Dog Nail Grinder Vs Nail Clipper

Dog Nail Grinders Vs Dog Nail Clippers: What We Recommend

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

For new pet parents, clipping the nails of our canine companions is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. However, sooner or later, the need to deal with the nails arises.

Of course, one always has the option to take the dog to a groomer to get the nails done. This is the safest and hands-free choice, but it can get annoying over time. The good news is, getting your dog’s nails to the right length is something you can do at home, but you need the right tools.

When it comes to nail tools for dogs, the biggest decision to make is to choose between a nail grinder and a nail clipper. Which one should you choose? Our dog nail grinder vs clipper guide will help you make the right choice.

The Dog Nail Grinder Guide

Let’s start with grinders, as the grinder is the more mysterious option for newcomers to dog nail clipping. Can you shorten your dog’s nails with just a grinder, or is it made only for finishing touches, like a nail file for humans? If you opt for a nail grinder it will be the only tool you need.

Related: Best Dog Nail Grinder Australia.

Dog nail grinders operate similar to a nail file. However, they are powered by electricity and designed to completely take care of your dog’s nail shortening needs.

Dog nail grinders have a rotating head that is designed to wear down your pup’s nails through abrasion. The rotating head is covered with a material similar to sandpaper. This abrasive surface is usually made with bits of sand, but some high-end models are covered with diamond dust. The rotating head is usually replicable, though, as it will inevitably wear down with time.

Dog nail grinders might seem scary at the start, but they are surprisingly easy to use once you get the hang of it. And the good news is, some dogs get used to the grinder quite quickly. Instead of the sudden sensation of clipping a nail, the grinder will reduce the nail gently, just as it would happen naturally. 

“One of the scariest parts of cutting dogs’ nails is the possibility of cutting the blood vessel inside the dog’s nail. Not only is it painful for the dog, but nicking the quick usually means a fair amount of bleeding.” - Victoria Schade, PetMD

Yes, dog’s nails have blood vessels in there. The key to not hurting your canine companion is going slow, and this is much easier with a grinder than with a clipper.

Pros and Cons


Precision. Nail clippers will allow you to cut your dog’s nails only in a single, standardised shape. While this is good because it prevents you from cutting the nail at the wrong angle, it can also create sharp, uncomfortable edges. Sometimes (although rarely), this can even lead to tiny painful cracks in the nails. With a nail grinder, you can create a smooth, rounded shape tailored to your dog’s nail shape.

Good for dogs with large, thick, or overgrown nails. Some canines can have fairly thick nails, and clipping those is not only scary but requires a powerful set of nail clippers to handle the thickness. With a nail grinder, no nail is too thick, large, or long to trim. The process will simply take a bit longer.

Good substitute for dogs scared of clippers. Sometimes, dogs can develop an aversion towards specific objects. If a puppy developed a fear of nail clippers when young, for example, it can be much easier to introduce the grinder and create a positive association than to get rid of the fear the nail clippers cause.


Requires electricity. Dog nail grinders always require some sort of power. Some need to be plugged into the power outlet, while others are powered by batteries. In any case, you always need to pay attention that your grinder has an adequate power supply, which might not make them the best tool to take with you when travelling, for example. They are also quite bulky.

Noise. Some grinders are quieter than others, but they will inevitably cause noise and vibration due to how they operate. This is not only a bit annoying but can also scare some dogs.

Related: What To Do If Your Dog Has Nail Problems.

Dust. While a nail clipper simply cuts off a piece of the nail, a grinder will basically grind it down creating a fair amount of dust and a peculiar smell in the process. This is why you need to choose the place you do this carefully and also pay attention not to breathe in the dust particles (a mask can help).

The Dog Nail Clipper Guide

Dog nail clippers are the standard tool for trimming a dog’s nails. There are two main options when it comes to choosing nail clippers: scissor clippers or guillotine-style clippers. We’ll explain the difference quickly here, but for more details and tips on how to choose the right nail clippers you can consult our Dog Nail Clippers Guide.

Scissor Clippers

Well, you are probably not surprised to learn that scissor clippers resemble scissors in shape. They are not just a pair of scissors, though. The blade is shaped in such a way that it follows the contour of a dog’s nail, which makes the clipping process much easier and safer. The scissor clippers are pretty much the standard, universal option:

“Scissor-style or plier-style nail clippers can be used for both small and large dogs, but you may find it easier to use nail clippers specifically made for cats or small dogs if you have a miniature pooch.” - Teresa Manucy, DVM, for PetMD

Guillotine Clippers

These clippers made specifically for small dogs are also called guillotine clippers. The name comes from the fact that these clippers involve a single blade that cuts from above across the whole surface of the nail at once. These clippers are great for home use as they let you make a quick, precise cut. However, they are generally not strong enough for large, thick nails, and failing to cut the nail could not only break the clippers but also cause damage to your dog’s nails. Therefore, they are not the best choice for large dogs.

Related: How To Deal With Aggressive Dogs During Nail Clipping?

Pros and Cons


Quick and easy. As we mentioned before, dog nail grinders produce noise and grinding down a nail using this method takes time. With nail clippers, all it takes is a single cut.

Affordable and durable. Dog nail grinders are electronic devices, so it shouldn’t surprise you they can get quite pricey. Clippers, on the other hand, are a simple tool and can be quite affordable. Don’t let the price deceive you, though - it is important to get a pair of well-made, strong clippers, and not a flimsy product that will break the first time you use it.

Portable. Dog nail clippers are fairly small, don’t require electricity, and can be used anywhere.


Accidents can be painful. Cutting into the blood vessel inside your dog’s nail is much easier with a set of clippers than with a grinder. Cut too far, and you can create a painful, bloody accident. Don’t panic - your dog will probably recover from that just fine, but it is worth saying that one needs to be extremely careful when using dog nail clippers.

Dog Nail Grinder or Clipper - Which Is the Right Choice?

Ultimately, both a nail grinder and a clipper can do the job just fine. The choice comes down to your dog’s nail size and personality.

For large, thick nails, a grinder can be easier to handle, especially for grooming beginners. Cutting a thick nail with clippers can be quite intimidating at first. Moreover, some dogs can get scared of the vibrating noise caused by a grinder, while others are more intimidated by the sudden cut of a clipper.

Related: Getting Your Puppy Accustomed To Having Their Nails Clipped


  1. Schade, V. February 10, 2021. “Nailed It! 5 Tips for Stress-Free Dog Nail Trims”. PetMD. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  2. Manucy, T. June 30, 2020. “How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails Safely”. PetMD. Retrieved April 27, 2021.

Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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