Dog Nail Clipper vs Grinder: Which is Better?

Filed in Dog Health, Dog Products by on January 6, 2021

Dog Nail Clipper vs GrinderDo you know the differences between a dog nail clipper vs grinder?

You can save money by cutting your dog’s nails at home yourself.

But which type of dog trimmer to choose?

In this blog post, I discuss the differences between a dog nail clipper vs grinder including their pros and cons and when one is more appropriate than the other.

Why Do I Need to Clip My Dog’s Nails?

Before we dive into the different types of nail trimmers, you should know why it’s essential to keep your dog’s nails short.

Nails provide traction for your dog. If they’re too long, they can throw off your dog’s natural sense of balance. Once nails get too long, they can also put pressure into your dog’s paw, causing discomfort and even pain.

By the way, I also wrote an article on how to trim dog nails that are overgrown.

Choosing Between a Dog Nail Clipper vs Grinder

Dog nail cut by clipper

Dog nail getting cut by plier-style dog clippers

What are Clippers?

Dog nail clippers use blades to cut your dog’s nails, similar to your own nail clippers. They come in various styles such as scissors, pliers, and guillotine.


  • Quiet: Nail Clippers are ideal if your dog is sensitive to loud noises. You just need to make a few quick clips and be done, which is great if your dog is sensitive to the noise of nail grinders.
  • Inexpensive: Clippers are also generally cheap, although you should get one from a reputable brand. Since nail clippers aren’t electric, you don’t need to buy batteries or wait for them to charge.


  • Easier to cut the quick: It’s easier to cut the quick with clippers since you aren’t slowly grinding them down like with grinders. You also need to be mindful of blade sharpness, as they will need to be replaced regularly to clip well.
  • May split the nail: Nail clippers can potentially cause nails to split or crack. It’s uncommon, but make sure to keep the clippers sharp to avoid this issue. Clipping may also leave sharp edges, which can be an issue if your dog likes to paw people or furniture.

What are Grinders?

Dog nail grinder held in front of dogNail grinders are designed very differently than nail clippers. They work to grind your dog’s nails down with a rough tip that feels like sandpaper. Instead of quick clips, the dog’s nails are filed down incrementally at high speed. Nail grinders use batteries or electricity to keep the tip moving.

I wrote an article on the best dog nail grinders, if you’re looking for one. I discuss some popular brands such as Dremel and Wahl.


  • Harder to cut quick: You can accidentally cut the quick with clippers or grinders, but since you’re slowly grinding down the nails with a grinder, it’s much easier to avoid catching it.
  • Good for thick nails: Grinders are good for dogs with thick, black nails as it’s harder to see how short they are with a clipper.
  • Allows smoother nails: One reason many dog owners love nail grinders is that you can smooth out the nails rather than leave the sharp edges that come from nail clippers. This leads to fewer scratches on your clothes, furniture, and skin.


  • Not for anxious dogs: Nail grinders are not ideal for dogs who are nervous around loud noises. Since they make a buzzing sound while they grind, it can be scary for dogs who are not used to it.
  • Gives off odor: Nail dust also comes from grinding down nails, and it gives off an odor. Because of this, it may be best to grind your dog’s nails outside or with a mask so you don’t inhale the dust.
  • May give discomfort: The vibrations caused by the grinder may also be uncomfortable for your dog.

Differences between the Two

If you’ve decided to choose dog nail clippers instead of a nail grinder, your next decision is which type of nail clipper to choose. There are 3 main types: scissors, guillotine, or pliers.

Here are the features/benefits of each type:

1. Paw Nail Scissors

Dog scissors nail clipper

Vet using dog scissors nail clippers to trim dog claws

Dog nail scissors are very similar to regular scissors. However, the blades have round indentions toward the end where you can easily place your dog’s nails to line them up.


  • Scissor style clippers are notoriously easy to use.
  • They are widely available and cost-effective, so you won’t have trouble replacing one when the blades become dull.
  • They are usually made with a lightweight material that is easy to hold for long periods of time.


  • There is some debate on what size dog these work best for. More people say they work best for small to medium dogs, while some say the power they generate is ideal for a big dog’s thick nails.
  • Scissor clippers may not work for owners with arthritis because of the way you have to squeeze the handles.

2. Guillotine

Guillotine dog nail clipperGuillotine-style clippers are designed a little differently. They have a loop at the top where you can slide your dog’s nail, then press down on the handles to clip it with a blade.

This simple design allows just one squeeze to cut through your dog’s whole nail. If that sounds good to you, use them on a small to medium-sized dog because they don’t tend to have enough power for large dog nails.


  • Dogs with weak or painful paws may benefit from a guillotine-style clipper because you just need to slide it onto the nail without manipulating the paws too much.
  • It’s easier to handle for people with arthritis or pain.
  • The clippers work on most dogs.
  • You can normally replace the blade without replacing the clippers.


  • This style of clipper has a much higher chance of hitting the quick because you can’t see the nail once it’s inside the clipper.
  • It’s also not great for dogs with thick or strong nails, even if they’re small or medium-sized. Strong nails can break the clipper. However, there are guillotine-style clippers specifically designed for dogs with thick nails.
  • This clipper style is really only recommended for professional dog groomers who have a lot of experience clipping dog nails.

3. Plier

Plier Dog Nail ClipperPlier clippers look like your typical pliers. Pliers are good for beginners because you can see your dog’s nail bed better, which allows you to better avoid cutting the quickly.

They also usually come with a nail guard, which also protects you from cutting too short.


  • Pliers have more force because of the power behind the mechanism of the clipper. These are a better choice for large dog owners.
  • They are easy to use, which also makes them ideal for beginners. Since the design of plier-style clippers is so simple, there shouldn’t be anything blocking your view of your dog’s paw.
  • The nail guard makes it easier to avoid cutting quickly.
  • They are generally inexpensive.


  • Although plier-style clippers are relatively inexpensive, they are still a little more costly than scissor-style clippers.

Additional Tips

Now that you know the differences between a dog nail clipper vs grinder, here are some additional tips depending on which you choose:

Dog Nail Clippers

1. If you’re a beginner, a clipper with a safety mechanism or nail guard (like plier clippers) will help keep you from clipping your dog’s nails too short.
2. Consider the weight and softness of the handles because your comfort will affect your ability to cut your dog’s nails safely.

Dog Nail Grinders

1. Make sure to pick a dog nail grinder that is tolerable in sound for your dog. Slowly introduce your dog to the sound until they are used to it. If the loud noises cause too much anxiety, they may be better off with nail clippers.
2. Even though it’s easier to cut the quick with clippers, it still can be done with grinders. Make sure you don’t to grind your dog’s nails too short.
3. If you like the smooth look given by grinders, you can still use a clipper to cut the nail and a grinder to smooth the nail.
4. Make sure the grinder is comfortable in your hand since discomfort can lead to cutting your dog’s quick.


While there isn’t a right or wrong tool to use, there may be one that is better for your dog than another.

By weighing the pros and cons listed above, hopefully, I have helped you make the decision between a dog nail clipper or grinder.

Remember there are also 3 different types of dog nail clippers with their own pros and cons, so weigh those factors as well.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

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