Guide to Grooming Your Pet’s Claws: How to Grind Dog Nails

You have so many options when it comes to trimming your pets’ nails — scissor-style clippers, guillotine-style trimmers, and high-speed rotary tools to name a few. This guide to grooming your dog’s claws covers the latter — how to grind dog nails. Dog nail grinders are high-speed rotary tools that are designed specifically for gently shortening dog (and cat) claws.

What is a Dog Nail Grinder?

A dog nail grinder is a high-speed rotary tool that’s used to trim and buff a dog’s nails. It is similar to a household Dremel tool, which has interchangeable heads that you can use to do routine DIY projects and crafts around your house. A Dremel tool has different heads that can grind, drill, polish, engrave and more. 

A dog nail dremel / grinder works in similar ways to a household high-speed rotary tool, with a few differences. Our model, the Nailpro Nail Grinder, for example, has two speeds, replacement heads (sold separately), and operates on two AA batteries. It is quieter than a household tool and it comes with a heavy-duty plastic guard that protects your pets’ nails from being cut too short. 

Related: What is the difference between nail grinders and nail clippers?

How to Use Dog Nail Grinders

Before you use the nail grinder for the first time on your dog, let him or her sniff it. Turn it on and off to let them get used to the sound. Your dog watches you for reactions, so make sure you’re calm and nonreactive when you use the dog nail grinder (or any grooming tool).

If you have a larger dog or a dog that is skittish, you might enlist the help of a trusted and familiar helper who can sit beside the dog and keep him still while you quickly grind the nails. 

  • Turn the device on.
  • Gently lift the dog’s paw and place one claw inside the opening until it touches the head.
  • After 1-2 seconds remove the claw and check it. 
  • Make sure you haven’t filed too short — if you see the fleshy quick, you can stop.
  • Reward your dog with praise, head scratches and healthy treats.
  • Repeat until you’ve trimmed and checked all claws on the front paws.

Talk to your veterinarian about whether you need to trim your dog’s front and back paws. Many breeds do not need to have their back claws trimmed.

When is the Best Time to Grind Dog Nails?

After a walk, exercise or playtime is a great time to groom your dog because a tired dog is less likely to put up a fight or resist being groomed.

Some people prefer to do their dogs’ nails toward the end of the day, after a full day of activities. Others prefer to do it just before they feed their dogs because dogs, as you know, are highly motivated by food rewards. A hungry dog might be more likely to obey and be patient while you grind-reward-grind-reward them. 

You can use a healthy treat to reward your dog for being good while you grind your dog’s nails.

The best time to grind your dog’s nails is when you’re both relaxed. Dogs can sense their owners’ moods and stress levels, so avoid doing any grooming tasks when you’ve had a rough day!

How Often to Grind Dog Nails

Dog nails that become overgrown should be trimmed every two weeks to allow the fleshy quick to recede. The perfect length for your dog’s nails is right around the pads of the paws. You shouldn’t be able to hear your dog’s claws on a hard floor, even though we sometimes use that sound as a way to keep track of mischievous pets!

Well-trimmed dog nails typically need to be maintained every four to six weeks, but every dog is different, depending on their breed, age, diet, and amount of time they spend outside. Keep an eye on your dog’s claws and trim them when they start to get longer than the pads on their paws.

What About Dog Nail Buffing? Is It Beneficial?

Some people refer to nail grinding as nail buffing, but they are not the same thing. The word “buff” does have a gentler connotation, doesn’t it? Dog nail grinding is using a high-speed rotary tool to quickly file down a dog’s nails. Buffing, however, is the practice of using very fine sandpaper or polishing attachment to produce a shine on the surface of the nail. 

Dog nail buffing is a cosmetic preference.

How to Grind Nails That Are Black

The quick of a dog’s nails is filled with blood vessels and nerves. It is live tissue that, if you cut into it, will bleed and hurt the dog. Have you ever broken your own nail so far that it went into the nail bed? Ouch, right? That’s similar to cutting into the quick of a dog’s nail. 

Dogs’ nails come in a variety of colors, ranging from an opaque white to many shades of tan, brown, gray and black. Black dog nails pose a challenge when grooming because you can’t easily see through them to the quick. 

Related: Learn more about dog nails with this post, “9 Interesting Facts About Dog Nails.” 

You can try using a flashlight up to the claw to see if that illuminates the quick. However, we recommend using the grinder instead of scissor- or guillotine-style clippers for dogs that have black nails. The reason is that the grinder gently files down the dog’s claws without cutting into the quick. A dog nail grinder allows you to grind-check-grind a little at a time.

For more information on the Nailpro nail grinder, refer to our new product announcement, which contains even more tips for using nail grinders on dogs.  

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