Health & Wellbeing

How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown (With a Dog Nail Grinder)

Is your furry friend due for a mani-pedi? Here's how to use a dog nail grinder to take care of those overgrown nails.

Click clack click clack. Uh oh! Are your pup’s nails getting a little long? Knowing how to trim dog nails that are overgrown is one of the most important dog grooming tasks you can learn to master as a pet parent.

The thing is, many dogs really don’t like having their nails clipped, and aren’t shy about letting you know! Sound familiar?

The good news is, there’s a safe and less-scary alternative that’s easy to use – a dog nail grinder.

By learning how to grind dog’s nails properly (and making sure you have some quality store-bought dog treats or homemade dog treats handy) you’ll be helping your pup to maintain good paw hygiene, and stay happy and healthy!

Oh, and become their very own 5-star personal nail groomer too.

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How To Grind A Dog's Nails Tip & Tricks

How to Trim Dog Nails That Are Overgrown (With a Dog Nail Grinder)

Sure, grooming your dog’s paws takes time and effort…but your pup will absolutely thank you for it!

Just like our own feet, your dog’s paws need to be maintained and cared for – because failing to trim your dog’s nails regularly could have serious health consequences.

Dog paw health: Why trimming your dog’s nails is a must

Why? Because dog nails attract disease-causing germs, which can lead to arthritis and a whole lot of pain for your pup.

Regular nail trimming also reduces the risk of painful ingrown nails, where your dog’s nails curl back and slowly dig in to their foot pad (ouch!) This can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s weight alignment and bearing, impeding their movement and causing pain and injury.

Really long nails on dogs can also lead to mishaps such as getting their nails snagged on rugs or furniture.

Ultimately, learning how to trim dogs nails that are overgrown goes a long way to protecting your pup, and preventing any painful and serious health consequences.

Lucky Tail Dog Nail Grinder - How To Trim A Dog's Nails That Are Overgrown - Pretty Fluffy

What are the benefits of a dog nail grinder?

Dog nail grinders can arguably be considered the safest and easiest kind of dog trimmer to use – so long as the noise doesn’t make your pup anxious. However, there are low noise dog nail grinders available for this very reason.

Dog nail grinders help you trim your pup’s nails little by little, making them a great option particularly for dogs with black nails. Knowing how to find the quick on black dog nails can be tricky, and by using a dog nail grinder, there’s far less risk of hitting the quick of the nail and causing your dog any pain. 

Dog nail grinders also give your dog’s nails a smooth and round finish after cutting, and are especially good for dogs with thick nails.

One of the best rated dog nail grinders is the Lucky Tail dog nail grinder (they have a 4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon!)

Another benefit of dog nail grinders? With regular use, they generally help to reduce the occurrence of painful split and cracked nails your dog may be prone to.

Dog with nail grinder - How To Trim A Dog's Nails That Are Overgrown - Pretty Fluffy

Grinding VS clipping dog’s nails

Some pet parents prefer using a dog nail grinder for trimming, while others prefer dog nail clippers.

Each dog nail trimmer has its pros and cons, listed below:

  • Dog nail clippers are usually faster to use, since you’re simply just snipping off the nail. However, clipping the nail often leaves the edges rough, which can be smoothed down by using a nail sander to finish.
  • Dog nail grinders on the other hand, slowly trim down your dog’s nails leaving a smooth finish at the same time – all the while maintaining steady speed and control.
  • When using dog clippers, you are much more likely to hit the quick of the nail and cause your dog to bleed, especially if your dog has black nails. Using clippers on thick nails can be painful for your pup, because you have to apply a good amount of pressure to actually cut the nail.
  • Alternatively, dog nail grinders are a great option for all dogs regardless of nail colour, as they offer more control over the trimming process. You can simply trim a little of the nail at a time, and easily stop when you get to the quick. Grinders are always recommended for dark-nailed dogs, and dogs with sensitive or thick nails.
  • While clippers are virtually silent, grinders can scare some dogs with their whirring, vibrating noise. However as mentioned above, there are low-noise dog nail grinders such as Lucky Tail available online.
  • Dog nail clippers don’t need power to function. Dog nail grinders on the other hand require a battery and power to operate (though they are cordless and rechargeable, so you can use them at any time).

In the end, how well your dog responds to either clippers or a nail grinder, will ultimately decide which kind of nail trimmer you should go with!

Quick tips: Trimming dog nails

  • Getting your dog used to their paws being touched as a puppy will help desensitize them to nail trimming throughout their life. So, it’s a great idea to gently play and handle your pup’s paws from the get-go.
  • When trimming your dog’s nails, reward them by letting them lick peanut butter out of a bone or enrichment toy while you take care of their nails.

How to grind a dog’s nails at home

1. Select the most suitable dog nail grinder

You should select a dog nail grinder that is appropriately sized for your pup’s nails, has a good grip, and ideally functions with very low noise. 

2. Get into a good position with your dog

Choose a position that allows you to oversee the entire process and reach all your dog’s nails easily. You can sit directly in front of your dog, lay them down on their side, or place them in a cuddle between your legs.

3. Switch on the grinder and allow your dog to get used to the noise

If your pup is initially spooked by the buzzing noise of the nail grinder, it’s a good idea to desensitize them over a period of days prior to actually grinding their nails. This will help them settle and become familiar with the sound.

4. Gently but firmly hold your dog’s paw, pulling the hair back from their toes

Take care not to squeeze their paw or apply too much pressure when holding them, as this may hurt. Holding your dog’s paw and separating the toe you want to work on gives you better access to the nail.

5. Place the file against the full width of the nail for about three seconds, then pull it back

Grinding your dog’s nails for too long lets the friction build-up, causing a heating sensation and therefore increasing the risk of your pup getting burned. To prevent this, carefully touch the grinder to your dog’s nails for a maximum of 3 seconds, before stepping back. 

6. Repeat the touch-for-three-second-and-pull-back pattern

Continue to gently grind your dog’s nails at 3 second intervals until you see the circle in the nail that indicates the quick. Feed treats throughout the process to keep your pup motivated and happy, which will make nail trimming easier in the future!

How To Trim A Dog's Nails That Are Overgrown - Pretty Fluffy

How to trim dog nails that are overgrown

Knowing how to trim overgrown dog nails safely will help you to avoid causing your pup any pain. As severely overgrown dog nails will curl back and press into the paw pad, you should always take extra care when grinding them. 


  • If the nail has grown too close to the paw pad, use a pair of dog nail clippers to remove the excess nail first. Otherwise, if you apply the grinder straight to a nail that has grown too close to the paw pad, this could place more pressure on your dog’s paw, causing them pain and a potential injury.
  • After clipping the part of the nail that is close to the paws, now use a nail grinder to smoothen it.
  • Always check the nail in between grinds to make sure you’re not too close to the quick. When you see a circle that indicates the quick, this is your sign to stop.
  • How to find the quick on black dog nails? Unlike white dog nails where the pink quick is visible through the shell, in black dog nails, the quick is black too. The trick to avoiding the quick is to first locate the pulp of the nail, as this indicates the quick is very close. See this great step-by-step guide to locating the pulp on black dog nails.

How to grind dogs’ nails when they are scared

If your dog is initially a little scared of the nail grinder, this is quite normal so don’t worry. This fear can usually be put down to a lack of familiarity with the buzzing noise a dog nail grinder makes.

Here’s 3 tips to help your dog brave their fear:

1. Get them familiar with the dog nail grinder

You can easily do this by encouraging your dog to investigate the grinder. Allow them to sniff it, touch it and even play with it! Doing this before any trimming occurs will help them get used to the grinder, and feel confident it’s not something to be scared of.

2. Help your dog get used to the sound of the grinder

Every now and then, switch on the grinder and leave it running for a little while. You might scare your pup if you put the grinder too close to them, so it’s best to just place it close enough for your dog to hear its sound. After a while, they’ll realise the grinder is completely harmless.

3. Be patient

Your pup won’t get over their fear overnight, so you’ll need to take it slowly and help them get used to the grinder over time. Rewarding them with dog treats occasionally will also help them to make a positive association with the grinder. 

Dog sniffing nail grinder - How To Trim A Dog's Nails That Are Overgrown - Pretty Fluffy

Does grinding a dog’s nails hurt them?

Nail grinders are designed to reduce the risk of pain. The process of nail trimming itself likely won’t hurt your dog, especially if you don’t place the file directly to their nails for too long.

Basically, if your dog is calm, and you make sure to trim the nail slowly, the grinder should never hurt your pup. 

How often should I grind my dog’s nails?

Grinding a dog’s nails should be done regularly. Depending on your dog’s breed, age, and how fast their nails grow, you should give their nails a trim at least once every 3-4 weeks.

Of course, if you begin to hear your dog’s nails click-clacking on the floor, this is your sign it’s trimming time!


Lucky Tail Pet Nail Grinder

How to grind a dog's nails properly - How To Trim A Dog's Nails That Are Overgrown - Pretty Fluffy

Have peace of mind when trimming your dog’s nails with the top-rated Lucky Tail dog nail grinder. 

Made with a quiet, low vibration motor, it’s an especially great choice for anxious dogs.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON >> Lucky Tail Nail Grinder

Final thoughts: How to trim dog nails that are overgrown

When it comes to trimming your dog’s nails, it’s completely understandable if you feel a little hesitant. However, we do hope this guide gives you the confidence to know how to properly grind a dog’s nails, to make sure your pup stays happy and healthy into the future!

But, at the end of the day, if grinding your dog’s nails at home just isn’t for you – that’s ok too! Just give your local professional groomer a call and let them take care of the rest.

Before you go…!

Because you’re interested in dog grooming and health, you might find these topics useful too:

Or you can find more tips and information at our Health & Wellbeing section.

Need dog grooming accessories? Shop small!

Discover quality dog grooming accessories such as dog shampoo and conditioner, dog nail trimming tools and more by emerging and established small dog businesses at the Pretty Fluffy Dog Lovers Directory.

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