trip to the groomer.
  • Sound — nail grinders have motors that make sounds and vibrate, so the first couple times you use them on your pet, both of you may need to take more breaks to get used to the sound and sensation.
  • Speed — grinding takes a little longer than cutting, because it’s more of a sculpting technique than a simple cutting technique. 

You might have noticed that the cons of the clippers are the pros of the grinder and vice versa. That’s why we often recommend getting both — use the Barx Buddy dog nail clippers for quick cuts and then finish them off with a grinder. For dogs with dark-color nails, however, we recommend 100% electric nail grinder over clippers.

If you are concerned that your dog has a nail problem, contact your veterinarian.

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