Nail Care For Your Dog:

Nail Clippers vs Dremel Grinder

Nail care for your dog can feel extremely nerve-wracking and overwhelming when first introduced. This is only compounded by the plethora of styles and techniques to cut your dog's nails. If you're needing to cut your dog's nails, but not sure which type of equipment you should use, this dog training article is for you. You'll learn about the pros and cons of two popular dog nail cutting equipment, the nail clippers, and the Dremel grinder.


If this is the first time we're meeting, I'm Dogtor Emerald and my mission is to give those training their own assistance or therapy dog, tips, tricks, and tools for training their pup. As I said above, in this article we're going to be going over the pros and cons of a clipper versus a Dremel grinder.


Trimming your dog's nails is something that should be done on a weekly basis. By cutting your dog's nails regularly, you'll help keep their paws healthy, improve stability on surfaces which helps boost your dog's confidence on slippery surfaces. Finally, you won't have to hear your dog clip clapping around your home because their long nails are striking the floor.


Two of the popular methods of trimming your dog's nails is to use either a nail clipper or a rotary grinder.  Each method has its own benefits as well as drawbacks and really comes down to preference. If you are here to quickly get my take, I like to use the nail clippers to cut my dog's nails then round the sharp point of the nail with a rotary grinder (I use a Dremmel). 


If you'd like a bit more depth and explanation as to why I use both of these tools for my dog's nail care read below. If you are only able to purchase one of these items you can find out what I believe to be the pros and cons of the nail clippers and Dremmel grinder. 


Pros Of Nail Clippers


  • Less expensive when compared to rotary grinders

  • Multiple designs to choose from 

  • Nail guard feature on some models

  • Durable

  • Lightweight 

  • No battery/electricity needed

  • Fast

For new dog owners, I tell them to pick up nail clippers as their first piece of nail cutting equipment. The reasoning behind this is nail clippers are generally inexpensive, durable, and easy to pack around when traveling. Think of nail clippers as a no-frills option that will get the job done while at the same time, allow you to learn what you do and don't like about doggy nail care before jumping into a more expensive purchase.


Though not in the scope of this dog training article, there are several styles and options to choose from when deciding on a nail clipper. All serve the same function in clipping your dog's nail in a straight line. Take a look at your local pet store and see what options they have, a less common style such as the guillotine clippers allows you to have an overhand approach which I find to be very useful when choosing where to cut my dog's nail. I also really like this style because it allows you to replace the blades once they become dull!


Recent styles of nail clippers such as these have a nail guard which many novices and experienced dog owners enjoy as it helps reduce the chances of overcutting your dog's nail if they jab their foot at the last moment. Realistically, this piece is really just for peace of mind as every dog's quick will be in a different location so I wouldn't recommend using the nail guard as a guide when cutting your dog's nails. 

If you find yourself traveling often with your dog or out-and-about where you need to trim your dog's nails on the go, nail clippers are a great option. Since there are very few moving parts to clippers, they tend to be durable, lightweight, and don't require power to operate. I find myself taking clippers if I'm going somewhere that may not have power readily available or I'll need to trim multiple dog's nails. This of course isn't the usual circumstance for most people put it was something that I encounter every so often. ​

If efficiency is the name of your game, nail clippers will certainly be up your alley. Once you get the hang of how to clip your dog's nails using nail clippers, they are significantly faster than a Dremmel or rotary grinder. To give you a frame of reference, I would say that it only takes me a minute or two to trim my dog's nails with nail clippers. 

Cons Of Nail Clippers


  • Steep learning curve

  • Mental barrier

  • Possibly cut your dog's quick resulting in bleeding

  • Not possible to replace the blade on every style

Moving onto the drawbacks of Clippers the first and kind of the biggest one for me is the learning curve when using nail clippers. I personally believe the biggest reason people don't cut their dog's nails is because of the perceived difficulty. I don't blame people for this either, there's a huge mental barrier and fear when using nail clippers when trimming your dog's nails. I remember being really concerned that I would hurt my dog or cut too much of their nail off and cause them to bleed. 


This is just my opinion (obviously) but I don't think using nail clippers is all that hard, we just don't want to hurt our dogs which is why we resist doing it. 

When using nail clippers, once you start cutting your dog's nails, you're all in. You have to go through with the cut and if your dog either pushes their nail through further, or you choke up on the nail too much, you have to deal with a nicked quick, which results in bleeding.  Regardless of how careful you are or how slow you go, if you use clippers enough, you're going to cut into your dog's quick and cause bleeding. 


This doesn't mean that you can't cause bleeding while using a Dremmel, but you have more control with regard to how much you're taking off of the nails. Something to keep in mind, especially if you're concerned or worried about hitting their quick. Luckily, when you do hit your dog's quick, they're not going to have any longterm damage or fear around it, but if you get really worked up about the scenario that can create fear around the experience which is what I find to be the bigger issue around dogs and having their nails trimmed.

Our dogs become fearful of having their nails cut because we get really anxious around the activity and they pick up on it. Do your best to keep your cool when cutting your do's nails to help keep the experience an enjoyable one for both you and your dog.


As you continue to cut your dog's nails, you will likely notice that the crispness and ease of the blade begin to diminish over time. As with any blade, the edge on your nail clipper will begin to dull. Unfortunately, not all nail clippers have a replaceable blade like the guillotine style I mentioned above. If you don't have a way to sharpen the edge of the clipper, you'll have to replace the entire unit which is a bummer.

Pros of Dremel Grinder

  • Many different styles to fit your need

  • Battery-powered or corded options

  • Able to go slowly and check your progress

  • Less stress associated with nail trimming

  • Easy and inexpensive for new sanding discs

  • Many models have varying speeds

Dremel Grinder

The first thing I like to mention about the Dremmel is its versatility.  You can use a Dremmel for multiple projects outside of nail care for your dog. Whereas, with nail clippers, you're only clipping your dog's nails with them.

There are a lot of different styles and models of Dremels when choosing one, I recommend getting one that you will realistically use. If the only reason for using the Dremmel is to file down your dog's nails, you likely only need this model. This model of Dremel is far lighter than the more industrial models. If on the other hand, you find yourself or someone in your family enjoying wood or auto work, this model will likely fit your needs more effectively.


Many of the Dremmel models come in both battery or corded variations allowing you to choose what fits your needs and application. As I mentioned above, I tend to travel to different engagements and need an option with a long battery life which the 8220 Dremel has.  

While using a Dremmel on your dog's nails, you can take your time and file little by little off until you reach the desired length.  The ability to work slowly at your dog's nail definitely lowers the likelihood that you'll nick your dog's quick. Now, this doesn't mean you won't ever be able to do cause bleeding but the chances are reduced considerably.


You can methodically work on a nail, filling a small amount off, check the progress, and returning to take a bit more off if desired. The whole process feels more relaxed when compared to nail clipping. When I use the Dremel on Newport (my current assistance puppy in training) he'll actually fall asleep while his nails are being filed.

I find this approach and experience to be excellent, especially for someone that has high anxiety around trimming their dog's nails. If you are less anxious, your dog will be less anxious about having their nails done. When there's not a big production around the event of nail trimming, there's no fear built into the process. 
Allowing your dog to be relaxed and willing to have their nails done.


If you're anxious, he's going to be anxious, leading into the potential for fighting with your dog in order to clip their nails.

After you've been using the Dremmel for a bit, you'll have to replace the bit with a fresh one which is very simple and inexpensive. I really appreciate that I don't have to replace an entire unit like some of the nail clippers. 


Finally, for the last pro for the Dremmel rotary grinder, I really like the ability to change the sped of the grinder head. This allows you to slowly acclimate your dog to the experience of having their nails trimmed this way. For some dogs, the high vibrational aspect can be a bit offputting in the beginning, and starting at a lower speed seems to help them become used to it. As you increase the speeds, remember you are creating more heat and will want to lower how long you apply the Dremmel to your dog's nail.

Cons Of The Dremel Rotary Grinder

Now leading into the cons of the Dremel. This could be positive, it could be a con depending on how you use the tool. The fact that you need a power source be that batteries or access to a power outlet. The batteries used in these types of tools are not inexpensive and can either go bad or die while you're in the middle of nail care which is frustrating. If you decide to go the power cord route then you're restricted to where you can use the Dremel as well as you now have to manage your cord while trimming your dog's nails. 

Depending on what model you decide to purchase, weight can be a consideration. The Dremel that I use was surprisingly heavy and I noticed my arm and shoulder feeling a bit tired when I still had another 2 paws to go. By no means was the weight of the Dremel prohibitive but I was surprised by the feeling because I'm so used to the lightweight nail clippers that almost feel as if they have no weight at all.


As I've continued to use the Dremel I've realized that it's not so much the weight of the unit itself but the length of the unit I have. Since the Dremel extends a fair amount past the grip of my hand, it acts like a leaver on my wrist and shoulder. If you are at all concerned about the weight, I would recommend purchasing a smaller model such as the 7300-PT Dremel which is designed specifically for dog nail care.

Since the Dremel has many more parts and is electric-powered there is a higher likelihood that it will break when compared to nail clippers. Unfortunately, when they do break, they can be rather expensive to replace since you'll either be replacing a battery or the entire unit. That being said I do feel the need to mention that the 8200 Dremel does feel very sturdy and durable and I'm confident it will last many years to come. 


I suppose what is more likely to happen is someone may take my Dremel if I leave it somewhere or put it down in a crowded space. Since it's a bit higher ticket item I feel that a Dremel is a bigger target for theft when compared to nail clippers. Not sure if it's fair to say this is a negative for getting a Dremel for your dog's nails but I know I'll mentally be more aware of where I set this tool down when in public forums. 

Dogtor Emerald's Pick And Final Thoughts


I don't think you can go wrong with either of these options. Both are fantastic tools and will help make nail care for your dog a breeze. 

If I were just starting to compile items for my dog, I would lean towards the nail clippers because they are less expensive and would allow me to purchase another item or two for my dog's grooming box instead of getting just a Dremel. 

If you are really concerned or anxious about cutting your dog's nails and possibly making them bleed then I would spend a bit more and pick up a Dremel. In the long run, you'll save yourself a headache and frustration from having to work through your hesitations and your dog's anxiety around nail trimming. 

As I mentioned briefly above, I use both the nail clippers to quickly cut a portion of the nail then go back over with the Dremel to round the edges. I've come to really like this approach because I get the best of both worlds. 

In the end, what it all comes down to is choosing something that you'll actually use so you're dog's nails are nice and short so they don't have to struggle with long nails which are no fun. 

With love,

Dogtor Emerald

PS Training is easier with support. For online dog training courses and community, check out Working Canine Club!

For more videos, visit the YouTube channel

The product links on this site help support the continued operations of Working Canine Club.