Far from my favorite job is trimming my dog’s nails, but like many things, it’s just part of having a dog in your life.
Though my dogs are pretty tolerant of getting their nails cut, my senior dog’s nails are getting thicker and becoming more challenging to cut.
When I talked to the vet about this, they mentioned that it isn’t abnormal for an older dog’s nails to change. My vet suggested trying a nail grinder since it may be easier and more comfortable for Calvin and Sophie.
I’ve always used nail clippers, specifically the scissors-style (check out our guide on how to use dog nail clippers).
But I have been curious about using a nail grinder since it leaves the nails smooth and eliminates the sharp edges from using clippers, though, after a walk or two, those edges round out.
What has held me back from getting a grinder in the past is because my dogs and I are both comfortable with the nail clippers so figured to stick with what worked.
However, before I invested in a nail grinder, I needed to learn how to grind dog nails to make sure it was something I would be comfortable doing at home.
Preparing Your Dog
Just like using a dog nail clipper, you need to acclimate your dog to the nail grinder, especially the sound.
Preparing your dog for having their nails ground will likely take days. It is vital you are patient and do not rush this process.
A dog who is scared or stressed when having its nails ground can make the process challenging if not dangerous.
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Even before plugging the grinder in, show it to your pup and let them sniff it. Be sure to give them lots of treats when they investigate it.
Put your dog in the position they need to be in, so you can grind their nails. Most people position their dog lying down on their side so they have easy access to their paws.
Next, gently touch the grinder bit with the sandpaper to your dog’s nails, again this is before you turn it on.
After your dog is comfortable with you touching their nails with the grinder, it is time to turn it on. Plug the nail grinder in and press the button so your dog can hear the noise.
Do not attempt to grind your dog’s nails; you are just getting your dog used to the noise.
When your dog is comfortable being near the grinder while it is on, then it is time to get started.
How to Grind Your Dog’s Nails
What you need:
- Nail Grinder with Grinding Band – If you need help choosing a nail grinder, check our list of the Best Dog Nail Grinders.
- Blood stop
Step 1: Position your dog, so both of you are comfortable, ideally with the paw pads are facing up.
Step 2: Pull any hair back from your dog’s paws so you can easily see their nails.
Step 3: Gently yet firmly hold your dog’s paw separating the toe, to give you easy access to the nail; it is best to use your pointer finger and thumb to hold the base of the nail, minimizing the vibrations.
Step 4: Press the button to start the grinder before placing the grinder on the nail.
Step 5: With a quick controlled motion, swipe the grinder across the nail, be sure not to hold the grinder against the nail; nail grinders heat up quickly and could easily burn your dog
Step 6: Check the nail frequently and stop grinding when you see the outline of the circle.
Things to Remember When Grinding Your Dog’s Nails
There are a few things to keep in mind when grinding your dog’s nails:
- Keep your dog calm and comfortable, be sure to use a soft yet happy voice; this is not when you want your dog to get excited.
- Check the nail frequently to ensure you don’t grind down too far; if you do, it is painful and will cause your dog’s nail to bleed.
- Keep things positive, treats, treats, and more treats!
- Take your time
- Bring the grinder to the nail, not the other way around.
- Don’t skip the preparing your dog step
Tips on Grinding Your Dogs Overgrown Nails
Depending on how overgrown your dog’s nails are, you may need to trim them up with a clipper before using the grinder. You need to make sure the grinder head is clear of your dog’s pads.
Once you have determined that the bit will not touch other parts of your dog’s foot you can begin to start grinding the nail down.
Be sure to check the nail frequently; when nails are allowed to grow out, the quick will continue to grow with the nail.
Benefits of Using a Grinder instead of a Clipper
There are pros and cons of using a grinder instead of a clipper (see our full comparison of clipping vs grinding your dog’s nails). Grinders can be a bit more expensive than a clipper, often ranging between $15-$35.
The noise and feel of the grinder can be uncomfortable and scary to some dogs, whereas clippers make very little noise and do not cause vibrations.
Also, using a grinder can be a bit more challenging to learn to use.
However, there are significant benefits of using a grinder over a clipper such as:
- Reduces the chances of grinding too short
- It can be better to use with dogs that have had a bad experience with nail clippers.
- It leaves a smoother edge than the clipper.
- You have the option of getting a grinder with a light.
I am still debating between a couple of grinders, but I am excited about trying it out. I love the idea of being able to smooth out the sharp edges on all of the dog’s nails to avoid scratches.
If the nail grinder works well for the older dogs, I may switch the two younger dogs to the grinder instead of the clippers.
Though it is still possible to go too low on the nail, I like that the grinder reduces that risk.
I also really like having the added light. I don’t always trim my dog’s nails on sunny days, so I frequently use a headlamp to see better, so having a lighted grinder is pretty appealing.
Is it better to use a nail grinder or nail clipper on your dog?
A nail grinder leaves a smoother edge and is less likely to hit the quick. However, the nail grinder does take some time to get used to it, and if not correctly used, it can cause burns.