Jun 24, 2021

When your puppy’s nails get too long, getting a few scratches will be the least of your concerns. Your puppy will face more serious challenges, whether it be from sores or injuries like a torn claw. Yes, puppy nails need to be trimmed regularly!

Like human nails, canine nails need attentive care — and your furry friend will depend on you for help. 

As a pet parent, you know when it’s time to trim your pet’s nails. When you spot your puppy walking gingerly across the room or hear its nails clicking on the floor, it’s time to bring out the clippers. 

But, are clippers the best (and only) tools to use? Also, should you attempt a DIY trim or take Fido to the vet? Below, we explore the options and provide answers to your most pressing questions.

Can you take care of your own puppy’s nails, or do you need a veterinarian? 

Great question! Generally speaking, taking your puppy to the vet is never a bad idea. Trained veterinary professionals know how to trim canine nails, and they know how to get it done safely and efficiently. 

Vets use a variety of tools to make sure that pets have a stress-free experience. However, grooming costs can add up over time. Be sure to check the rates before making a decision: many vets charge $60 or more for pet grooming. 

Given that you probably need to take care of this issue at least once a month, as well as everything else your puppy needs for a healthy life, you may decide that vet care isn’t a cost-effective option.

The good news, of course, is that you don’t necessarily need to take your puppy to the vet every time it needs its nails trimmed. The alternative is doing it yourself. Don’t panic if you’ve never trimmed your puppy’s nails (and don’t know how to). The process is relatively simple, and with the right resources, you can learn pretty quickly. 

You just need to know what to do and what tools to use. And, of course, you’ll get better with time and experience. First, you’ll need to figure out the most important part: understanding whether you should grind or clip your puppy’s nails. 

So, let’s dig into the differences between the two.

Clipping your puppy’s nails

Many pet parents use puppy nail clippers for their puppy’s regular manicure. They are perfect for clipping a puppy’s nails to a length you’re both comfortable with. 

Because this is the method you likely use for your own nails, it’s one that many new puppy owners gravitate towards.

When browsing for options, you’ll find two different types of clippers: plier-style and guillotine. 

You’ll be able to easily distinguish between the two because they look exactly like their names imply. Still, it makes sense to consider each of these options in a bit more detail.

Plier-style puppy nail clippers, at first glance, look like household pliers. When you look closely, you’ll notice that the top blade is curved. This is what distinguishes plier-style clippers from its household cousins. 

That curved blade exists because it helps you better align the blade with your puppy’s nail. That way, you can make sure that the clipping you do is as accurate and painless as possible. You’ll most likely use this type of clippers for puppies of any size. 

Millers Forge Dog Nail Clip, Large
Millers Forge Dog Nail Clip, Large amazon.com Check price

Sharp stainless steel cutting blades
Heavy duty, made in Italy
The choice of veterinarians and groomers

For bigger puppies, we recommend Millers Forge Nail Clippers. Their heavy-duty stainless steel construction makes them a robust choice for canines over 40 pounds.

Guillotine puppy nail clippers sound macabre if you know French history, but they’re actually quite easy to use and not nearly as intimidating as you think. The clippers get their name from the hole your puppy’s nails fit through. 

Once you position the nail in the hole, push down the blade in a motion similar to that of the medieval apparatus. Align the nail in the hole, pinch the handles shut, and you get a nice, accurate trim. 

One note of caution with this type of clippers: they aren’t generally as robust as their plier-type counterpart above. As a result, they’re best used on smaller, thinner claws.

Grinding your puppy’s nails

While the above process of clipping your puppy’s nails sounds similar to that of trimming human ones, grinding is a different matter altogether.

Puppy nail grinders are closer to an oversized nail file in how they function. 

You may not have envisioned using a tool that looks and functions similarly to a Dremel multitool, but that’s exactly what you’ll do when going this route.

A nail grinder, which works much like a Dremel, will help you wear your puppy’s nails down until they’re short enough to be comfortable. The effect will last for several weeks. 

The tool itself is typically battery-operated or comes with a 120v power adaptor to plug into a wall outlet near you.

Naturally, using a Dremel-type grinder on puppy nails takes longer than a quick clipping. That said, many puppy owners say that their puppies are less averse to the process — the experience isn’t unsettling and is less likely to result in painful (albeit unintentional) accidents.

Unlike clippers, puppy nail grinders do need to be replaced regularly. The grinding tip wears away over time and should be replaced once it becomes less effective at its purpose.

Be sure to keep an eye on it to ensure maximum efficiency and comfort when grooming your puppy.

How to choose between puppy nail grinders and clippers

First things first: between the two options discussed above, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Depending on the situation, each can have unique advantages and disadvantages. 

In other words, both you and your puppy’s preferences play a major role in selecting the right grooming tool.

A few factors play into that equation:

  • The breed of your puppy. Owners of small breeds tend to favor clippers because they’re easier to wield. However, clippers are less effective when it comes to breeds like German Shepherds or Labradors. 
  • The temperament of your puppy. Puppies aren’t much different from young children when it comes to nail grooming. Most of them are wary of any sharp edges on clippers. Meanwhile, others just don’t have the patience to wait for the grinding process to finish.
  • Your budget. Puppy nail clippers are typically less expensive, while grinders cost more in comparison. You’ll also have to replace the grinders more frequently, further adding to the cost. 

Using these variables, you can select an option that works best for both you and your puppy. And, of course, you can always try one and the other, making your own judgment call (and letting your puppy have a say, as well).

Which option is safer for your puppy’s quick blood vessel?

Experienced puppy owners are familiar with the quick, blood vessels in the nail that are directly connected to the nervous system. 

Cut the nail too short, and you’ll cut into it, which leads to both pain and bleeding — as well as a high likelihood of instilling fear about the grooming process in your puppy. That’s definitely a scenario you want to avoid.

There’s no fool-proof method to avoid cutting into the quick. You should always be careful and know exactly where it is, so you can avoid it. If you’re unsure, cut the nail a little bit at a time instead of making an aggressive single incision.

This cautionary approach is possible when you use a grinder to tackle your puppy’s nails. 

That’s because, as we’ve outlined above, the grinding process allows you to take frequent pauses. This ensures that you’ll trim judiciously and be more proactive in avoiding the quick.

A grinder is also better suited for puppy owners who are new to trimming their puppy’s nails. By doing a little at a time, you and your puppy can both get used to the process, and you’ll also minimize the possibility of inflicting pain.

One final note: as you begin trimming, make sure you know exactly where the quick is, so you can avoid cutting into it. That’s easier with puppies who have light fur because their nails are typically light-colored, as well. 

Their darker counterparts are likely to have darker-colored nails, so be extra careful. If necessary, use a flashlight to identify the blood supply area before the actual trimming starts.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. There’s no right answer, even when it comes to worrisome areas like your puppy’s quick. 

Your own experience, as well as your puppy’s disposition, will play a role in helping you find the best possible product for your needs. You may choose a Dremel-type tool or a guillotine-style clipper for your puppy’s nails — either can be equally effective.

And of course, regardless of whether you choose puppy nail clippers or grinders, you’ll want to go with a product that fits your budget and has positive reviews. Take the time to do the necessary research: your furry friend will thank you!

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