We’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback as well as questions regarding grinding of dog nails versus cutting. We briefly covered nail grinding in two previous posts: Grooming – The 1st Year & Beyond, and What To Buy (before bringing your puppy home). Many puppy buyers have shown interest in this topic at their visits also. Here we have collected not only the reason behind our recommendation to purchase a nail grinder, but also guidelines on what to purchase specifically, and some other nail trimming tips.

First, we’d like to review exactly why we recommend purchasing and using a nail grinder, a must have in our opinion.

Standard nail clippers work and there is nothing wrong with using them. The problem is that they leave the nail extremely sharp. A sharp nail does damage to your flooring, especially to wood flooring. A sharp nail also does damage to your own skin and clothing. Puppy owners especially will enjoy a nice smooth nail as their puppy flails against them wildly with excitement over, well, anything.

The other main advantage is that the grinder is much easier to use. It might take some practice at first to get your own technique down, but it is easier than the chopping motion of the nail clipper. It is also less nerve wracking with regard to the infamous quick or kwik. The quick is the blood vessel running through the middle of each toenail. We all know that cutting a nail too short will cut the quick and therefore cause the nail to bleed. With the grinder you are much less likely to reach the quick and therefore much less likely to make the nail bleed. This confidence will transmit to the dog who reads your nervousness much easier than you might think thereby making the dog feel more at ease with the process.

Another reason we would encourage use of the nail grinder is that most owners do not keep the nails of their dog short enough. Many simply wait for the groomer to cut them at regular grooming appointments which might be every 8 weeks. With the grinder any owner should be able to smooth the nails often enough to get them down to the correct length. Nails that are too long will again damage flooring, but they also are much more likely to fracture which can be painful for the dog. Frequent shortening of the nails is especially important for puppies who need the exposure and desensitizing early on, always in a positive and fun light.

You may choose to use the grinder in combination with traditional nail clippers. This might be the case if your dog has longer nails. Instead of grinding the entire length of the nail down, you would cut the majority of the nail and just use the grinder to smooth the rough edges. Once the nail is shorter you could easily switch to using just the grinder more frequently to maintain the shorter length. The other reason you might use a combination of grinder and cutters is if the dog is older or cranky and doesn’t particularly enjoy the vibration of the grinder. In that case you could again just use the grinder to smooth the rough edges. In many cases, however, we find that dogs that are difficult with standard nail trims actually tolerate the grinding better.

So, what should you be looking at when considering a purchase?

Go ahead with the DREMEL brand nail grinder, they are the best. The rest are junk, we’ve tried them. We do strongly recommend purchasing a DOG NAIL SPECIFIC grinder as other grinders not intended for this use go far to fast and can cause damage. Make sure that the Dremel you purchase does not go above 20,000 rpm. If you find the Dremel you purchase goes above 20,000 rpm, be careful not to use it above that speed. The dog specific Dremel typically has two speed settings. The newest version on the Dremel website has two speeds at 7,000 and 14,000 rpm which is sufficient. PetEdge has three varieties of the Dremel brand nail grinder available for purchase each with slightly different speed settings, but all within our limit.

The other consideration when purchasing a Dremel is to go cordless or corded. The cordless dremels have the go-anywhere advantage. For inside your own home with just one or two dogs, the cordless dremel is probably fine. We need to use the corded varieties inside our own business, but we are a much heavier user. The issue is the battery in a cordless dremel, as in any cordless tool, don’t last long enough for our particular usage.

Once you have the dremel you will need the rotary tool accessory for sanding. The nail grinder uses a Sanding Drum Mandrel for which you will need to replace the Sanding Band as needed. Your initial purchase should come with one or more for your first usage. You should be able to find the Sanding Bands at any home improvement store that sells Dremel brand accessories. Sanding Bands come in a variety of grit ratings. Bring the band with you to ensure you purchase correct one.

DREMEL offers the following instructions:

“Nails do not require trimming prior to grinding. Do not hold the grinder in one place while it is in use, as it may cause uneveness and damage the nail. Use a continuous side-to-side motion. Hold the Dremel like a pencil, and firmly hold the foot while grinding the nail. Do not apply force, the Dremel will do the work for you.”

View the complete Owner’s Manual for full instructions.

Some other tips:

You should never dremel past the quick.

You should still keep some Kwik Stop Styptic Powder handy no matter which nail shortening method you use. Kwik Stop helps to releive any pain and to stop the bleeding. It works great, another must have.

Have another person help you feed treats to your puppy as you work with their nails so they associate the experience with something positive.

Don’t forget the dewclaws, if your dog has them. Did you check the back feet too? Left untrimmed they will grow around and back into the pad causing considerable pain.

Work the nails as frequently as every other week or even weekly. Once you are familiar with how fast your dog’s nails grow you can set your own schedule. Some dogs that dig or drag their feet will wear away the nails naturally and may not need trimming as often.

Sometimes dogs just behave badly with their owners while a professional groomer performs the trim with ease. You should not feel bad about that. There is nothing wrong with taking your dog to the groomer for nail trims. The only thing that matters is that the nails are trimmed regularly. If you can’t do it yourself you need to have someone else do it. For your dog’s health and wellbeing do not neglect their nails.