How to Properly Cut Or Grind Your Dog’s Toenails

Written by Cory Eckert

Is that loud constant clicking on the floor driving you crazy?  Well your dog is probably not happy about it either.

When a dog’s nails are too long, it can hinder their ability to walk and run properly by curling under and becoming painful.  

Dogs have different rates of nail growth which may be influenced by their daily activities.  Different surfaces may also influence the rate of growth.

If your dog is use to softer surfaces, like being indoors, grass and dirt paths, they do not have a lot of friction compared to other surfaces like cement, concrete and asphalt.  The harder the surface the more likely your dog’s nails will wear down.

Long nails can break or snag which is very painful for dogs of all ages.  If you notice that your dog is limping or licking his feet constantly, this might indicate that he is in pain.  

If this is not addressed directly and consistently, a long-term result may be stress on the dog’s joints which could lead to joint damage and arthritis from the excessive strain on their paws and legs.

So, what to do?  Do you trim you dog’s nails by cutting or grinding? There has been a lot of discussion regarding what works best – with pros and cons to both, but it will probably come down to personal preference, comfortability and your dog’s temperament.  Let’s look at the options.

Trimming by Cutting

If you choose to trim your dog’s nails by cutting there are two types of nail clippers that you can use: Scissors or Guillotine.  

The Scissors works just as the name suggest, they are also similar to a pair of pliers and are sometimes referred to as Miller’s Forge Trimmers.  The plus to this type of clipper is that it is able to provide the extra force needed for bigger, thicker nails of large breed dogs.

The Guillotine clipper has a hole where the tip of your dog’s nail goes through and then a blade is lowered cutting off the tip of the nail, just like a guillotine.  This type of pet clipper is best for small to medium dogs because their nails can fit through the hole of the clipper; and it is good for clipping dew claws.

Pros And Cons To Cutting Nails


  • Quick – Cutting or clipping your dog’s nail is done quickly.
  • Quiet – It is quiet and there is no buzzing sound that the nail grinders or other tools make.
  • Inexpensive – Nail clippers usually cost less than tools used for grinding.No electricity needed – Pet clippers do not need to be plugged into an outlet. 


  • Could cut into Quick – If you cannot see the quick or if your dog moves his paw, you can injure him by cutting the quick, causing a bloody mess and lack of trust from your dog.
  • Pinching Quick - You might not cut the quick but sometimes you can still cause pain by pinching or squeezing it.
  • Damaged Nail – Some dogs have nails that break, split and crack, so using clippers can worsen the already damaged nail.

Trimming by Nail Grinding

If you choose to grind your dog’s nails, these are the following tools that you can use: Pedipaws, Dremel and Oster.

  • - Pedipaws is a brand of pet nail grinders, well-known due to its infomercials.  It grinds down the nail by spinning an abrasive surface against the nail.

  • - Dremel is a brand that besides making standard tools, also makes pet nail grinders.  They also sell a pet nail guard attachment for extra safety.

  • - Oster is another version of a rotary grinding tool for trimming your dog’s overgrown nails.  This company has been known for its pet grooming clippers which is very sturdy and reliable.

Pros and cons of Trimming By Nail Grinding


  • Works on Thick Nails – Great for dogs with thick nails that cannot be cut by traditional clippers.
  • Works on Dark Nails – It is hard to see where the quick is on dogs with dark nails.  Grinding is a slower process which enables you to remove nails slowly and helps you gauge where the quick begins.  It is still possible to hit the quick but grinding decreases the possibility of cutting deeply into the quick.

  • Good for Scared Dogs – Grinding is an alternative to dogs who have been scared and injured by cutting of their quick while using traditional clippers.

  • Sharp Edges Gone – Grinding rounds your dog’s nails making them smooth and snag free.  You will be less likely to leave behind a sharp nail that can snag or scratch.


  • Noise – Since the nail grinders make sounds, if your dog is irritated by sounds, he will be irritated by the grinder.

  • Dust – When using any rotary tool there is a certain amount of dust created.  It may even smell a bit. If you are sensitive, protective gear, such as eye protection or a nose/mouth mask may be used.  Grinding your dog’s nails outside is another great idea.

  • Heat – With all rotary tools, pet nail grinders can generate heat if left in one area for too long, keep on moving. 

Tips And Reminders

  • Use the option that works best for you and your dog.
  • Make sure to use appropriate, reliable, quality tools.
  • With whatever option you go with, always be careful of the Quick.
  •  Don’t squeeze or pinch too hard when cutting or grinding, you can still cause pain.
  • If you have a dog that has long-hair make sure to either clip the hair or hold the hair back so that it won’t get wound in the shaft of the grinder.  (*tip – slip an old nylon stocking with a hole for the nail over the paw to keep the hair from the grinding tip)
  • To prevent heat buildup, do not stay in one area too long with the grinder.
Remember if you don’t like to hear the click-clack of nails on the floor, trim your dog’s nails regularly.  Start a grooming routine when he is a pup, so that he knows what to expect. 

Be consistent and gentle, he will thank you for it by being a healthy, loving and playful companion!

Looking for the best tools to trim your dog's nails? Check out our post: Best Do Nail Grinders and Clippers for Golden Retrievers

About the author

Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).