RVing with Dogs – Nail Trimming

Keeping your dog’s nails short and smooth is not only safer for them, but can limit accidental injuries or damage to furniture, bedding, and your RV. Like any other grooming needed we always had to find someplace or someone to do the work. Do you cringe every time you use nail clippers to cut your dog’s nails, or is it just me?

Professional groomers make it look so easy; they make it look like clippers slice through dog nails like butter. But when I do it? I feel like I’m trying to cut through concrete with round-nose kindergarten scissors. Regular grooming appointments can be very costly, especially if you’re scheduling them every few weeks.

After paying $24 to have Sierra and Ruby’s nails done with a Dremel tool we decided we could do them ourselves. Luckily, using a nail grinder at home to trim your dog’s nails is both easy and cost-effective.

Ruby is easy she’ll just roll on her back and hold her paws out waiting on her manicure. It takes a bit more coaxing for Sierra but the more often we trim their nails she gets more comfortable.

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Thinking about making the switch from nail clippers to a nail Dremel? Here are the pros & cons of using a Dremel:

Pros of Using a Nail Dremel

  • With more control, you don’t have to worry about cutting the quick
  • Doesn’t get dull, they come with replaceable sanding wheels
  • Works well on thick nails, ours is powerful enough for our Chocolate Labs
  • Doesn’t leave your dog’s nails sharp. With clippers, the nails would need to be filed afterward
  • The incremental trimming makes getting short nails easier

Cons of Using a Nail Dremel

  • More expensive, ours cost $65 (at a pet store) versus $9 for clippers but for the cost of having nails trimmed pay for themselves quickly
  • The noise & vibrations can make dogs nervous (use lots of treats when starting out)
  • Can take longer if you’re proficient with clippers
  • Gets hot after prolonged use

What Exactly Is a Nail Dremel?

A nail Dremel is a rotary tool that works by grinding your dog’s nails down. They’re a good alternative for dogs who hate having their nails clipped by guillotine-style clippers, though the noise they make does take some getting used to.

Find a Comfortable Position to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Before you start trimming your dog’s nails, find a comfy spot for both you and the dog. Position your dog in a way that ensures you can reach all its paws easily, without having to twist its legs. Try the sofa, for instance. Place a towel on your lap and have your dog put its front paws on the towel. This way you can firmly grip the paw and have it in full view as well. Some owners find it easier not to sit opposite their pet, but to face in the same direction instead. By experimenting a little, you’ll discover soon enough which position works best for you and your pooch.

Introduce Your Pet to the Electric Nail Grinder

Before you start your pet pedicure, introduce the dog to the electric pet nail grinder and the task at hand. Start by gently touching its paws. If your pet is okay with that, follow it up by giving the paws a little rub. Let the dog sniff and touch the tool for a minute, while you pet it and offer reassurances. Then turn the tool on a few times without trimming any of your dog’s nails yet. This will familiarize him or her with the humming sounds and the vibrations the tool makes. That’s one brave dog, ready to be groomed.

Determine How Short You Want the Nail to Be

Next up, examine your dog’s nails carefully. Locate the pink, live part called the quick, where the nerves and blood vessels run. Cutting into this part causes your dog to yelp in pain and the nail to bleed, so you’d better stay well clear. If your dog has black nails, the quick can be hard to see. Instead, find the spot on the underside of the nail where it separates out into a triangular shape with two outer ‘walls’. Cut the nail up to this point and you should be safe. Aim for a fairly straight result, removing the pointed tip so the nails no longer touch the floor when the dog stands.

Turn on the Tool and Start Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

Hold a paw firmly with your non-dominant hand. Press gently on the toe to separate it and make the nail stand out. Switch the tool on; the low setting is best for maintaining short nails, while the high setting (if your dog will allow it) works wonders on long nails. Hold the tool at a 45-degree angle, rest the paw pad on the guard and touch the nail to the sanding disc. The angle means you’ll follow the nail’s natural shape, while the guard keeps your dog’s fur out of the way and protects your pet in case it won’t stay still. Don’t press the nail down too hard; let the tool do the work for you.

Have Little Breaks During Pet Nail Grooming

Want your dog to stay comfortable during the pet nail grooming session? Have little breaks in between. As grinding creates friction and friction creates heat, a break will prevent the sanding disc from heating up too much and causing a burning sensation in the nail. A break now and then also gives you a moment to reassure and praise your dog. Offer him or her a well-deserved cuddle or a tasty treat. Use the break to study the nail closely. How much more needs grinding away? Are you staying well clear of the pink quick? Once you’ve determined how much more needs trimming, off you go again.

File the Dewclaw Nails Too

All dogs have dewclaws, or thumbs, on their front legs. Some dogs have them on their hind legs too; sometimes they even have double dewclaws. These extra toes are found a little higher up on the leg and their nails also need trimming. In fact, the dewclaws’ nails can grow quicker than your pet’s other nails, so keeping a close eye on them from week to week is vital. It’s best to remove the nail guard when trimming dewclaws’ nails, as they can be a little harder to reach. Trimming the nails is straightforward: just file away the pointed tip.

Check the Length of Your Pet’s Nails after Trimming

Once you’ve given all nails on all paws a good filing, it’s time to check your handiwork. Are your dog’s nails still too long, or is it time to bring the pet nail grooming session to an end? Have your pooch stand on all four legs on a flat, hard surface and inspect the individual nails. They have been sufficiently trimmed when they no longer touch the ground.

Praise Your Pet’s Good Behavior

For most dogs, nail trimming is a stressful event, so getting to the end of a successful pet pedicure is a real accomplishment. Well done! Show your dog that you’re proud by offering lots of praise and cuddles. It’s a good time for a dog treat too. By ending the pet nail grooming session on a high note, your dog may even start the next one with a little less trepidation.

The Benefits of Using a Nail Dremel Over Clippers

Thinking about switching over to a Dremel for your dog’s nails? Here are the benefits of using a nail Dremel over clippers:

  • Trimming thick nails that are hard to cut with clippers
  • Trimming black nails where you can’t see the quick
  • Those of us who are nervous about using clippers

Now I know that’s only 3 benefits, but when it comes to trimming my dog’s nails those are my main concerns, and why I always choose my Dremel over clippers.

A Dremel makes trimming my dog’s nails easier, I don’t have to worry about cutting them too short, and they don’t make me nervous as clippers do. Those 3 reasons alone are why I prefer using Dremel over clippers, and those are the reasons I’m never looking back.


Trimming your dog’s nails can be a stressful event for you and your pooch. But with some work, your dogs will be more relaxed and let you keep their nails short.

Have you tried using a Dremel for your dog’s nails? Do you prefer using a nail Dremel over nail clippers? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks to make trimming your dog’s nails easier? Let us know if you have any questions or comments below.

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