How to Cut a Dog’s Nails without Clippers

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Recently I was asked, “How can I cut my dog’s nails without clippers?

My initial reaction was to use a Dremel but had no other answer to give.

Honestly, the question bugged me. Well more accurately, my lack of a better solution bugged me.

I am the type of person when asked a question that, if I don’t feel I’ve answered it sufficiently, it niggles at the back of my mind until I dig in and find a better answer.

So, as I kicked the question and possible answers around in my head. I came up with a few possible ideas, but nothing that was entirely satisfactory.

Well, after diligently searching, I was able to come up with four different options for trimming your dog’s nails without clippers:

  • Nail Grinder AKA Dremel
  • Nail File
  • Nail File Box
  • Nail Scissors

I should state that my definition of a clipper refers to the two traditional styles: the guillotine and the plier shaped clippers.

Nail Grinder

The nail grinder, more commonly referred to as a Dremel (likely because it doesn’t sound as horrible) does precisely that:Dremel nail grinder for trimming dog claws without clippers

It grinds down the nail.

Calling the nail grinder a Dremel is like calling a tissue a Kleenex. Dremel is a well-known name brand that has taken on a more general meaning.

Now, I get that it sounds quite intimidating, grinding down your dog’s nails versus clipping them.

However, nail grinders are used by professional groomers everywhere.

They are an excellent alternative for dogs who don’t do well with clippers.

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Nail grinders are also used to finish the nails after clipping to smooth any rough edges.

Another added benefit of a nail grinder is they don’t split the nail as clippers do from time to time. (That splitting can also happen when you let your dog’s nails get too long![1])

Though like all things, nail grinders have drawbacks.

They are:

  • Price – Nail grinders can range from $15-$40
  • Upkeep – Dogs that only have their nails ground instead of clipped require higher routine maintenance
  • Some dogs fear the noise and vibrations from grinders more than the clippers

For more detailed instructions on how to use a nail grinder, click here.

Product RecommendationsBest dog nail grinder Dremel 7300 alternatives recommendations

All of the options below are cordless options.

I think trimming dog’s nails can be stressful enough without adding a cord to get tangled up, or to have to designate your grooming area to be near an outlet.

When the weather is nice, I prefer to groom my dogs outside on the deck, and I don’t have access to an outlet out there.

  • Dremel 7300 – I like this model for its simplicity and price.
  • Dremel PawControl – (See why everyone calls them Dremels?) This one costs a bit more, but has more features. The PawControl has a nail guard and multiple attachments for different nail grinding options. What that means is there are more coarse options to grind down the nail faster and there are finer attachments to round and smooth the nail over.
  • Pet Republique Grinder – This one is on the more economical side, but still well built. This model has a different head style. On top of this nail grinder, there are two openings, one small and one medium to help hold the nail in place. However, the guard can also be entirely removed to expose the full rotating head.

Pet Republique dog nail claw grinder trimmer clipper battery powered

Nail File

Nail files are frequently used in place of a nail grinder for finishing work.

I will wholeheartedly admit that I tried using a nail file on Ginger’s nails in the hope that she would stop trying to bite me.

But unfortunately, neither of us had the patience to deal with this method.

However, for dogs that are sensitive to both nail grinders and clippers, this is an option worth trying.

Depending on the thickness of your dog’s nails, you may need a more aggressive grit, so using one traditionally used on humans might be a good option.

Related: How to Cut an Aggressive Dog’s Nails

Can you file dog nails friends paw shaped emery board for petsTo file your dog’s nails, it is very much like filing your own. You will want to have a firm but gentle hold on your dog’s paw, then move the file gently back and forth until you reach the desired length.

The obvious drawback to using a file for your dog’s nails is that it takes a lot longer than the other methods.

Product Recommendations

  • Karlash Emery Boards – Though this brand generally caters to the human market, they do recommend these for pets as well. This file has both a coarse and fine grit.
  • FACEFOODING Pet Nail File  – This file is two-sided and shaped like a paw. It may be more comfortable to hold for those with larger hands.
  • Crystal glass pet dog nail finishing file for keeping claws short smoothCoastal Pet Products Diamond Nail File  – This is the most common style of dog nail files on the market. It has a nice handle, and the file itself is slightly bent to fit the curvature of the nail better.
  • Dog Fashion Spa Crystal Glass Nail File  – I have not used this style of a nail file. However, it is guaranteed never to wear down, which is noteworthy.

Nail File Box

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty jazzed about this option!Digger Dog nail file box for natural stress free nail care

I’ve never seen a box style nail file before I started on my journey to find a way to trim a dog’s nails without using a clipper.

So far as I can tell, there is only one brand of these out there on the market, called Digger Dog.

It is a simple design: a box with a coarse grit on top.

The cover slides back so you can put tasty smelling treats inside.

Then, as your dog tries to dig the treats out, they are also filing down their nails.


  • Your dog is doing all the work
  • Less traumatic for your dog – likely they will think they are playing a game
  • No chance of cutting into your dog’s quick
  • Can even help cause the quick to recede[2], making nail maintenance easier


  • Only files the front nails – though I will say when we are walking regularly, I am only trimming my dog’s back nails a small fraction of the time
  • Only works on food-motivated dogs – so in my house it would only work for Sophie

Nail Scissors

Now I may be reaching with this option, but I justify adding it to the list because it is not the traditional clipper, and it is not a common choice or even all that well-known tool.Nail scissors clipper replacement for small breed pet animal claws dog cat

Nails scissors are generally used for smaller dogs or puppies and cut the nail like a regular pair of scissors.

The big difference between this tool and the traditional scissor is the small dip for the nail to rest in when cutting.

Unfortunately, these are not a good option for large or thick nails.

Though I have not used nail scissors on my dogs, I do use these on my cat.

I used to use the same nail clippers that I used on my dogs, but then my vet recommended the scissors. They are overall smaller making it easier to work with Lily’s tiny paws.


  • Hertzko Professional Pet Nail Scissors – I like the grips on the handles, it makes using them a lot more comfortable. Also, this scissor features a slight bend in the blade to make accessing the nail easier.
  • H&H Pets Small Breed Nail Scissors  – This is a standard, reliable no-frills option, though it still has a padded grip. Nails scissors don’t need to be fancy, just sharp.


Bottom line, there are other options out there, for trimming dog’s nails, it just took a wee bit of digging around to find them.

As a pet parent, I can sympathize with those who have dogs that hate nail clippers. But it’s no excuse for not clipping your dog’s nails[3].

It took a very long time and a ton of patience for Ginger to trust me enough to clip her nails.

So, I am happy to report there are other alternatives to the scary clippers.

That is not to say that you need to abandon all hope your dog will be able to get their nails trimmed with a conventional clipper, but using an alternative method until your dog gets to that comfort level is a great compromise.

Some dogs never dig on the clipper, so alternative methods are used, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The important thing is finding the method that works for both you and your dog.



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