Clipping a dog’s nails is typically the most dreaded grooming task. Professional groomers and DIYers tend to feel nervous about accidentally clipping the quick. If you know the proper procedure, the next best thing you can do to ensure your pet’s safety is to learn how to choose the right dog nail clippers.

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, it won’t keep them short enough.

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

how to choose the right dog nail clippersLong toenails will be a burden to you as they will likely scratch flooring, furniture and car upholstery – they may even rip through some fabrics. This will cause costly damage.

It’s also dangerous to your pet’s overall health and well being. If your dog’s nails are too long, it will change the way that he walks. Long nails actually cause the 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.

We’ve previously ranked some of the best dog nail clippers, and today I’m going to explain how to choose the right dog nail clippers that will work for you and for your pet. In this step by step guide I will also show you how to use each style of dog nail clippers to trim your pup’s toenails safely and efficiently, and what pitfalls to avoid.

If you need more information on the process of clipping a dog’s nails, you can check out my video guide on the subject. You can also watch the video guide that I’m going to include at the end of this article.


How to Choose the Right Dog Nail Clippers

Choosing the right size of dog nail clippers

When learning how to choose the right dog nail clippers, you’ll need to be sure to select the proper size for your pooch. 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 opposite won’t work very well either. If you have a large breed and you try using a pair of small clippers, they’re probably not going to be able to cut all the way through the nail. Not only will this make the job more time consuming for you, it may be painful to your pooch.

There should be sizing guidelines on the packaging of any dog clippers that you purchase. Typically, the 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.


how to choose the right dog nail clippers

The three types of nail clippers for dogs

Now that you know how to find the right size, you need to understand the three different styles. As you’ll see in my video guide above, when learning how to choose the right dog nail clippers, you’ll have these styles to choose from:

  • scissor
  • guillotine
  • nail grinders

how to choose the right dog nail clippers1. Scissor style nail clippers

These are the easiest to use and the most common clippers you’ll see on store shelves. They are aptly named because they work just like a pair of clippers. 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 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).

Scissors style clippers work best for large breed dogs and pups with thick nails.

2. Guillotine style nail clippers

Have you ever seen an old guillotine that they used to use to cut peoples’ heads off? These clippers work 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.

how to choose the right dog nail clippersThese 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 DIYers with a lot of experience.

Guillotine style dog nail clippers work best with small to medium breeds.

3. Nail grinders

When you’re learning how to choose the right dog nail clippers, you may not realize that there is an 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.

how to choose the right dog nail clippersNail 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 that may leave a jagged edge.

However, grinding down all of your dog’s nails could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes if he’s 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.

Nail grinders are best used for dogs that will not tolerate having their nails trimmed with traditional clippers.