The Emotional Side of Dog Nail Trimming
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.
Want to save this information for later? Grab your PDF cheat sheet of this post, The Ultimate Tool Guide for Trimming Dog Nails, here.
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 Dog Nailpro™ The proven step-by-step system for confidently trimming dog nails without force or frustration (and having your dog love it)]
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 (how to clip dog nails when the dog is scared), or
- WHY conditioning is critical to your long term success.
Trimming Dog Nails with a Dog Nail Clipper
This is the tool that I started with some 20+ years ago. Tried and true. The traditional dog nail clipper is a tool that gets the job done.
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.
There are some variations of dog nail clippers with a sensor or led light that claim to help with identifying the quick before you hit it, however, I do not recommend these. Not only am I not convinced that they even work, I know that identifying the dog nail quick is NOT the source of the problem even if these tools worked as they claim. So if you found this post and are looking for the best dog nail clippers with a sensor, I urge you to keep reading and consider an alternative.
- Conditioning to a dog nail clipper is less complex with the absence of sound and vibration.
- Dog 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 dog nail clipper an obvious choice for new dog owners.
- Large and giant breed dogs have thick nails (and often black nails) which can be hard to cut with a traditional dog 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 dog 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 dog nail clipper due to low accuracy of the clipper when cutting.
- Durable plier-style nail clipper
- Comfortable red plastic grips and a spring-loaded cutting mechanism for more positive cutting action
- Built-in guard can be moved into position to prevent the overcutting of the nails and there is a lock to hold the trimmers closed for storage and maintenance
- Nail Clippers can be used for just about all sizes of dog
- except very large breeds
- Sure Grip Rubber Handles
- Extra replacement blade included
- Heat treated carbon steel blade
Best Dremel for 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.”
This should read “Makers AND Dog Owners” as there is nothing more enjoyable than Project Dog Nails, am I right?
The following are the pros and cons to using a Dremel for 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 dog 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.
- Learning how to Dremel dog nails properly can take 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 Dremel 7300 shown here is significantly cheaper, it is limited in its versatility. I have only ever used the official Dremel for dog nails, so cannot speak to how well the pet versions like the Dremel 7300, Pedi Paws, or FURminator Nail Grinder will hold up to the demands of large and giant breed dogs getting frequent trims.
- 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.
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 dog nail files and scratch boards. Here is a brief overview of these alternative options.
Metal File for 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 “file for dog nails.” I cannot imagine using any of these products on my huge Mastiffs!
While I have not used a file for my dog’s nails personally, here are some pros and cons to consider:
- Precision in cutting without hitting the quick
- Files are Inexpensive to buy
- Includes 6 grits from coarse to super fine: 40, 80, 150, 240, 400, 600
- Total length of each file: 7 inches
- Usable diamond length: 2-¾ inches
- Diamond file width: 10mm
- Round dipped handle
Nail board or Scratch Post for Dog Nails
One of the members of the Big Dog Mom Community Facebook Group shared some videos of her dog using a scratch post for trimming his nails. This product is essentially a board with sandpaper covering it. Dog Training Nation shares here how to DIY your own scratch post if you are interested in learning more.
- Scratch post provides an alternative to a traditional dog nail clipper and a Dremel for dog owners looking for one.
- A scratch post 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 scratch post easily.
- A scratch post is 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 using a scratch post for dog nails
- More time intensive as compared to a traditional dog nail clipper or Dremel.
You Have Options for Cutting Dog Nails
At the end of the day, the decision on whether to use a dog 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:
- 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.
- Join the waitlist for my new online training course, Dog Nailpro™ – The proven step-by-step system for confidently trimming dog nails without force or frustration (and having your dog love it.)
- 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 cutting dog nails here:
- Nail Trims Don’t Have to be Scary: 5 Subtle Signs of Stress in Dogs
- Top 7 Most Popular Myths about Cutting Dog Nails – Busted!
- Dog Nails Too Long? The Truth About Why Size Matters
- A Review of the Diamagroove Boxer for Cutting Dog Nails
- The Ultimate Guide To Cutting Dog Nails And Having Them Love You For It