Every weekend, my family and I sit down, gather some of my dog’s favorite toys and treats, and attempt to hold him while another person trims his nails with a nail trimmer or cutter. For several years, we struggled with keeping his nails in check without making it painful for him, or for us. Because nail grooming is one of the most important parts of doggie hygiene and care, regardless, every grooming day was a hard few hours.
We tried everything, from the football hold to desensitization to filing instead. Yet, the downside of having a difficult dog meant it was not only to groom him at home, he would only get increasingly agitated as time went on with each passing grooming and nail clipping session. The only thing that seemed to work was a nail grinder.
Nail Care for Dogs
In the olden times, dogs did not need constant nail cutting because of their movement over different kinds of terrain. The different levels of terrain allowed dogs’ nails to be filed down by the abrasive nature of the sand and dirt combinations. Nowadays, after domestication for indoor dogs, the environment dogs are in now is ineffectual for filing their nails down. If dog owners don’t carefully take care of their dog’s nails, then their nails become prone to breaking, splintering, or growing ingrown, among other painful conditions. Walking may become a difficult task for dogs and it can severely limit their range of motion, especially as they get older.
While some dog owners try to take a less stressful approach by attempting to recreate the different travels of coarse and rough terrains for dogs to naturally shave down their nails, it is recommended by most veterinarians and dog enthusiasts to cut them on a regular basis as needed depending on the quickness of growth. By cutting a dog’s nails regularly, you ensure that you don’t get scratched up and your dog doesn’t hurt his paw while walking around or get their nails hooked in their collars and ID tags.
Long dark nails can be harmful to your dog as well as tricky to remove correctly and safely.
Always be sure that the quick is never cut into. The quick is the point where the dog’s nails blood vessels and nerves end in the paw. Cutting into the quick can severely injure your pup and cause significant amounts of bleeding. Always inspect your pet’s paw before attempting to grind down.
Especially with dark or black colored nails, usually due to dirt and debris accumulation, only shave down small portions at a time in fast, but controlled bursts. When a grayish-pink hue appears in a dark colored nail, stop shaving, as any more grinding down of the nail will also grind down the quick. If you have cut too far, use a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding. If bleeding continues, with or without the pencil, for more than five minutes, call a veterinarian’s office for advice and aid.
Nail Cutters vs. Nail Grinders
While nail cutters are cheap and easy to use for dogs that are calm and enjoy grooming, they can also be dangerous to those dogs that do not enjoy the process as thoroughly. Because of the quick and simple method of viscerally cutting your dog’s nails, they can be easy to use incorrectly. If not judged correctly, the nail cutters can cut into your dog’s veins or cut them at the wrong angle, causing your dog severe pain and bleeding. The pinching of the nail can also cause a dog to break. Nail cutters also need to be replaced regularly since the blades on a nail cutter can go dull quite easily, which increases the risk of harm to your dog.
Dogs often find it comforting to use a nail grinder over a nail clipper – even looking forward to the nail trimming process.
On the other hand, nail grinders can smooth and round the edges of your dog’s nails without causing your dogs any anxiety or pain when nail clipping. Because the nail grinder doesn’t immediately snap the nail like a nail cutter, it is easier to trim down your dog’s nails slowly without harming your pup’s feet, although getting paw hair caught can be a valid concern for pet owners with dogs with longer, curly hair.
While a nail grinder can make a lot of noise, it is oftentimes still more comforting and easier on your dogs than the snap of a nail cutter. Nail grinders are often better at ensuring that the mess created is more contained and easy to clean up afterwards, as most come with built-in guards that minimize clean-up. They are also very portable. As someone with unsteady hands, I also have found it easier to be more accurate and precise to cut my dog’s nails, making it an easier process on my dog and myself.
Best Nail Grinders
1. Andis Nail Grinder
This nail grinder is easy to handle and compact!
The Andis nail grinder is used by many professional groomers. It is made with a lithium ion battery but can be used on electricity with an optional cord as well. The benefit to this nail grinder is that it is surprisingly quiet in person for a dog who is scared of loud noises and is easily skittish. My dog, who doesn’t enjoy anyone holding his paws, worked really well with this grinder compared to his reaction to his at home nail cutter. This grinder is meant to be used on breeds of all types and sizes.
The grinder lasts almost three hours on a full charge of battery. For additional comfort, it has several different speeds of circulation to help trim down your dogs’ nails. Additionally, the nail grinder comes with a nice, sturdy nail guard that ensures that the mess doesn’t spread everywhere. Especially since it’s lightweight, it doesn’t heat up too fast, unlike other grinders. The dog nail grinder also comes with a full case, extra sanding bands, a polishing set kit, two different sized drum heads, and a silicone grip too. Replacement parts are also widely available and easy to replace after a couple of months of use.
2. Conair Nail Grinder
The Top Paw Conair Nail Grinder is well-known and even used in professional salons.
While on the pricier side, this nail grinder is professional-grade made for dogs. This famous brand is already well established and known for their beauty products, and this grinder is no different. Their nail grinder is also extremely quiet, perhaps not as much as the Andis nail grinder, but it still muffles the motor noise of grinding down the nails significantly. While this particular model is not cordless, it has a remarkable ability to stay cool compared to the other brands of nail grinders for sale. It comes with a stone and sander attachment that are easily installable and removable by the user accordingly.
The guard on the nail grinder is also adjustable, but can shake and rattle. However, this minor inconvenience can easily be fixed by a little electrical tape around the guard, as suggested by many users. There are also three grits that can be used depending on the amount of accuracy you would prefer on your dog’s nails, with a higher grit making it easier for you to quickly shave down your dog’s nails to a healthy and safe length.
3. Dremel Pet Nail Grooming Tool
This is perhaps the most well known brand on our list. The Dremel Nail Grinder is a little trickier to assemble, but given its high quality and reasonable price, it is a small inconvenience. For those dog owners who have a little bit of trouble installing and assembling the Dremel, the company as well as other users have posted several example instruction videos online on youtube for convenience’s sake. This tool is completely cordless and doesn’t have an optional cord with it, with a battery that lasts a full three hours on average between charges.
The tool comes with two built in speeds for grinding your dog’s nails – a slower and faster speed. The faster speed tends to create more noise than the slower speed, which means for dogs that can spook easily, the slower speed may come in handy.
The Dremel is one of the more powerful rotary nail grooming tools on the market, which means that along with quality also comes efficiency. This does mean, conversely, that first time users and dog owners may be more prone to hitting the quick and drawing blood. The tool comes with a battery, charger, sanding bands, and drum with a mandrel.
The battery, once completely worn out, can be replaced by any Dremel brand battery, which are all known to be cross-compatible. The sanding brands are also available for repurchase. This tool is better used for dogs that are less likely to spook and have thicker and harder to cut nails, as the Dremel’s power may be difficult to handle with smaller dogs’ nails and dogs that scare quickly.
This product works great on animals of all kinds, including those cats that need just a little bit of extra help in the grooming department.
Another positive part of this tool is that it is also usable on other pets for our multi-pet owners. Most commonly, the Dremel is also utilized on cat nails that are not groomed down naturally.
4. Best For Small Dogs
This Hertzko Electric and Painless Nail Grinder is advertised specifically and marketed towards dogs of smaller stature. The unique part of this nail grinder is that it is extremely quiet and can hold a battery charge extremely well, meaning that there is no fuss over the cord or any difficulty when filing down your dog’s nails.
The battery takes on average, eight hours to charge, but can last you several nail grinding sessions before it finally wears out. There is a charge light indicator that turns off on the side of the grinder once it has completed its charge. It is also rechargeable with a USB cord that is included in the kit. It is recommended for smaller dogs, since their nails are often not as tough. It also comes highly lauded by users for use on growing puppies. Since smaller nails are easier to injure and reach the quick, this tool aims for extreme precision from the user.
While it may not be the most powerful tool available, it is one of the most compactable. It does include a diamond-like bit to ensure that the nails are ground down to as smooth a bit as possible. While I would only recommend this grinder for small and medium sized dogs, it is compatible with larger breeds, coming with removable parts to open the port opening larger if necessary.
A unique part of this grinder is that due to the diamond bit inside, they don’t sell replacement parts since the bit is meant to last. This way, you can be rest assured that you and your pup are getting the best quality bit available.
Since this product takes a while to work down your dog’s nails, it may be a good idea to file them down afterwards. Similarly, if you want to test your dog’s ability to withstand nail grinding, try nail filing manually first.
5. Best for Tough (Tuff) Nails
Meant for dogs with tougher nails, it is specially designed for utmost control even when pressing up against the toughest of nails, it doesn’t slip easily. For pets with large, tough nails, when the motor on a grinder is uncontrollable, it can slip and injure the pads of your dog’s feet, which can be painful. This nail grinder ensures that it won’t happen, even with the guard off.
Because of the power of this motor and the diamond bit, it takes only a minute to a minute and a half on large dog nails. Coming with multiple speeds, it also is adjustable based on your grooming preferences. The battery doesn’t last as long as some of the other nail grinders we have reviewed above, but it charges much faster, with a charging time of three hours, indicated by a blue light for a full charge, with a two hour performance time.
One of the best parts of this nail grinder is the lifetime assurance guarantee. This nail grinder itself and the nail kit with any replacement parts is free for life after one purchase, under their lifetime policy. The durability and heavy-duty aspects of this grinder seem to last however, and most do not even need the lifetime replacement.
Although it is considered heavy duty, the manufacturers have taken note that even our bigger dogs get scared by nail trimming; thus, they have ensured a quality test that their grinder remains under 50 decibels of noise so as to not frighten your pups.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.