Dog Nail Trimming Vs Grinding: The Best Way to Care for Your Dog’s Nails

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All throughout time, humans have had unfortunate disagreements that have led to many epic battles being waged. Some of these battles helped shape our lives as we know them today.

Examples of such wars that come to mind include thin crust versus pan pizza, Marvel versus DC, toilet paper from under the roll versus toilet paper from over the roll.

And now another pair enters the arena: clipping versus grinding1 your dog’s nails. Which side do you stand with?

Related: How to Grind Your Dog’s Nails

Clipping vs Grinding: The Debate

If you’re ready to join the debate, that means there’s one thing you agree with no matter which side you chose and that’s the fact that you must trim your pet’s nails2.

According to our polling of hundreds of Central Park Paws readers, 68% of dog owners prefer to cut their dog’s nails over grinding.

Individual dogs have different rates of nail growth, and their daily activities will also be a factor.

Dog on leash walking on concrete sidewalk

If your dog is used to softer surfaces like grass fields, dirt paths, or indoors flooring, their nails don’t have much friction against those nails compared to harder surfaces such as concrete and asphalt that help nails wear down naturally.

Even dogs that do have a lot of contact with hard surfaces will still need their nails trimmed on occasion.

Related: How to Get Your Dog to Like Nail Trims

Why Do I Have to Trim My Dog’s Nails?

When a dog’s nails are too long, it can impede their ability to walk and run properly.

Long nails can curl under and become painful, forcing the animal to adapt they way they walk and run.

This puts excess strain on their paws and legs that can cause stress on the dog’s joints and can lead to joint damage and arthritis.

Long nails can also snag and break which is a painful injury for the pup. All nails, including the dew claw, must be shortened. The dew claw can curl back as it grows causing pain.

If you notice slight limping or excessive licking of their feet, that may be an indication that they are in pain.

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Simply trimming their nails, be it by cutting or grinding, may give your pet some much needed relief.

How do I Know if My Dog’s Nails Need to Be Trimmed?

A good way to tell if they are too long is to listen as they cross a room with tile or wood flooring.

If you can hear them “click,” then they are too long.

How do I Know if I Should Clip or Grind My Dog’s Nails?

It all comes down to what both you and your dog need.

An owner with a chihuahua clearly has different nail care needs to meet than an owner of a great dane that chews his nails3 does.

In the next section of this post, we’ll go a little further into which works best for different situations.

All About Dog Nail Clipping

Now that we’ve established that the chore must be done, the next step is picking out the right nail clippers for your pet.

This can be confusing because there are different kinds available.

Once you’ve read over the information and decided which of the tools your situation calls for, you’ll be ready to start clipping your dog’s nails.

Types of Traditional Pet Nail Clippers

There are two basic styles of dog nail clippers. The one best for you depends on your pup and your circumstances.

Check out these descriptions to see which is the right one for your situation.

Scissor Style Clippers

Miller's Forge Dog Nail Clippers

As the name suggests, this type of dog nail clippers works just like a traditional pair of scissors.  They are also similar to a pair of pliers.

This type of dog nail clipper is sometimes referred to as Miller’s Forge Trimmers.

The construction of these clippers provide the extra force needed to get through larger breeds with bigger, thicker nails.

Guillotine Style Clippers

Guillotine Type Dog Nail Clippers

The guillotine style pet nail clippers work by sticking the tip of your dog’s nail through a hole and lowering a blade, gently slicing off the end of the nail like a guillotine.

This type of clipper typically works best for small to medium dogs because the pet’s nail must be small enough to fit through the hole in the clippers.

The guillotine type of dog nail clipper is also quite handy for quickly clipping dew claws.

Pros and Cons of Cutting Dog’s Nails

Pros of Clipping

  • Quick – Clipping a dog’s nail4 is over in the blink of any eye where as grinding them down is a bit of a process.
  • QuietCompared to the constant buzzing sound nail grinders make, any type of traditional dog nail clipper is going to be quiet.  Certain dogs are easily frightened and don’t react well even to the the relatively quiet sound the rotary tools make.
  • Inexpensive- Doggy nail clippers are generally cost less than any tools you will find for grinding your pet’s nails.
  • No Electricity Needed – Perfect for all those times you want to clip your pet’s nails while camping or if you get bored during a lengthy power outage.

Cons of Clipping

  • Quickly Cuts Into Quick – It’s all too easy to misjudge by a fraction or for your pet to move their paw at the last second. Next thing you know, you’ve got a bloody mess on your hands.  While there are solutions available to stop bleeding when you cut into the quick of a dog’s nails, it can be difficult to regain their trust when it comes to nail clippers again.
  • Pinching – Traditional dog nail clippers can squeeze and pinch your dog’s quick causing pain even when you don’t cut into the quick.
  • Nail Damage – Like humans, some dogs have nails that are prone to breaking, splitting, and cracking, and using clippers on these types of nails can make the damage worse.

All About Dog Nail Grinding

Do yourself and your favorite four-legged friend a favor and educate yourself about why grinding your dog’s nails could be a wonderful addition to your pet’s grooming routine.

Types of Pet Nail Grinders

Here are three of the top dog nail grinders on the market today. They each have their benefits and drawbacks but check out each one to see which is right for you.


PediPaws Pet Nail Grinder

If you’ve ever been up late at night watching TV, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this brand before.

The Pedipaws brand pet nail grinder is probably one of the more well-known grinders on the market thanks largely in part to their infomercials.

It works just like the other pet nail grinders, by spinning an abrasive surface that you place against the nail.

It gradually grinds down the nail similar to using sand paper on wood.


Dremel Pet Nail Grooming Tool

This brand’s name is so synonymous with grinding a pet’s nails that it is now commonly used as a verb, Dremeling a dog’s claws.

The Dremel company makes a grinder specifically designed for use on pet’s nails, but they also make a standard version of the tool that can be used for the same purpose with the right attachment.

They also sell a pet nail guard attachment that can be added for extra safety.


Oster Dog Nail Grinder

Just another version of what is basically the same product, a rotary grinding tool for trimming down your pet’s overgrown talons.

While I haven’t personally tried their brand of nail grinder, I have had really great experiences over the years with the Oster brand of pet grooming clippers.

They are a very sturdy, reliable brand of clippers, and I trust their company to make their pet nail grinders with the same high standards.

Pros and Cons of Grinding Dog’s Nails

Pros of Grinding

  • Works on Thick Nails – Dog nail grinders are super handy for dogs with thicker nails that can be difficult to clip with traditional clippers.
  • Works on Dark Nails – Clear or light colored nails allow you to see the quick inside letting you know where to cut. Dogs with dark nails5 make it difficult to gauge where the nail ends and the quick begins. While it is possible to cause bleeding while with a pet care rotary tool, slowly grinding away one layer at a time decreases the odds of cutting deeply into the quick with a single snip of the clippers.
  • Good For Dogs Who are Scary Cats – If you’ve hit the quick with dog nail clippers in the past and your dog is decided they were done with that noise, grinders offer second approach to shortening the length of your dog’s nails.
  • No Sharp Edges – Being able to round your dog’s nails makes sure they are smooth.  Clippers can leave behind a sharp nail that can snag cloth and carpet and scratch people.

Cons of Grinding

  • Noise – Dog nail grinders make a sound.  Dogs that are irritated by sounds will be irritated by a grinder.
  • Smelly Dust – There is a dust created when you use the sanding bit of a rotary tool on a dog’s nails.  It smells a bit.  Eye protection or a mask aren’t a bad idea if you’re particularly sensitive.  It might also be easier to grind your dog’s nails outside.
  • Heat – Pet nail grinders are rotary tools. These little power tools can generate some heat if you leave it on one spot for too long.


When it comes to the grinding vs clipping debate, the winning choice ultimately depends on your dog’s individual needs.

Clipping is Best for…

  • Small to Medium Breeds
  • Dogs Who are Scared of Vibrations and Sounds from Grinding
  • Dogs With Overgrown Nails
  • White/Clear Dog Nails

Grinding is Best for…

  • Dogs With Nails Too Thick to Cut with Traditional Clippers
  • Dogs with Dark Nails
  • Dogs Who are Scared of Clippers
  • Rounding Sharp Edges After Clipping

Everyone is a Winner

As far as a real debate goes, that’s silly.

Just like the majority of the problems that have the world divided, there’s really no need to fight over it.

Just as there’s plenty of room in this world for both thin crust pizza and pan, same goes for grinding and cutting as an effective way to keep your pup’s nails at a healthy length.

What it really comes down to is knowing what your dog’s needs are, understanding the proper way to grind or cut a dog’s nails, and making sure you have the quality tools for the job.

Do you prefer dog nail grinders or clippers, and why do you prefer one tool over the other?

Is Nail Grinding Good for Dogs?

Yes, nail grinding is good for dogs. Consistent nail care is important for the ongoing health and wellbeing for your furry friend.

Are Dog Nail Grinders Safe?

Dog Nail Grinders are absolutely safe when used correctly. Make sure to read all instructions carefully and watch a few how-to videos before grinding your dog’s nails at home.

What is the Difference Between Clipping and Grinding Dog Nails?

The main difference between grinding and clipping dog nails is that clipping cuts off chunks of the nail quickly but risks cutting the nail quick – which can cause bleeding – while grinding sands away small amounts of the nail, allowing for more control and precision, at the expense of time.



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