Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best dog nail clippers

Just like humans, dogs need to have their nails trimmed regularly to prevent them from growing too long. To do this at home, you'll need to buy a pair of dog nail clippers. You should know a little about canine nail clippers in order to find the best ones. In addition, you must learn how to trim your dog's nails without hurting or distressing it.

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It's important to keep your dog's nails trimmed because nails that are too long can break or put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your pup's nail beds.

Should you clip your dog's nails yourself?

Some pet parents worry about taking a DIY approach to clipping their dog's nails. Whether you do the job yourself or have it done by the vet or a groomer is your choice.

Unless you have an extremely nervous dog, you will likely find it fairly easy to clip your pup's nails.

Just be sure to get your dog used to the process gradually, and don’t cut his nails too short.

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The "quick" is the part of the nail that contains the blood vessels. Make sure you don't cut into the quick because it will bleed and hurt your dog. If your dog has translucent nails, you can easily see the quick inside, so you know where to cut.

Dog nail clipper types

Scissor style

Scissor-style clippers are sometimes known as "miller's forge" or just "forge" clippers. They feature two blades that close on either side of the nail like a pair of scissors. Small pairs occasionally feature round scissor-like handles, but most have straight handles.

  • Pros

Popular and readily available, these are easy to control and better than guillotine nail clippers for dogs with thick nails.

  • Cons

Although these are less likely to cause discomfort to dogs with thick nails than guillotine clippers, you still need to exert a lot of force, and the pressure can feel uncomfortable.

  • Price

These cost between $5 and $20, depending on size and strength.

"Some dog nail clippers come with a file to smooth down the edges after you've cut the nails. This isn't necessary, however, as your pooch's nails will smooth down naturally after a walk or two."


Guillotine dog nail clippers feature a hole that you poke your dog's nail through and a single blade that comes down when you press on the handle, cutting through the nail.

  • Pros

These are easy to use and good for small- and medium-size dogs. The blade can be replaced when it gets dull.

  • Cons

The clippers may crush the nail rather than cut it if the nail is too thick or the blade isn't sharp enough, which can be uncomfortable for the dog.

  • Price

These cost about $5 to $25.

"While you should do everything you can to avoid the quick when you trim your dog's nails, accidents can happen. Keep some styptic powder handy to stop the bleeding should you nick the quick."


Dog nail grinders are essentially a small sanding tool designed to file down rather than cut your four-legged friend's nails. They range from the basic to the very heavy-duty. They may either have a cord or be battery powered.

  • Pros

These are ideal for dogs with very hard or thick nails that are difficult to trim. Some dogs who won't tolerate nail clippers are happy to have their nails ground down.

  • Cons

It can take some training and desensitization to get your dog used to the sound and vibration of a nail grinder.

  • Price

These cost between $15 and $40.

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Did you know?
A nail grinder can make it easier to avoid the quick on dogs with dark nails because you only grind down a little at a time.

Dog nail clipper features to consider


The best blade material for dog nail clippers is stainless steel because it's strong, doesn't rust, and tends to stay sharp for a decent amount of time.

While some models are completely made of metal, most have plastic handles.

Plastic handles are fine as long as the plastic is heavy-duty and not flimsy. Weaker plastic handles could break if you exert a lot of pressure on them.

"Even if you think you know what you're doing, read the instructions for your chosen clippers before you use them for the first time just to make sure you're using them safely and correctly."


Some dog nail clippers are considerably stronger than others. Selecting a strong pair of clippers is particularly important if you have a large dog with thick nails. If your clippers aren't strong enough, they just won't cut it – literally and figuratively. Look for a pair with thick, sturdy blades and strong handles.

Blade sharpness

Sharp blades create a smooth result free of jagged edges, but more importantly, they make the nail-cutting experience more comfortable for your canine companion. If the blades aren't sharp enough, they won't cut cleanly through the nail. Dull blades, when you squeeze the handles together, will crush the nail, which in turn exerts pressure on the quick, causing your dog discomfort.

Safety features

Depending on the type of clippers you choose, you may find a range of useful safety features.

  • Safety catch

Scissor-style clippers often have a safety catch to keep the blades together when they’re not in use. This makes you less likely to accidentally cut yourself on the blades when carrying them around or looking for them.

  • Safety guard

Both guillotine and scissor-style nail clippers may have a safety guard, a bit of metal that sits opposite the blades to stop you from cutting too much off your dog's nail at once.

  • Safety lock

Some nail grinders have a safety lock that prevents the unit from grinding while it's on. This can be useful so that you don't accidentally start the tool while you're setting up, which could startle your dog.

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For your safety
If you're experienced at cutting dogs' nails, you might not feel like you need a safety guard, but it can keep accidents from happening if your hand slips or your dog moves her paw at the wrong moment.


  • Consider your dog's size when selecting nail clippers. A large dog will require heavy-duty clippers with strong, sharp blades, while a small dog will need a daintier pair.

  • Take a good look at your dog's paws when trimming the nails. Use this time as an opportunity to check for any lumps, bumps, cuts, or scrapes on your dog's paws.

  • Make sure you know what you're doing. If this is your first time cutting your dog's nails, watch some videos online to learn the right technique or asking your dog's veterinarian for tips.

  • Don't be afraid to go slowly. If your dog isn't used to having his nails trimmed, it's okay to trim the nails on one paw one day, another paw the next day, and so on, so you don't overwhelm him. For dogs who really object to the experience, you can even trim one nail a day at first.

  • Rubberized grips are a nice feature to have because they make the clippers more comfortable to hold and use. You’re less likely to lose your grip while using them, which means you’re less likely to cut the nails too short.

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Dogs who get a lot of exercise, especially on hard surfaces, generally don't need their nails clipped very often, as the nails wear down naturally.


Q. When should I start clipping my dog's nails?

A. Start to trim your dog's nails as soon as possible (once it's settled in, of course), even if there's only a small amount to trim. The sooner he gets used to having his nails clipped, the less of a struggle it will be in the future. Take things slowly at first, and make sure you give him lots of praise and treats after each nail so that he learns having his nails done can be a pleasurable experience.

Q. How often should I clip my dog's nails?

A. That depends on a range of factors, including how quickly the nails grow and how much exercise your dog gets (activity helps to wear down the nails naturally). Many people find that their dog's nails need trimming about once a month, but your schedule may vary.

Q. My dog has dark nails. How can I tell where the quick is?

A. If your dog has clear nails, you can easily see where the quick is (it's the pink-looking part), but if your dog has dark nails, you're essentially going in blind. The only thing you can do is trim a tiny amount off the nail each time, looking at the end of your dog's nail after every cut. When you see a little black circle emerge in the center of the nail, you're approaching the quick and should stop trimming.

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