How To Cut Dog Nails: Get This Gadget

If you want to know how to cut dog nails that are black (or white), you’ve come to the right place. My dog was almost three years old before I discovered the secret. I had tried all the usual devices sold in pet stores and recommended online. But every one of them freaked my dog — and me — out. 

They all seemed fraught with the risk of a quicked dog nail. You don’t want to be in a situation where your dog is hurt and you’re emergency googling “cut dog’s nails too short” instead of leisurely browsing “how to cut my dog’s nails”. 

So let’s get it right the first time.

This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.

A game-changer tool for clipping dog nails

The Dremel dog nail grinder is not specifically made for dogs at all, but it works far better than all the rest. 

It’s a small sanding tool found in hardware stores. It has been nothing short of life changing for Shiva and I. (It’s the little things!) Now keeping his nails trimmed is stress-free.

The beauty of the Dremel — aside from its safety — is how powerful it is. With the Dremel, all four paws are done in less than five minutes. Construction-wise, it’s heavy duty and made to last. 

How it works

The Dremel uses a roller that is covered with a coarse sandpaper-like material. You can select finer or coarser grains from the kit that comes with it. It’s the slightest bit finicky to put together the first time. But once it’s together, you just leave it assembled. Then you’re good to go.

My dog is so relaxed about it now that I can do it will he stands up, or while he lies down flat on his side. He’s come to trust the device.

It has five speeds. I use it on three. At the higher speeds it makes quite a loud whirring motor noise. If that bothers your dog, you can reduce the noise significantly by using the lower speeds. It’ll just take slightly longer. Which is still super fast.

Grinding dog nails with Dremel a.k.a. Where to cut dog nails

Grind a little and then check the nail to make sure you’re not seeing any pink tint. That indicates you’re about to hit the quick. 

The Dremel has a light on the grinding end, so you can use that to check. With light-colored nails you can also use a torch or the light on your mobile phone. Shine it through the nail from behind and get a visual on where the sensitive, pink flesh of the blood vessel and the nerve ends and the hard nail begins. Then you can confidently grind until you near that area.

Phase it in

It’s a good idea to introduce the tool to your dog in the same way you would any other unfamiliar object or experience. 


Use treats and praise to give the Dremel positive associations in doggo’s mind. Let him sniff it and check it out. 

Then do the same with the Dremel turned on. Give your dog a chance to get used to the noise before you put it anywhere near his paws.

When he feels the vibration and the grinding sensation of the abrasive pad on his nail for the first time, it won’t hurt. But it might be a shock. Continue with the desensitization and praise until he’s comfy. Then you can grind just the tiniest bit of one nail to start. 

Stop there for the session.

How to trim dog nails that are overgrown: One nail a day

Chances are if you’re asking how to cut dog nails that are too long, you might feel pressure to get them all cut short this very second. Don’t blunder in though and risk scaring your dog off the whole idea. Go slow.  

In the beginning, you might need to grind just one nail a day until you make it around all his feet. This is fine. Soon you’ll be doing the whole job in one short sitting. 

Overgrown quick?

Here’s a tip. If the quick on your dog’s nail is so long that it stops you grinding the nails as short as they need to be to not scrape on the ground, you can fix it. 

Grind a teeny tiny bit each day and you will train the quick to recede, allowing you to eventually take the nails shorter.

It’s important to regularly check your dog’s nails. Overlong nails will mess with posture and gait. They can cause all sorts of strains and secondary problems over time. Not to mention pain. 

What to do about a cut quick in dog’s nail

This is one thing you won’t have to worry about with the Dremel. Rest assured you will never end up with a dog nail cut too short or a dog nail bleeding. 

If you ever do happen to misjudge where the quick is, it’s not a disaster. 

Worst that can happen is a scrape. Infinitely preferable to the cut you’d be dealing with if you were using scissors or guillotine-style toe nail clippers for dogs. 

How often to cut dog nails 

For maintenance, weekly is best. This helps to keep the nails the right length but also helps keep your dog used to the process.

Shiva’s nails are a work in progress.
I’m working on getting the quick to recede by grinding the nail as close as possible to the quick every few days.

How long should dog nails be? 

I hadn’t thought my dog’s nails needed trimming. We walk several hours a day on city footpaths. But it’s worth examining your dog’s nails using a light from behind. Make sure the nail isn’t very much longer than the quick. 

Certainly you don’t want the nails so long that they’re in any way touching the ground when your dog is standing. 

Get your face down low with his feet and double check each paw. You might be surprised what you find. 

If your dog has been sick or less active lately, the nails could probably use a trim. Any time there’s less natural filing of the nails on hard surfaces, you’ll need to trim them up. 

Outsourcing the task?

If you have a dog terrified of nail trimming, you might be tempted to get the dog groomer to tackle it.

This might make sense if your dog has to go to the groomer’s anyway for his coat or if he’s super relaxed with the groomer. 

But before you go googling “cut dog nails near me”, consider doing it yourself. 

DIY is lower stress for your dog. I’m betting your dog is more comfortable at home, and more comfortable with you. To have a stranger handling his feet and then attempting a procedure that already makes him nervous is a lot for a dog to handle. 

How to cut a puppy’s nails

In the early months of a puppy’s life the nails mightn’t be long enough to need grinding. But, as far as when to cut puppy nails goes? The sooner the better. 

It is worth introducing nail trimming early, just as you do with other potentially scary but necessary experiences like baths and car rides. It will save your dog (and you) a lot of stress later.

Same with examining his ears and even wiping them out with something like a tissue. Just in case you ever have to do any cleaning of them later. Looking in pup’s mouth and touching his gums and teeth is another good one to practice early. Not something you want to attempt for the first time when he has a sore, broken tooth.

In conclusion: Grinding dog nails vs clipping

This is no contest. Grind.

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