The Best Dog Nail Grinders
Generally speaking, you need to trim your dog’s nails every four to six weeks. Letting them grow too long can lead to health problems like splayfoot and injure your dog’s tendons. If you can hear your dog’s nails tip-tapping on your floor, it’s time for a trim. If you’re lucky, your dog will patiently wait while you tend to its toes, but it probably wants the experience over with as quickly as possible. Clippers are the fastest way to get your dog’s nails to a safe length, but wielding them requires a strong, steady hand, and that isn’t always easy when your dog is jerking its foot away. A wrong move can also nip your pup’s quick (the blood vessels beneath the nail), which is upsetting for both of you.
Nail grinders shorten the nail bit by bit, as opposed to cutting them off in chunks. This process is slower but safer, and it doesn’t require as much hand strength. Grinders don’t create splits or splinters like clippers can; instead they leave a smooth nail that’s unlikely to catch on anything or accidentally scratch. Grinders are also good for dogs with dark nails, where the quick is difficult to see. But not all dogs are comfortable around the noise and vibration of a grinder—and the friction can cause both the nail and the bit to heat up, so you need to take frequent breaks.
Although a dog nail grinder is a slower but safer tool than nail clippers for filing your dog’s nails, many dogs don’t like the sound or sensation, or the amount of time it takes. The Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK, however, is easy to maneuver around a grumpy or skittish pooch (or owner) because it is cordless and quiet, and it has a rubber surface that’s easy to grip. It also offers four grinding speeds, ranging from a gentle but effective touch for the tiniest of dog nails to enough oomph to grind down the toughest of talons.
The Oster Gentle Paws Nail Grinder goes toe-to-toe with the Dremel PawControl in most respects, but it’s just a bit louder on high than the Dremel, and unlike the rechargeable Dremel it requires four AA batteries (which aren’t included). The trade-off is a savings of around $30. The Oster also includes a removable plastic sheath that fits around the grinding bit and catches the dust as you file your pup’s nails. In our tests we preferred to remove the sheath for maximum maneuverability, but if your dog is willing to sit still, the tidiness resulting from the sheath is a solid bonus.
How we picked
Here’s what we considered when testing the different grinder models:
- Power: When you’re selecting a grinder, it’s important to choose one with enough rotational power to make a difference on your dog’s nails. If a grinder is too slow and underpowered, it’s only slightly more effective than filing your dog’s nails by hand. But if it’s too powerful, it can be hard to control and can heat up the nails quickly.
- Noise: Loud or high-pitched grinders tend to frighten dogs.
- Comfort: Grinding takes longer than cutting, so it’s important for the tool to be comfortable in your hand and comfortable for your dog.
- Cordless: Some grinders plug directly into the wall, but the cables make it hard to maneuver around your pet.
- Convenience: Consider how easy it is to assemble the grinder, swap out batteries, and change bits.
How we tested
For the most recent update of this guide, we used a pig ear treat to simulate a dog’s toenail and tested all available speeds of each grinder on it. Then we used the least terrifying models with a 9-pound Chihuahua mix. We noted how maneuverable each nail grinder was, how easily we could get from opening the box to actually using the grinder, how loud it was, and how well it sanded. We also factored in any extras, such as included batteries or a light.
Our pick: Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK
The Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK is the best dog nail grinder because it’s fast enough to go through nails quickly but still easy to control. We also like that it is rechargeable and quiet, and that it has swappable grinding tips.
The PawControl features a variable-speed slide switch with four settings. In testing, we found that the first two speeds, at 8,000 rpm and 14,000 rpm, respectively, offered enough power to grind most dogs’ nails. Brianna Barksdale of The Bark Shoppe in Harlem agreed: “It definitely gets the job done,” she said, adding she wouldn’t go past the number 2 setting unless the dog was large or had really thick nails, like a German shepherd. (Note that Dremel’s user manual recommends the PawControl’s lowest setting as the maximum pet-grooming speed to prevent heat buildup.) The slide switch is also secure and doesn’t switch without your applying a fair amount of pressure; this design prevents you from accidentally changing speeds and frightening your dog with a sudden burst of speed.
Even on low, the Dremel PawControl provides enough power to file down nails more efficiently than our previous pick, the Dremel 7300-PT, which offers 6,500 rpm on its lowest setting. Additionally, the highest setting on other models we tested, such as the Casfuy Dog Nail Grinder and the Wahl Professional Animal Premium Nail Filer, can’t come close to the filing power of the Dremel PawControl.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Out of the box, the Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK is slightly less user-friendly than other grinders. The collet on ours arrived locked shut with a sanding disk in place and a plastic clasp and paw guide over it, which prevented the insertion of a sanding band and bit. Without diving into the manual, it’s not clear how to open the tool or get going. (Even our professional groomer couldn’t figure out how to remove the plastic paw cap and clasp, which has interlocking nubs that you need to twist and turn in a mazelike manner to unlock.) Reading the instructions easily remedies the problem, but the PawControl is not as intuitive a machine as the Oster Gentle Paws, which you can use straight out of the box.
The PawControl is also a bit more powerful than the AA-powered grinders we tested, which makes for quicker work but also causes nails to heat up more quickly. So pay close attention to how your pet is reacting, and be ready to back off if the nail is getting unduly hot.
Frequently asked questions
The Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK is the best nail grinder for dogs because the quiet, cordless design means it’s easy to maneuver around a skittish pooch. It has four speeds, ensuring an appropriately gentle but still effective touch.
Nail grinders shorten the nail bit by bit, whereas clippers cut off a big chunk at a time. The advantage to grinders is that they remove the nail slowly and don’t cause splits or splinters. And although using a grinder may take more time, it leaves a smooth nail that’s unlikely to catch on anything or accidentally scratch. Grinders are also good for dogs with dark nails, where the quick is difficult to see. However, some dogs aren’t comfortable with the noise and sensation of grinding, so you may prefer to use clippers. Nail grinders won’t hurt your dog, especially if you grind slowly, and quietly, while your pet is calm.
When grinding a dog’s nails, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, such as using only the lowest power setting on the Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK. Start by finding a quiet place to grind your dog’s nails when your pet is calm. Then gently press on each nail and grind it for a few seconds at a time as you take frequent breaks and praise your dog throughout the process. Giving treats never hurts, either.
Generally speaking, you need to trim your dog’s nails every four to six weeks. Letting them grow too long can lead to health problems like splayfoot and can injure a dog’s tendons. If you can hear your dog’s nails tip-tapping on your floor, it’s time for a trim.
The Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK is the quietest dog nail grinder we recommend. It offers four grinding speeds, ranging from 8,000 RPM to 25,000 RPM. This nail grinder averaged 75 dB in our sound tests—that’s about as loud as a vacuum cleaner. But it may sound quieter or noisier depending on how thick your dog’s nails are and the speed setting used.
You can use your household Dremel rotary tool to groom your dog’s nails, but we don’t suggest it for everyone. The Dremel AT02-PGK Pet Grooming Attachment Kit is an option for pet owners who have a Dremel tool for other purposes and don’t own the dog nail grinder model. We haven’t tested this attachment kit yet, but it does come with the same nail guard, grooming discs, and bands as our Dremel PawControl pick. The nail guard traps nail dust, makes it harder to accidentally sand a pup’s paw pads, and it ensures that first-time users are grinding at a 45-degree angle that matches the nail’s slant. And the included grooming accessories reduce the risk of cross-contamination by keeping the tools used in household projects separate. (You should never grind a dog’s nails with the same dirty sanding disc used for rust removal.) The attachment works with Dremel tools 3000, 4000, 4300, 7300-PGT, 7700, 8100, and 8220.
If the Dremel you have isn’t compatible with the pet grooming kit, you can still consider grinding your dog’s nails without it, if you’re very comfortable with the tool. “You don’t have to buy all that stuff,” a Dremel customer service rep told us, but there are some caveats. Regardless of the model used, you can’t grind a dog’s nails the same way they’d use it to sharpen knives or cut drywall. Dremel recommends not exceeding 10,000 RPM, or the lowest setting on most rotary models, for pet grooming. Grinding a dog’s nails at a speed higher than recommended can cause heat buildup, which can harm a pet. Or it may result in accidentally hitting the nail quick (the center of the nail, packed with nerves and blood) if pet owners aren’t careful.