Home Dog Health Dog Grooming How to Choose the Best Dog Nail Clippers

How to Choose the Best Dog Nail Clippers

Many pet owners dread clipping a dog's nails. Even some professional groomers tend to feel a bit nervous about cutting into the quick of a dog's nail. But once you know the right steps and proper procedure, what you need next is to know how to choose the best dog nail clippers specifically for your pooch.

Why Clip a Dog's Nails?

Some pet owners believe that their dog's nails will wear down over time and don't need to be trimmed regularly. While it's true that hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete can wear down a dog's toenails to some degree, this approach won't keep them short enough.

Like humans, every dog's nails grow at a different rate. The rule of thumb is to clip your dog's nails when they are long enough to make a clicking sound when the dog is walking on hard surfaces like asphalt.

Keeping the dog's nails neatly trimmed is essential. Long toenails will be a burden to you because they scratch flooring, furniture and car upholstery. They may even rip through some fabrics, and this will cause costly damage.

It's also dangerous for dogs, because if your pet's nails are too long, it will change the way that he walks. Long nails cause the dog's foot to lie flatter than usual, which causes the bones of the ankle area to be positioned at more of an angle than they are supposed to be, creating an abnormal gait in the dog.

Once you review the list of best dog nail clippers, I'm going to explain how to choose the right nail clippers specifically for your comfort as well as your individual dog. I will also show you how to use each style of pet nail clippers to trim your pup's toenails safely and efficiently and what pitfalls to avoid.

How to Choose the Best Dog Nail Clippers

How to Choose the Best Dog Nail Clippers

Choose the Right Size

When shopping for dog nail clippers, you'll need to select the proper size that specifically fits your dog's size and your hand. This step is essential not only to make your job easier and less time-consuming but also to prevent accidents and save the dog's pain.

If you have a small breed and you use a large pair of clippers, you're probably going to take off more of the nail than you want to. The same is true for the opposite: if you have a large dog and use small clippers, they're not going to cut all the way through the nail.

There should be sizing guidelines on the packaging of any dog clippers that you buy. These sizing guidelines will specify whether they should be used on small, medium, or large breeds. Some clippers will even have a small hole on the packaging to insert your dog's nail to see if it's too big for that particular set of trimmers.

The Three Types of Nail Clippers for Dogs

The Three Types of Nail Clippers for Dogs

Now that you know how to find the right size, you need to understand the different styles. As you'll see in my video above, when choosing the correct type of dog nail clippers, you have the choice between these three:

  1. Scissor
  2. Guillotine
  3. Nail grinders

Allow me to briefly walk you through their differences and similarities, pros and cons.

1. Scissor Style Nail Clippers

Scissor Style Nail ClippersScissors-style clippers (pictured on the right) work best for large breed dogs and pups with thick nails.

These are the easiest to use and the most commonly purchased pet nail clippers. They are aptly named because they work just like a pair of scissors. As you squeeze the two handles together, the blades at the end come together to slice off the end of the toenail.

With these clippers, you can easily see where the nail will be cut. They are also usually equipped with a guard that stops the nail from going too far through the clipper blades.

These two features make scissor-style dog nail clippers ideal for inexperienced groomers, as they reduce the likelihood that you'll accidentally clip the quick of the nail (and if you do, make sure that you have the styptic powder or gel on hand). For complete beginners, clippers with sensors provide an additional level of protection.

2. Guillotine Style Nail Clippers

Guillotine Style Nail ClippersGuillotine-style nail clippers (blue handle one, center) work best with small to medium breeds.

Have you ever seen an old guillotine that they used to use to cut peoples' heads off? This type of clipper works the same way. There is a stationary ring that you slide your dog's nail into. When you squeeze the handles together, a blade slides up through the bottom of the ring and slices the tip of the nail off.

These clippers don't have guards like scissor-style clippers, so it's easier to take too much off the nail. For that reason, guillotine-style dog clippers are best used by professional groomers or home groomers with a lot of experience. Generally, they are not as popular as scissor-style or nail grinders and are at the bottom of the list for most groomers.

3. Dog Nail Grinders

Dog Nail GrindersNail grinders (pictured on the right) are best used for dogs that will not tolerate having their nails trimmed with traditional clippers.

When learning how to choose the best dog nail clippers, some pet owners have never heard about the electric option. Nail grinders have a nail file bit that spins at a high speed. When you press the bit against your dog's nail, it files it down slowly.

Nail grinders reduce the chance of cutting into the quick, as they file the nail down slowly. They also leave a smooth edge, unlike traditional clippers, which may leave a jagged edge.

However, grinding down all of your dog's nails could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes if your pet is well-behaved. If your dog moves around a lot during grooming, the task could become even more time-consuming. Similarly, the grinder will make a loud noise that may bother your pet. So, while safer, you need a lot of patience working with grinders.

My Favorite Dog Nail Clippers and Grinders

If you follow my videos and reviews on Top Dog Tips, you know I test and review tons of different grooming products, including nail clippers and grinders. I've tested a huge number of them and can recommend a few for new pet owners looking to purchase their first set. The below brands are five of my favorite tools for cutting a dog's nails.

Recommended Grooming Books for More Tips

The above tips on choosing appropriate dog nail clippers should get you started; however, if you're still having anxiety or trouble with cutting your dog's nails, you might want to read a more detailed guide.

There are many grooming books you can look into, and most of them have actionable tips and useful advice, step-by-step instructions with photos, and more. My personal favorite dog grooming book is Notes from the Grooming Table – it's from an expert groomer, it's detailed, has photos, and easily understandable instructions.

Other good dog grooming books you should try are these:Notes from the Grooming Table

All of these books are written by respected pet groomers with years of experience, so you know you're in good hands. All of them contain detailed guides and additional tips, with tons of photos to illustrate the point the author is making.

READ NEXT: Dog Nail Grinder vs. Clipper – Which Is Better for Dogs?

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.