Alternative to clipping dogs' nails?
January 10, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone used grinding devices to shorten dog nails instead of clipping? What was your experience?

Both my dogs have at least some all black nails, and I can't seem to clip them without either quicking them or being terrified that I will do so. The result is I don't trim nails nearly often enough. Is there another option? I've seen ads for the grinding devices, and a bit of searching indicates some people use dremel-type sanders. Has anyone done this successfully? Did it work well, and how did your dog tolerate it? Are there other options to the evil nail clippers?
posted by Cocodrillo to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My pet groomer uses a nail grinder (I think they just use a standard Dremel on the lowest setting). It works great for my dog's black nails and they can get a much closer trim with smoother results. I think a Dremel is a much better value compared to one of the specialty nail grinding tools

My piece of advice, if you want to do this at home, is to go really slowly when introducing the dremel to the dog. It can be a frightening sound/sensation - my dog practically jumped three feet in the air the first time the dremel touched his nail! DoberDawn has some great recommendations for introducing the dremel to your dog.
posted by muddgirl at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have two hounds with all black nails, and one of them was very skittish about having her nails clipped by anyone. Do not bother with the pet-specific grinders at all; the quality just isn't there. Go right for a Dremel Multi-Pro. On preview, muddgirl has already linked to the DoberDaawn site I was going to, so here's a strong seconding of the informatio there!

Since I was working on Stella being less fearful of having her nails trimmed, I went very slow, first leaving the tool out on the coffee table for a few days and giving her a treat whenever she sniffed it. Then turned it on -- just let it run for a few seconds without touching it to either dog, and treated for that. Then we were able to actually start slowly trimming :) Don't spend more than 2 or 3 seconds on an individual nail -- it will get hot. I usually do two passes through all the nails. Also, Stella came home with seriously overgrown nails -- when the nails are long, the quick has usually grown longer, too. So frequent trimming without trying to take too much off the nails at once worked to gradually shorten the quicks. Now we just do maintenance trims every two weeks. I do it out on the deck when weather allows, since it does create a little bit of fine dust. The right speed on the Dremel seems to be right about 5 -- the speed adjustment on mine goes up to 10. Too slow, and it vibrates on the nails; too fast, and the nails heat up too quickly.

Stella is 1000x better with the Dremel than she ever was with clippers. I feel more comfortable using it since there's much less chance I'll quick a nail. One other nice thing about the Dremel is that it lets me round the edges of the nails -- no sharp corners that can rub against the other toes or scratch the floors.

Hope this helps -- happy to answer any questions you have!
posted by vers at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go right for a Dremel Multi-Pro.

Yes, this, exactly. Works like a charm.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2012

Maybe it is the daily walks, but seems like our grinder is the sidewalks. Our dog has never needed his toenails clipped.
posted by bearwife at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2012

My dog's back nails are trimmed so-so by the sideways (actually it seems to file them into little sharp blades of death), but like most of the rest of his breed his front nails just grow and grow. I think it depends on paw configuration and gait.
posted by muddgirl at 1:04 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: We bought one of those "as seen on TV" pet-nail grinders, and it takes a long time to get anywhere with it, so we still use nailclippers and use the grinder for touch-up. A dremel sounds like a good idea; I'd be a bit concerned about the noise - Dremels I've used in the past fall somewhere between a power drill and vacuum cleaner in terms of noise-levels, neither of which my pets enjoy.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: Dober Dawn is the way to go. Although off the top of my head I can't recall if she cautions about the drill heating up.

Once your dog is comfortable with the dremel - and this goes fast if you do short sessions daily for a week or so - be sure to touch the filing wheel once in a while to make sure it's not too hot. If the heat shoots up your finger, then it's too hot for the pup.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:32 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: We use a cordless Dremell at the high speed setting because I like to keep the sessions as short as possible. I find the bigger stone disks work the best. Be sure the wheel is spinning away from the nail rather than towards it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: biscotti dremels our dogs. For the two of them that were either never clipped or only clipped when quite young, it works very very well. Our older male, who we used to clip and inevitably hit the quick a few times, still hates getting his nails trimmed.

You might as well get a dremel instead of a specific tool so you can do all that other dremely stuff if you want.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:45 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: Exactly right, get the real Dremel, the pet version is underpowered to the point of uselessness. I use my real Dremel with the extension thing (I'm sorry I don't know the technical term for this), so that the motor noise stays a few feet away from the dog, and it also gives me more dexterity because I can hold it like a pencil. Put it on a higher speed, at least medium. I actually didn't even bother habituating my dogs to it--I just have my husband hold them and give them a peanut butter Kong while I do it and they're completely unconcerned with the Dremel.
posted by HotToddy at 4:55 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: I'm a groomer. As has been stated - get yourself a cordless dremel.

Warning: Some dogs just truly do not like the sound or vibration of the dremel. On scaredy dogs (which is most of my clientele since I specialize in difficult dogs) I have better luck using this type of clipper first. (If you're using any type of clipper make sure that it's in good shape - they go dull surprisingly fast even if you're only using them occasionally on one dog.)

When you're hanging out with your dog also make sure you grab a random paw and massage it for a few minutes. Most dogs just aren't used to having their feet messed with. If all else fails then you can also take your dog to a grooming shop to get their nails done. Normally costs $5-$10.

Also keep in mind that you don't want to hold the dremel down on the nail continuously as that will make the dog's nails hot. Use short bursts.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: Oh, yes, dremel FTW. All my dogs have hated the clippers. Even the sharp ones have sort of a crushing action that bothers them, especially when you start getting close to the quick. Even without quicking them, they would object strongly. Follow vers' advice; it's spot on.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:40 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: When researching this a while back I found this video to be very helpful.
posted by jamjames at 10:08 PM on January 10, 2012

I've used the dremel on my dogs claws. It works fine. However, they would not tolerate it. However, they would tolerate it if someone else took a can of Easy Cheese (the kind in a can with a spout that comes out on it's own) and supplied a slow steady stream of "cheese" to lick up while the grinding was going on. This worked fine until I caught a bunch of fur around the axle one time. Remember to trim those toe hairs.
posted by jefftang at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2012

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