The 5 best dog nail clippers and grinders in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Trimming your dog’s nails with clippers or a grinder keeps them healthy and prevents painful overgrowth and breakage.
  • We tested 15 models to find the best nail clippers for dogs of all sizes, guillotine-style clippers, and nail grinders.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is more important than you might think. Although some dogs wear their nails down naturally if they are very active outdoors, most dogs need regular trims. Too-long nails can curl back and grow into the paw pad – a painful and dangerous condition that requires swift treatment from a veterinarian. Not to mention, long nails can damage wood floors and scratch your arms and legs when your dog jumps up on you.

Nail clippers for dogs come in several different styles. Plier-style nail clippers work for most dogs. Guillotine clippers are generally best for small- and medium-size dogs. Nail grinders are great for gently filing down the nail rather than cutting through it.

To find the best nail clippers, I tested 11 different pairs of trimmers and 4 grinding tools, using them on three dogs with different-size nails. You can read more about our testing methodology and the features that make up a good pair of clippers at the end of this guide.

I consider myself a bit of a nail-trimming expert – check out my guide on how to safely trim a dog’s nails. During my eight-year stretch working as a veterinary assistant, I trimmed the nails of thousands of pets. I’ve also regularly trimmed the nails of my own dogs and cats over the last few decades. For additional expertise on nail trimmers, I consulted both a veterinarian and a pet groomer.

Here are the best dog nail clippers you can buy:

The best budget nail clippers

millers forge pet nail clipper

Simple and affordable, the Millers Forge Pet Nail Clipper works well for small and medium-size dogs and cuts the nails cleanly.

Pros: Affordable, sharp stainless-steel blades, simple but functional design, safety lock for storage, exceptionally quiet 

Cons: Small blade opening is not ideal for very large dogs or very thick nails, rubber grips sometimes slip down the handle

If you’re just starting out trimming your dog’s nails, a basic, inexpensive nail clipper is a good option. The Millers Forge Pet Nail Clipper stands out for its simplicity, effectiveness, quality, and affordable price. These were the quietest of all the plier-style clippers I tested, something anyone with a skittish dog will appreciate. The blades are sharp and cut smoothly and easily. The metal handle has slip-on rubber grips — not a lot of frills here, but I found them comfortable to hold, although in my experience the grips sometimes slipped down on the metal handles. 

I’ve used these clippers a lot over the years, especially back when I worked in the veterinary hospital. Even with lots of use, the stainless-steel blades always held up great, maintaining their sharpness for many years. Compared to the similarly priced Furminator Nail Clipper, the Millers Forge Pet Nail Clipper is more comfortable to hold, quieter to use, and easier to maneuver around each nail thanks to the size and thinness of the blades. These nail clippers also have a quick-guard safety feature and safety lock for safe storage.

These clippers are small with a narrow blade opening, so they aren’t the best choice for very large dogs or dogs with very thick nails, but they worked great when I tested them on a miniature poodle with medium-size nails and a 10-pound mixed-breed dog with small nails.

The best for small dogs

jw pet grip soft pet nail clippers

JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper‘s small handle and cutting blades are perfect for toy breeds and dogs with small or thin nails. 

Pros: Small size perfect for smaller nails, very comfortable to hold, sharp stainless-steel blades cut the nail cleanly

Cons: Not ideal for people with large hands

The JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper in size medium is a great option for little dogs with small or thin nails. I used these clippers on a miniature poodle with medium-sized nails and a 10-pound mixed-breed dog with small nails. JW Pet’s gel-like nonslip handle is exceptionally comfortable. The stainless-steel blades are sharp and cut the nail easily and smoothly, and the clippers are fairly quiet. The clippers have a quick guard and lock for safe storage. I always lock my nail clippers after using them to protect the blade. 

Cassie Edmond, an animal care specialist at the San Diego Humane Society, likes using small nail clippers for puppies or dogs whose nails have grown too long and are curling back toward the paw pad because the smaller cutting blades are easier to maneuver around curled nails. 

The JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper is also helpful if you have small hands. On the flip side, if you have large hands you might find the handles difficult to hold. I have medium-size hands and had no problem operating them.

The best for large dogs

andis dog nail clipper

With sharp stainless-steel blades and a large tension spring, the Andis Pet Nail Clipper smoothly and easily cuts through big, thick nails. 

Pros: Sharp stainless-steel blades cut smoothly, rubberized grips for comfort and control, quick-stop guard for safety, lightweight, easy to hold, locking mechanism for safe storage, one-year warranty

Cons: None

Big dogs often have thick, large nails, and even some medium-size dogs might have thick nails. The Andis Pet Nail Clipper in size medium easily cuts through large nails, is well constructed, and comes with a one-year warranty. 

I used these clippers on a Labrador retriever. The sharp blade cut her thick nails easily and smoothly, with no shredding or splintering of the nail. The nonslip grip felt good in my hand and the handles are easy to squeeze closed thanks to a large tension spring. These clippers also worked well on a miniature poodle with medium-size nails, so they are versatile. The safety guard prevents overcutting and hitting the quick, and it can be locked in the closed position for storage. 

Interestingly, the Andis Pet Nail Clipper, and our runner-up — the Safari Professional Nail Trimmers — are very similarly constructed. Side by side, they look nearly identical (outside of color), and they are also nearly identical in performance. Both are also very versatile, working well for large as well as small nails. However, the Andis nail trimmers won this category because the brand offers a one-year warranty, and Safari does not, but both are an excellent choice for almost any dog.

The best guillotine clippers

resco dog nail clippers

Equipped with replaceable blade technology, Resco Original Deluxe Dog Nail Clippers cut smoothly and quietly. 

Pros: High-quality American steel, sharp blade for a smooth cut, easy to hold and squeeze closed, blade can be replaced with purchase of kit, made in the United States, limited lifetime warranty

Cons: No quick-guard safety feature, not appropriate for very large nails or thick nails

Resco is the inventor of the guillotine-style nail trimmer, which debuted in 1937. I used these clippers on a miniature poodle with medium-size nails and a 10-pound mixed-breed dog with small nails. The Resco Original Deluxe Dog Nail Clippers in size small/medium outperformed the other guillotine-style clipper we tested (the Millers Forge Guillotine Style Pet Nail Trimmer). The Resco blade was very sharp and cut the nail smoothly. In comparison, the blade of the Millers Forge trimmer didn’t seem as sharp and didn’t cut as smoothly. 

Even though the Resco clippers have no rubber grip on the handles, I found them comfortable to hold and easy to squeeze closed. In comparison, the Millers Forge handles felt a little sticky each time I closed them, which I found distracting.

Designed to last, Resco’s chrome-plated American steel nail clipper is manufactured in the United States. When the cutting blade becomes dull, you can purchase a kit that allows you to replace the blade instead of buying a new set of clippers. 

Guillotine clippers cut with less force than is needed with plier-style clippers, but they aren’t as strong so don’t choose these for dogs with very large nails or very thick nails. They work best on dogs with small or medium-size nails (they are also great for cats). The clippers are very quiet, so dogs that get upset by the loud snapping sound of some plier-style clippers might appreciate these.

Guillotine clippers don’t have a quick-guard safety feature, so don’t make big cuts; slowly snip off small amounts of nail to avoid cutting the quick. Exercise caution because a dog’s nail can get caught in this style of clippers, and if they pull away, they can damage or tear out their nail.

The best nail grinder

dremel nail grinder for dogs

With a nail safety guard, paw guide, and wide variety of grinding attachments, the Dremel 7760 PawControl Cordless Pet Nail Grinding Kit is easy to use and works well for professionals and novices alike.

Pros: Quiet, gentle, enhanced safety guards that block all spinning parts, good for novices and professionals, rechargeable cordless operation

Cons: Needs to fully charge before use, instructions require careful review for safe setup and use, grinding heads need occasional replacement

Some nail grinders are marketed specifically to pet owners and others are best for professionals, but our top pick for the best dog nail grinder, the Dremel 7760 Paw Control Cordless Pet Nail Grinding Kit, is ideal for both novice pet owners and professional groomers. 

This cordless grinder is quiet and gentle. I particularly liked the grinding disc (recommended for novice users), which quickly and easily sanded down the nails. The grinding disc is used with both guard attachments, which block all the spinning parts of the tool — something that made me feel quite safe when using it. The enhanced safety afforded by these attachments are main reason this grinder beat out the next closest competitor in the category: the Wahl Battery Nail Grinder

The Dremel also comes with band attachments that offer more maneuverability but require more skill and confidence as they cannot be used with the guard attachments. I used this grinder with both options and preferred both the performance and peace of mind of the grinding disc. 

Nail grinders can be used on dogs of all sizes and are effective even on thick nails. I used this grinder on a miniature poodle with medium-size nails and a Labrador retriever with large nails. Nail grinders are great for dogs that don’t love clippers as well as dogs with black nails since you can’t see the quick. 

“When grooming, 9 times out of 10, I will just grind a dog’s nails instead of trimming,” Edmond said. “Nail clippers can leave a jagged rough edge on the nail, but a nail grinder can buff out the sharpness and round the nail all the way down to the quick.”

I liked the variety of sanding bands and discs that come in the Dremel kit, but the product’s real standout is the nail safety guard and paw guide, which helped me attain a good nail trimming angle. Nail grinders do have a learning curve, but Dremel’s Quick Start Guide is helpful and clearly recommends specific attachments and speeds for beginning users. As with all nail grinders, the grinding heads need occasional replacement. Professional groomers will need to replace these more often; for pet owners, they should last a long time.

What else we considered

other dog nail clippers we considered
  • Safari Professional Nail Trimmers (Medium/Large): This clipper and the Andis Pet Nail Clipper are nearly identical in appearance and performance. In this guide, the Andis nail trimmers beat out the Safari trimmers because Andis offers a one-year warranty and Safari does not.
  • JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper (Large):  Like other products in JW Pet’s GripSoft line, the handle is extra comfortable to hold, but these clippers stick a little after squeezing them. Both the Safari Professional Nail Trimmers and Andis Pet Nail Clipper are superior. 
  • Millers Forge Nail Clipper: These trimmers are similar in construction to the Safari and Andis clippers, but they feel lower quality — reflected in the lower price. The handle on the Millers Forge clippers doesn’t have a nonslip grip and the clippers lack a quick-guard safety feature. 
  • Furminator Nail Clipper for Dogs and Cats: The blade opening of these clippers is somewhat narrow, the handle is small, and I didn’t love the nubby grip. Although the safety guard has a unique, adjustable design, I found the guard itself got in the way too much and was hard to move out of the way if I didn’t want to use it.
  • Four Paws Magic Coat Professional Series Nail Clipper: Although these clippers are perfect for the smallest dogs with the smallest nails, like Chihuahuas and young puppies, the JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper is more versatile, working for dogs with small as well as medium-size nails. The handle of the Four Paws scissors-style clippers is very small, so if you have larger hands they may be difficult to use.
  • Andis Nail Clipper (Small): These clippers work well for small dog nails and are very comparable to our winner JW Pet Grip Soft Deluxe Pet Nail Clipper, which won out due to its extra-comfortable nonslip grip for an easy hold. 
  • Millers Forge Guillotine Style Pet Nail Trimmer: The rubber grips on the handles make the clipper stick a little and the grips also slipped down while I was using them. Our top choice guillotine clipper from Resco outperformed this trimmer, which didn’t cut the nail as smoothly.
  • Wahl Battery Nail Grinder: Comfortable to hold and easy to use, this grinder was a close runner-up to the Dremel 7760 Paw Control Cordless Pet Nail Grinding Kit. The nail safety guard has multiple openings of various shapes and sizes, making it easy to find the ones that worked best for each individual dog’s nails. This grinder comes with a grinding stone with a concave top that makes it simple to round the tops of the nails, plus coarse and fine grinding bands. 
  • Conair Pro Professional Dog Nail Grinder: This grinder is not cordless, but the cord is sufficiently long and you’ll never get caught with an uncharged battery. It’s less powerful than the other grinders I tested, so it takes a little longer to grind the nails. However, this could be a positive for novice pet owners who feel intimidated using a powerful grinder. 
  • Andis Cordless Dog and Cat Nail Grinder: This nail grinder was easy to use and worked well, but it lacks a nail safety guard, which is a helpful feature, especially for novice users.

What we’re looking forward to testing

We’re testing three new tools for an update to this guide in fall 2021:

How we tested

Best dog nail clippers and grinders in 2021

I tested 11 different pairs of nail trimmers and 4 grinding tools, using them on three dogs with different size nails: a Labrador retriever with large, thick nails; a miniature poodle with medium-size nails; and a 10-pound mixed-breed dog with small nails. I received editorial review samples from the manufacturers with the exception of the Millers Forge and Resco clippers, which Insider Reviews purchased.

All of the clippers and grinders were tested on the miniature poodle with medium-size nails. Additionally, I tested the small clippers on the small mixed breed and the large clippers and nail grinders on the Lab. In our initial round of testing in fall 2021, each tool was tested at least once per dog, but the front-runners were tested multiple times to narrow down the category winners. I waited several weeks in between testing for the dogs’ nails to grow back. 

To gauge long-term durability, I continued to use the nail trimmers that received the highest marks to trim my own dog’s nails (the miniature poodle). In the five months since this guide was originally developed, I’ve trimmed my dog’s nails approximately every two weeks and rotated clippers. I used the nail grinding tool after each trim to buff the nail edges.  

Here are the main attributes we looked for and how we tested them:

Ease of use:I assessed how controlled the clippers felt in my hand and whether they were easy to squeeze closed. When cutting a dog’s nails, you don’t want to struggle or feel uncomfortable while using a nail trimmer. For nail grinders, I assessed how easy they were to set up, hold, and use. 

Performance: I evaluated each pair of clippers to make sure they worked as advertised. For instance, large dog nail clippers should easily and effectively clip through tough nails, and small clippers should be appropriately sized for smaller nails. For nail grinders, I evaluated how well the grinding bands or discs smoothed out the nails and how loud each grinder was.

Sharpness: Although the cutting blades will inevitably dull over time, they should be very sharp to ensure a swift, clean cut through the nails. Inferior, dull blades tend to shred or splinter the nail rather than slicing clean through. 

Safety: I evaluated the presence and effectiveness of any nail safety guards, as well as the presence of a locking mechanism that allows the clippers to be stored safely in the closed position. For nail grinders, I evaluated the tool’s safety options and how safe it felt to operate the tool.

Quality: I assessed the quality of each clippers’ materials and construction. A good pair of clippers should feel study and appear to be well made rather than cheap and poorly manufactured, and all parts should function as intended. For nail grinders, I assessed the assembly of the tool and how it felt when using it.

Frequently asked questions about nail trimming

How to trim a dog's nails dog nail anatomy

We spoke to Edmond and veterinarian Melissa Smits, DVM, medical team coach for Blue Heron Consulting, about the most common questions about trimming a dog’s nails. 

How often should I trim my dog’s nails?

This depends on your individual dog. All nails grow at different rates, and dogs wear their nails down differently, too. Big, heavy dogs that run around outside may naturally wear their nails down, requiring less frequent trimming. “A Yorkie that barely touches the ground most days might need a nail trim every two weeks,” Smits said. “An Iditarod training or marathon running pal might never need one.” Rule of thumb: Trim your dog’s nails before they grow long enough to click on the floor.

How far down do I cut the nail?

Trim the nail as short as you can without cutting into the quick, which is the vein that runs down the center of the nail. If your dog has white nails, it’s easy to see the quick. If your dog has black nails, it’s harder to know exactly how far to cut. Conservatively clip just the hooked part of the nail to be safe. You can also ask your veterinarian for a demonstration on your dog.

When should I start trimming my puppy’s nails?

Start nail trimming as early as possible so your puppy learns to accept it. Even older dogs can learn to accept nail trimming if you approach it the right way. “Introduce the dog to the nail trimming procedure in a slow, fun, rewarding manner,” Smits said. “This will enable the dog to fall in love with the attention that comes with getting a pedicure and time with you.”

Which is better, nail clippers or a nail grinder?

Nail clippers cut through the nail whereas nail grinders file the nail down to a shorter length. Some dogs prefer the sensation of nail grinding over clipping, and you’re less likely to cut into the quick with a grinder. On the flip side, some dogs dislike the loud sound and vibrations of nail grinders. These tools also have a learning curve to be able to use them safely and comfortably. Smits recommends using the tool you feel most comfortable with, which will make your dog most comfortable.

What is the best nail clipper for my dog?

In general, a good dog nail trimmer should be easy to hold and have a sharp blade for smooth cutting. If your dog has very small or very large nails, choose a nail clipper that correlates. Look for clippers with blades made of stainless steel, which is strong and resists rusting. For timid dogs or those that are reluctant to have their nails trimmed, a quiet nail clipper is a bonus. At the end of the day, though, choosing the right dog nail clipper comes down to how you like using it.

Does nail trimming hurt my dog?

As long as you don’t cut too far down, it hurts no more than trimming your own nails. However, be very careful not to cut the quick. The quick is extremely sensitive. Cutting into it is painful and will cause the nail to bleed. It may also cause your dog to become resistant to nail trimming in the future. 

What should I do if I cut my dog’s nail and it starts to bleed?

If you accidentally nick the quick, use styptic power to cauterize it and stop the bleeding. Scoop up a small amount of powder onto your finger or with a piece of gauze and press it gently but firmly against the nail. Hold for a minute or so until the bleeding stops. If you don’t have styptic powder, you can use use flour or corn starch instead. 

I’m too nervous to trim my dog’s nails. Who will do it for me?

If you are not comfortable trimming your dog’s nails, or if you are concerned your pet might bite if you try to trim the nails, seek professional help. Most groomers include nail trimming in their regular services. You can also make an appointment to have your dog’s nails trimmed at your veterinary hospital. “If the dog is an amiable sort, groomers are a phenomenal option,” Smits said. “If the dog is a holy terror, they might need sedation, at which point the veterinarian is your best option.”

How do I care for dog nail clippers and grinders?

After each use, wipe your clippers clean. When not in use, close the clippers and engage the safely lock to keep the blade protected. If your nail clippers get wet, dry them thoroughly before storing them indoors in a plastic or cloth bag with all of the grinding accessories. If nail clippers or grinders are left outside and exposed to dampness and temperature extremes, the metal can rust and plastic can warp.

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