If you’re like us, you have come across more than one set of dog nail clippers that are complete garbage – too flimsy and poorly built to do the job. It may have even somewhat scared you away from clipping your dog’s nails yourself.
With the right tool, clipping your dog’s nails is quick and painless. As long as you have a clipper that:
- Is easy and safe to hold and use
- Gives you a clean cut, in one quick slice
- Will stay sharp and last longer than one use
We know that all of the clippers we suggest here will do just that.
Best Nail Clippers
Best For Large Dogs
Millers Forge - Large
Best For Small Dogs
Resco Guillotine Small
I am a firm believer that, when it comes to your dog, anything you can do yourself, you should. It is useful to know how to do these things, it can be fun to learn, it is great for bonding, and, above all, you know you will do a good job and ensure your dog is treated gently and with respect.
Clipping your dog’s toenails is one of the things you will benefit from knowing how to do yourself. Most dogs need their nails trimmed about once a month and the time, cost, and frustration of packing your dog into the car and paying a groomer or vet to cut your dog’s nails can add up quickly.
If you have a large dog who walks or runs a lot on concrete, they may naturally file their nails and rarely need their nails trimmed, apart from their dew claws (the nail on the inside of the leg that doesn’t touch the ground).
Small dogs, especially those who don’t get regular long walks on concrete, may need their nails trimmed every two to three weeks and dogs with very long nails will need weekly nail trims, to encourage the quick to recede. Most other dogs will benefit from monthly nail trimming.
What Makes a Dog Nail Clipper Good?
There are several different styles of nail clippers, and each style has pros and cons for different dogs. There is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of what the best nail clippers are, so let’s discuss the pros and cons of each style, then discuss extra features to look for when reviewing nail clippers.
There are four main styles of nail clippers. You should decide on the best style of nail clippers for your dog and your needs before you consider other features.
Plier-type nail clippers resemble scissor-type nail clippers, though they are usually larger and include a spring that pops the blades open after each nail clipping (unless they feature an automatic locking mechanism). Plier-style nail clippers come in small and large sizes and can be used on dogs of any size.
- Can be used on any size dog
- As long as they’re sharp and large enough, they can cut through even large, thick, tough nails
- Usually sturdy – can take a beating
- Can be hard on your hands, especially on dogs with large, thick, tough nails
- If they’re dull, they can crush or twist nails instead of slicing cleanly through
Scissor-type nail clippers tend to be best for small dogs. As the name implies, they resemble scissors but with a half-circle cut out of each blade where the toenail goes. Scissor-type nail clippers don’t have a spring to open the blades after each use, so they can put a little more strain on your hands, and they don’t have enough power for larger toenails.
- Small, ideal for small pets
- Easy to use
- Not suitable for dogs larger than about 10 pounds
- The nail clippers do less of the work, requiring you to put in more effort
Guillotine-style clippers feature a hole that you poke the dog’s nail through and a sharp, replaceable blade that slices through the dog’s nail. When they get dull, it’s cheaper to replace just the blade than it is to buy new nail clippers.
- Ideal for small to medium dogs
- When sharp, they slice cleanly through the nail
- Replacing the blade is cheaper than buying new nail clippers
- Tricky to use
- Not good for large dogs
- Blades may get dull quickly
Grinders can be used after trimming the length off a nail or alone to grind the length off the nail. They get nails nice and smooth and reduce the risk of trimming a nail too short.
- Less likely to make your dog bleed
- Make nails nice and smooth instead of sharp, pointy, or ragged
- May be loud and scary for some dogs
- Can wrap up and yank out long hair
Other features to consider:
Each style of nail clippers has different features that you may or may not want based on your preferences. What are these features, and how can you decide if you want them?
One important thing to consider is durability. If you have one small dog, durability may not be as important as if you have multiple dogs of various sizes or if you’re a professional groomer cutting the nails of multiple dogs per day.
Look for nail clippers labeled as “professional dog nail clippers” or “heavy duty dog nail clippers”, for products that are likely to be the most durable. You can also check for reviews that mention what happened when the nail clippers were dropped. Do they survive being dropped multiple times? Or do they fall apart easily?
There’s always the chance you will get a defective pair, but good nail clippers should be sharp straight out of the package and should stay sharp for quite a long time. As you’re comparing reviews, look at how many people praise the sharpness of a particular brand, compared to complaints about how quickly a brand became dull.
Plier-style nail clippers, in particular, have a variety of available safety features that can be either beneficial or annoying, depending on your point of view.
Nail guards help prevent you from shoving your dog’s entire nail through the nail clippers, but it’s still possible to cut your dog’s nail too short and it blocks the view of what you’re doing. Many nail guards are moveable, so you can use it if you want and move it out of the way if you prefer to see what you’re cutting.
Some plier-style nail clippers also have an automatic locking feature. This is handy if you have a small child and you’re worried about them sticking their finger into the nail clippers if you aren’t paying attention, but this automatic locking feature can be quite annoying when you have to unlock the clippers after every single toenail. Look for a voluntary locking feature that doesn’t lock after every nail.
Some nail grinders have a safety cap that covers most of the grinder with just a hole to put the nail into, perhaps to prevent too much of the nail being filed down, or maybe to prevent hair from getting caught in the grinder. However, I’ve heard too many horror stories of nails getting caught between the grinder and the cap and being ripped off to recommend any style of nail grinder with this “safety feature”. It’s better to just hold your dog’s hair out of the way and pay attention to what you’re doing.
If you have healthy hands and a small to medium dog, the comfort and grip of nail clippers may not be as important, but if you have a large dog or arthritic hands, it can make a world of difference.
Some nail clippers have slick handles. Some have rubber grips. Plier-style and guillotine-style clippers have different types of grips which may be more or less comfortable for you, based on personal preference. It doesn’t matter much how sharp the clippers are if they are so unwieldy that you can’t use them.
While it is possible to use large nail clippers on small dogs, it isn’t as effective. It’s also almost impossible to use small nail clippers on large dogs. When in doubt, go with the larger size. If you have dogs that are varying sizes, it may be worth your while to buy two different sizes of nail clippers rather than trying to use large nail clippers on small dogs.
No matter what a product promises, you should always check the reviews for the actual performance of the nail clippers. There’s always a chance you could get a defective pair, but you should compare how many performance complaints there are compared to how many people rave about the performance.
Low-quality nail clippers can leave your dog’s nails jagged at best and can splinter or shatter your dog’s nail at worst, so this is one area you don’t want to neglect when researching nail clippers.
Which nail clipper is best for my dog?
With all this information in mind, how can you decide which nail clipper is best for your dog? Here are some factors to consider.
The size of your dog
- Scissor-style nail clippers are best for very small dogs under 10 pounds
- Guillotine-style nail clippers work best for small to medium dogs
- Plier-style nail clippers can be used for any size dog and are the best choice for large dogs
- Nail grinders can be used on any size dog
Your dog’s temperament
This is something you may not have considered, but your dog’s temperament can impact which type of nail clippers you should buy.
- Dogs who are sensitive to sound and vibrations will have a hard time with nail grinders
- Dogs who hate the “popping” sound that is common to plier-style clippers may prefer the quieter slicing sound of sharp guillotine clippers
- Calm dogs may get the most benefit from a nail grinder rather than nail clippers
While your dog’s needs should come first, you need to keep your preferences in mind, too.
- Do you have arthritis or hand pain? Plier-style nail clippers may not be the best option.
- Do you want your dog’s nail to be as smooth as possible? You should consider a nail grinder.
- Are you worried about cutting your dog’s nail too short? You may consider either plier-style nail clippers with a quick guard or a nail grinder to reduce your chances of injuring your dog.
- Are you comfortable replacing a blade yourself? If you’re worried about handling a sharp blade, guillotine-style nail clippers may not be a great fit for you.
Best Dog Nail Clipper Reviews:
#1 Epica Pro:
Best For Most Dogs
- Blade Material: High Grade Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: Yes
- Sizes: Small/Medium, Medium/Large
- Rubber-coated handle is easy on the hands, comfortable and non-slip
- Very sharp
- Easy to use
- Nail guard may get in the way
- Automatic locking feature can trigger while clipping
The Epica Pro small/medium plier-style nail clippers have comfortable rubber coated handles, sharp cutting blades, an automatic lock to keep the nail clippers closed when not in use, and a guard to help prevent cutting too much of the nail off.
Assuming Amazon doesn’t send you a cheap knock-off or a defective pair, these are arguably the best nail clippers you can buy. As a dog groomer for more than 12 years, these were always my favorite nail clippers (although they’ve been sold under a variety of names over the years).
The automatic locking feature can be a little irritating since you have to unlock them after every nail, but the sharpness of the blades, sturdiness, and the way they feel in your hand make up for it. The guard to help prevent cutting nails too short is more of a gimmick than a useful part of the tool, but it can be moved out of the way to see what you’re doing.
#2 Millers Forge:
Runner Up Best Nail Clippers
- Blade Material: Surgical Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: No
- Sizes: Medium
- Very sharp
- Sturdy and reliable
- No toenail guard getting in the way
- Handles can get slippery
- They can be large and unwieldy for small dogs
Millers Forge nail clippers have been the go-to choice for groomers and vets for many years. They are sturdier than many other nail clippers and can take quite a beating.
While the handles can be slippery, there is no annoying toenail guard to get in the way and the locking mechanism doesn’t engage after every single clip. It seems the quality may not be as reliable as it once was, but these are still one of the best nail clippers you will find. They will hold up to the largest toenails and can often be dropped on a concrete floor without breaking.
#3 Resco Deluxe Guillotine:
Best Guillotine Nail Clippers
- Blade Material: Hand Sharpened Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: No
- Sizes: Regular, Large
- When the blade is sharp, it slices through nails quickly and quietly
- It’s cheaper and easier to replace just the blade than it is to buy new nail clippers
- May be difficult or awkward to use
- Not suitable for very larger dogs
- They need to be held a specific way – less versatile than plier-style nail clippers
If you like guillotine-style nail clippers, Resco invented the style and remains the quality leader for this style of nail clippers. The blade is replaceable and much cheaper than replacing the clippers themselves.
These nail clippers are available in a variety of sizes and are sold by themselves or in a kit with a replacement blade, a nail file, and styptic (“stop bleeding”) powder, in case you cut a nail too short.
Guillotine-style nail clippers have some advantages and some disadvantages over plier-style nail clippers.
On the plus side, when the blade is sharp, it can cut through nails with a clean slice, which avoids the “popping” sound many dogs hate. The blade is also cheap and easy to replace.
On the downside, you have to hold these nail clippers a very specific way for them to work. They can be quite awkward to use if you’re unfamiliar with this style of nail clippers.
Best For Most Dogs
- Blade Material: High Quality Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: Yes
- Sizes: NA
- Includes a nail file
- Sharp and fairly sturdy
- Ideal for medium-sized dogs
- Nail guard makes it hard to see what you’re doing
- Locking mechanism fails easily, meaning nail clippers won’t stay closed when not in use
- Not a great choice for very small or very large dogs
The Boshel nail clippers are a sturdy brand ideal for medium-sized dogs. They include a nail file in the handle and a guard to prevent putting the nail too far through the blade of the clippers.
These nail clippers are overkill for small dogs and not strong enough for large dogs. They are ideal for medium-sized dogs. The guard prevents you from cutting too much of your dog’s nail, but it also blocks your view of what you’re cutting. The mechanism to keep the nail clippers locked when not in use is poorly-designed and fails easily.
Best Nail Clippers For Large Dogs:
#1 Millers Forge Large:
Best For Large Dogs
- Blade Material: German Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: No
- Sizes: Large
- Groomers choice for large dogs
- Heavy duty and durable
- Long lasting
- Slippery handles
In the dog grooming world, Millers Forge is the go-to brand for large dog breeds. This pair of well-built and powerful, plier-type clippers make an easy job of even the thickest of nails.
We are super impressed by these plier-style clippers and not surprised they are used by so many groomers. The weight of them makes the high-quality steel used in the blades immediately apparent and the way the two separate blades cross each other in a tight and fluid way shows you they will do a good job, before you even see a dog’s claw.
But, these clippers are not without their faults. After using some of the other models on this list, we find the smooth plastic orange handles on the clippers to be very slippery, making it difficult to maintain grip, after only a short amount of use. This is not a huge issue, as a quick wipe down with a dry cloth will have you back in action in no time.
Best Nail Clippers For Small Dogs:
#1 Resco Guillotine Small:
Best For Small Dogs
- Blade Material: Hand Sharpened Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: No
- Sizes: Tiny, Small
- Sharp blades make easy work of small nails
- Very accurate, perfect for even the smallest trim
- Replaceable blades extend the life of the clipper
- Can take some getting used too
What makes these clippers so suitable for smaller dogs is their ability to hook the nail into position around the steel loops, giving you precision for even the smallest of trims. Also, the cutting action of a guillotine clipper is more of a sharp cut, compared to the squeezing motion of plier-style clippers. It is generally more suitable for thin, small, and delicate nails of smaller dogs.
Resco is aware of how suitable they are for smaller animals and so they also offer this clipper in multiple smaller sizes, down to their smallest size – “Tiny”.
We really like the ability to quickly and easy replace the blades on these clippers. It ensures you always have a nice, sharp edge to get a smooth, clean cut, right through the nail, in one go – making the whole nail clipping process quick and painless for both you and the dog.
Though for some, this style of clipper may at first seem foreign, as it is unlike any traditional utensil you have used before, most will quickly learn how to handle it and feel how perfect it is when needing accuracy for removing small amounts of a smaller claw.
#2 Resco Small Pet Scissor:
Runner Up For Small Dogs
- Blade Material: Stainless Steel
- Safety Stop: No
- Sizes: Small
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Easy to use
- Extremely sharp
- Only works on very small nails
Nail clippers are often too large and unwieldy for cat and small pet nails. The Resco Small Pet Scissor is perfect for tiny nails.
Why use large nail clippers on a cat or other small pet? Bigger isn’t always better. These are great for quickly trimming tiny nails, without any splintering. Since they’re entirely made from stainless steel without a cheap plastic handle, they could last just about forever.
Why Clip Your Dog’s Nails?
Is clipping your dog’s nails really all that important? What’s the harm in letting them grow or hoping the sidewalk files the nails down? Actually, a lot of problems can occur when a dog’s nails get overgrown.
Overly long nails can cause toes to twist and rotate, causing strain, pain, and arthritis in your dog’s foot. The quick (vein) in your dog’s nails can grow out if not trimmed frequently enough, leading to permanent pain for your pup.
Long toenails are much more likely to get caught on something and ripped off, which is extremely painful for your dog and a huge bloody mess to clean up. This is especially important to remember for anybody who keeps their dog in a crate or kennel. One swipe at a wire kennel door can rip off a long toenail.
Sometimes long toenails grow straight out, but sometimes they can grow in a tight circle. This is especially true for dewclaws, the nails on the side of the leg that don’t touch the ground. These curly toenails can puncture your dog’s skin, leading to an open wound that can become infected. Serious infections, left untreated, can reach your dog’s heart or brain and kill them.
Damaged floors or furniture
If you aren’t worried about your dog’s wellbeing, you should keep in mind that long toenails are more likely to scratch hardwood floors or puncture furniture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most dogs need their nails trimmed once a month. Large dogs who run or walk on concrete a lot may file their nails down themselves and need infrequent nail trimming, apart from their dewclaws. Small dogs who don’t walk on concrete much may need their nails trimmed every other week. Dogs with long quicks (the vein in the nail) need weekly nail trimming, to help the quick recede, so the dog isn’t stuck with long nails the rest of its life.
There are several different ways to tell when it’s time to cut your dog’s nails. If your dog normally walks around your house quietly, but his nails have started to click on your linoleum or hardwood floors, it’s time for a nail trim.
Some dogs, especially smaller dogs, will have the “trimmable” part of the nail grow skinnier than the “non-trimmable” part of the nail. When you see that skinny part, you know it’s time to trim your dog’s nails.
Dogs that have white toenails are easy because you can see through the white/clear part of the nail to the pink quick in the middle. When there is a bit of white past the pink, you know it’s time to trim the nails.
If you look at the underside of a black toenail and don’t see a black dot in the middle of the nail surrounded by white, you can probably trim that nail.
If it’s been more than a few weeks since you last trimmed your dog’s nails, it’s likely time for another nail trim.
Basically, as long as you only trim off a little bit of nail at a time to ensure you don’t cut too short, it’s never the wrong time to trim your dog’s nails. You can trim a dog’s nails as often as once a week if you’re careful, and you should generally trim your dog’s nails at least once a month.
The quick is a vein inside the nail. If you trim a nail too short, you cut into that vein and cause your dog pain and bleeding. If you know what to look for, you can avoid “quicking” your dog, but it’s always a good idea to keep styptic powder on hand just in case. With white toenails, you can see the pink quick inside the white/clear nail. With black toenails, it’s a little trickier.
The best way to find the quick on a dog with dark nails is to trim off just a little bit of the nail at a time. After each slice, look at the bottom of the nail where you’ve just trimmed. When you get near the quick, you will see a black dot in the center of the nail surrounded by white or grey. When you see that black dot, you know it’s time to stop trimming, as that’s the leading edge of the quick. Going shorter can cause your dog pain and bleeding.
It’s best to keep styptic powder handy in case you cut your dog’s quick, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. If you’ve cut deeply into the quick and nothing stops the bleeding, you may need to take your dog to the vet to have the nail cauterized.
It’s best to keep styptic powder handy when you’re trimming your dog’s nails. Styptic powder stops bleeding and contains antiseptic ingredients to help prevent infection.
Simply scoop some powder out of the container using your finger or a cotton swab or dump some into the lid or another container, then apply it to your dog’s nail using light pressure until the nail stops bleeding. Don’t put the nail directly into the container of styptic powder since that can lead to contamination.
If you don’t have styptic powder handy, you can use flour or cornstarch.
If the bleeding doesn’t stop after applying styptic powder with pressure for 10-15 seconds, contact your veterinarian. They may need to cauterize the nail to stop the bleeding.
No. A quick guard helps prevent putting too much of your dog’s nail through the nail clippers, but if your dog’s quick is very close to the tip of the nail, a guard won’t prevent you from cutting into the quick. It’s often better to remove the quick guard (or push it out of the way) to see what you’re doing and how far in the nail is going. Just trim off little bits of the nail at a time until you see a dot in the center of your dog’s nail, indicating the quick.
If you have a tiny puppy or very small dog, you may be tempted to use your own nail clippers on your dog. The problem is that humans have flat nails, while dogs have round nails. Human nail clippers are more likely to shatter, splinter, or crush your dog’s nails. It’s better to invest in dog nail clippers.
Some types of dog nail clippers are not intended to be sharpened. Some may be sharpened the same way scissors are sharpened. Guillotine-style nail clippers have a replaceable blade that does not get sharpened. Unless you have a lot of experience sharpening scissors, you probably want to leave sharpening dog nail clippers to a professional sharpener, which is often more expensive than replacing the nail clippers.
If your dog is patient, you can use the nail clippers to carefully round off any sharp edges, but you may find it easier to use a nail file or grinder. You can use a normal emery board, but it won’t last as long for a dog’s nails as it will for a human’s. Many people opt to use a nail grinder to file off sharp edges after trimming their dog’s nails with clippers.
If you’re new to clipping your dog’s nails, you might be worried about cutting them too short and making your dog bleed. That’s an understandable concern. But, is it worth it to spend the money on quick-finding nail clippers?
In the future, there may be a quality, quick-finding nail clipper on the market, but, as of right now, these nail clippers are unreliable, at best. You may get one that works perfectly, but you’re just as likely to get a poorly-made one that doesn’t work. If it doesn’t accurately find the quick, you’ve just spent triple the amount for regular nail clippers.
For these reasons, we can’t recommend any brand of LED quick-finding nail clippers.