Want to save this information for later?  Grab your PDF cheat sheet of this post, The Ultimate Tool Guide for Trimming Dog Nails, here.

Do Not Put the Cart Before the Horse… or Dog

I know you, like me, are excited about trimming your dog’s nails.  But please, please, please, read this in its entirety BEFORE you grab your dog and just start cutting.

Ever hear the idiom about putting the cart before the horse?  Let me set the scene to illustrate…

You:  “Your nails are too long.  Time to trim them! Lay down.”

Your Dog: “What is that thing?”

You:  “Stay still so I can cut!”

Your Dog: “What the hell is that thing?  What are you doing to me?”

You: “Hubby, can you come help me hold him.  He won’t stop squirming!”

Your dog (out loud): “Yikes!”

Did that sound familiar to you?  If so, keep reading. For the rest of you, what about this scenario?

You:  “Wanna get your nails cut?”

Your dog (happy, anxious): “ok”

You (with treats): “Lay down, give me a paw.  Staaaayyy stilllll…. Goooooddd booooyyyy”

Your dog (anxious, scared, but compliant): “More treats please!!!!”

You (rushing and anxious): “Stay still!  I can’t clip when you pull your paws away!”

Your dog: “Is this almost over?”

Can you guess what is wrong in both of these situations?  

Well, I know many of you will say there is really nothing wrong with the second one, as this dog is compliant and the nail trim is reluctantly accomplished.  Many of you will say all dogs experience anxiety when their nails are cut and that is just par for the course.

I will tell you not only is that last statement 100% not true, but that the primary issue with both of these accounts is that the owner is putting the cart before the horse.  

Tired of metaphors?

When you prioritize your desire (to get his nails done) over your dog, you are putting the “cart before the horse.” Using bribery or force is nothing more than a means to your selfish end.  

So here’s the truth.  And I know this from 20+ years of experience.  When force or intimidation are used, you will never realize long term nail cutting success.   

Believe me, I have tried both.  And failed.

Step #1 in Trimming Dog Nails

I know what you are thinking.

Ok, Big Dog Mom, I agree with you.  So how do I get my dog to love getting his nails trimmed?

That is a terrific question!  So happy you asked.

The first step in this process is for you to decide TODAY that you want to learn.  That you want to be able to trim your own dog’s nails and not rely on a groomer or vet tech to do them.  You agree that using force, coercion, or intimidation are not achieving the outcome that you want, and you are committed to learning a better way.  The right way!

If you agree to that, you are ready to start.  And I am here to help you!

[click here to be added to the waitlist for Learn to Trim Dog Nails Like a Pro: The ultimate force-free, step-by-step method for achieving perfect paws (and a better relationship with your dog) in 60 days or less.]

Now that you have made the decision to learn the right way to trim your dog’s nails, it is time to choose what tool you want to use.  

You need to make this choice first before you can learn how to use it and ultimately, how to train your dog to absolutely LOVE getting his nails cut.

To be clear, what we are not going to cover in this post are:

  • HOW to use any of these nail cutting tools,
  • HOW to desensitize your dog to the tool or process of nail trimming, or
  • WHY conditioning is critical to your long term success.

I will be covering some of those topics here on BigDogMom.com in future blog posts, so be sure to subscribe for all the latest if this is a topic that interests you.  

Want to save this information for later?  Grab your PDF cheat sheet of this post, The Ultimate Tool Guide for Trimming Dog Nails, here.


Nail Clipper for Trimming Dog Nails

This is the tool that I started with some 20+ years ago.  Tried and true. The traditional nail clipper is a tool that gets the job done.

There are two types of dog nail clippers.  A guillotine nail clipper and a scissor-style nail clipper.  

With a guillotine clipper, a single blade comes down and slices off the end of your dog’s nail (like a guillotine).  I do not recommend this style for people with large or giant breed dogs. It is not quick or powerful enough to cut the thicker, stronger nails of our big dogs.  

The scissor-style traditional nail clipper is the style I recommend for big dog owners.  This style consists of two blades that come together to cut your dog’s nail (like a scissor).  The amount of force you are able to generate with this style of nail clipper are better for the thicker nails of large and giant breed dogs.  

Millers Forge Pet Nail Trimmer

Price: $7.68

4.0 out of 5 stars (71 customer reviews)

18 used & new available from $5.67

Millers Forge Stainless Steel Dog Nail Clipper, Plier Style

Price: $5.99

4.5 out of 5 stars (809 customer reviews)

27 used & new available from $5.94


  • Conditioning to a nail clipper is less complex with the absence of sound and vibration.  
  • Nail clippers are significantly less expensive to purchase running between $6.00 – $15.00.
  • Durable and long lasting.  The nail clippers I purchased over 20 years ago are the ones I still use today.  With regular sharpening, the blades are easy to maintain and last forever.
  • Simplicity of use makes the nail clipper an obvious choice for new dog owners.


  • Large and giant breed dogs have thick nails which can be hard to cut with a traditional nail clipper.  
  • A series of thin cuts around the nail are often required in order to cut a sufficient amount of nail off.  The alternative to making several smaller cuts is to make one big one followed by a prayer (that you don’t hit the quick).  In other words, what should only take a second per nail, often takes longer for big dog nails unless you use the clip and pray method.
  • Traditional nail clippers take a decent amount of hand strength to use making them a poor choice for people with arthritis.  
  • Nail clippers require regular sharpening in order to make clean cuts on the nail.  
  • Technique matters when using a nail clipper, so learning to clip properly is key.
  • Bleeding is usually worse and more frequent when using a nail clipper due to low accuracy of the clipper when cutting.

Dremel for Trimming Dog Nails

Invented in 1934, the Dremel is a high-speed rotary tool used for an endless number of projects from jewelry making to drilling holes to cutting dog nails.  Most Dremels come with a wide range of highly engineered accessories, including several sandpaper bands of varying grits.

According to Dremel.com

“The Dremel brand is dedicated to empowering Makers through creativity, precision and project enjoyment.”

The following are the pros and cons to using a Dremel for trimming dog nails.


  • Precision and accuracy are unmatched by any other tool used for trimming dog nails. A Dremel allows you to sand right up to the quick without hitting it.
  • Flexibility of options for speed and level of grit needed.
  • Efficient nail trimming. With a classically trained dog, nails can be done in a few, stress-free minutes, but may take slightly longer than with a nail clipper.
  • A Dremel produces smooth, rounded nails that don’t hurt or catch on fabric, carpet, furniture.
  • Ease of use.  A Dremel takes little to no hand strength, other than what is required to hold the Dremel.
  • Fewer bleeding issues due to the improved accuracy, precision, and slower grinding.


  • Training time is a little longer as conditioning to the sound and vibration of the Dremel is key to long term success.
  • Sound can be scary to some dogs initially
  • Dremels are the most expensive of the nail trimming tools.  A Dremel Micro runs about $65, While the Pet version shown here is significantly cheaper, it is limited in its versatility.  I have only ever used the official Dremel brand Dremel. 
  • Corded Dremel can get heavy, especially for people with smaller hands. I use a flex attachment which is an extension that can be added on to a corded Dremel.  This makes nail trims super easy with little to no effort at all.
  • Battery life of the cordless Dremel is about 2-4 years on average depending on usage.

Dremel 8050-N/18 Micro Rotary Tool Kit with 18 Accessories

Price: $67.01

4.1 out of 5 stars (578 customer reviews)

5 used & new available from $67.01

Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Pet Nail Grooming Tool

Price: $29.99

4.3 out of 5 stars (4481 customer reviews)

6 used & new available from $29.99

Dremel 225-01 Flex Shaft Attachment

Price: $24.97

4.5 out of 5 stars (1421 customer reviews)

4 used & new available from $24.97

Other Tools for Trimming Dog Nails

While not as popular or commonly used, a comprehensive overview of tools for trimming dog nails would not be complete without information on nail files and scratch boards.  Here is a brief overview of these alternative options.

Metal File for Trimming Dog Nails

A metal file is just what it sounds like.  Most are about 4-6 inches long and would be used like a human emory board or nail file.  The only difference is that one is metal, the other is usually sandpaper.

If you are looking for a good laugh, do a quick search on Amazon for “metal file for cutting dog nails.”  I can not imagine using any of these products on my huge Mastiffs!

While I have not used a metal file personally, here are some pros and cons to consider:

SE 74330DF 6-Piece Flat Diamond Grit File Set

Price: $8.31

4.2 out of 5 stars (102 customer reviews)

4 used & new available from $8.31


  • Precision in cutting without hitting the quick
  • Inexpensive to buy


  • Not very effective when trimming the very thick nails of most large and giant breed dogs.  
  • And if your dog’s nails are overgrown, getting them to a proper length may be very time intensive.

Nail board or scratchboard for Trimming Dog Nails

One of the members of the Big Dog Mom Community Facebook Group shared some videos of her dog using a scratch board for trimming his nails.  This product is essentially a board with sandpaper covering it. Dog Training Nation shares here how to DIY your own scratchboard if you are interested in learning more.


  • Provides an alternative to a traditional nail clipper and a Dremel for dog owners looking for one.  
  • A scratchboard would be more efficient and effective at trimming thick big dog nails as compared to a metal file.
  • Can DIY a simple and inexpensive homemade scratchboard easily.


  • Not a viable option for most dog owners since getting sufficient cut length on all nails is extremely difficult if not impossible.
  • Requires training to teach the dog how to scratch his nails across the board.
  • No precision or accuracy in shaping the nail
  • More time intensive as compared to a traditional clipper or Dremel.

Now that Your “Cart” is Selected, What now?

At the end of the day, the decision on whether to use a nail clipper or Dremel, or one of the alternatives, is a matter of personal preference.  With the pros and cons listed for each, it will be up to you to decide which tool is best for you and your dog and which one you are most comfortable starting this training with.   

Keep in mind, this is not a permanent decision.  Once your dog is conditioned with one tool, you can transition to a different tool in the future with the same training.

So, now you know WHAT you are going to use to trim your dog’s nails.  Congratulations on taking this first, very important step!

What is the next step, you ask?

Information means nothing if you don’t take action on it.  Here are three quick and easy steps you can take today to get started on your dog nail trimming journey:

  1. Save this information so it’s at your fingertips when you need it! Grab your PDF cheat sheet of this post, The Ultimate Tool Guide for Trimming Dog Nails.  
  2. Join the waitlist for my new online training course, Learn to Trim Dog Nails Like a Pro – The ultimate force-free, step-by-step method for achieving perfect paws (and a better relationship with your dog) in 60 days or less.]
  3. Come on over and join us in the Big Dog Mom Community Facebook Group where I will be holding regular Facebook Live sessions on trimming dog nails and answering your questions.  I am here to help you and your big dog in every way I can!

If you like this, read more about trimming dog nails here:

The Ultimate Tool Guide for Trimming Dog Nails and More! ultima modifica: 2019-01-09T11:11:46+00:00 da BigDogMom
Nail clipper, Dremel, or file, Oh My! With so many options, knowing what tool to use for trimming dog nails is a critical first step. Learn the pros and cons of each tool and more!  Dog Nail Cutting / Dog Nails Trimming /  Dog Nails Problems / Dog Nail Trimming Tips / Dremel Dog Nails #BigDogMom #DogNails #Dremel #Nail #NailTrim #PetNails #Mompreneur #DogBlogger #PetBlogger #OnlineCourse #DremelDogNails    bigdogmom.com