Of all of the jobs we stopped outsourcing since the coronavirus pandemic hit, cutting our dog's nails just might be the most stressful. After all, it’s the rare pup that eagerly responds to a claw clip the way we humans might enjoy a relaxing pedicure. And because it requires broaching their tender paws with blades, it makes having a scared and squirmy subject all the more fraught.
That’s why procuring the right tool for the job is an absolute necessity—whether that means a super-sharp set of scissors, smooth, efficient guillotine clippers, or a gentle, low-intimidation dog nail grinder, like a Dremel. Plier-type scissors are the most traditional style. And if that’s the variety you choose, you can’t do better than the ultra-durable Epica Professional Nail Clipper(available at Amazon). After looking at the best dog nail clippers, we found it cleanly cuts through even the thickest nails in an instant. And a clearly delineated safety guard ensures you don’t nick your dog’s quick—the delicate cluster of nerves and blood vessels, that appears as a dark circle just beyond where the pure, nerve-free nail ends.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Epica Pet Nail Clippers
The king of clippers, these simple scissors don’t look much different compared to similar clippers, but this model manages to surpass them across the board. Their main strength is, well, strength. While most of our other contenders easily snipped the 1/8-inch dowel we used for testing, this one sluiced through the 1/4-inch with ease. That’s why it’s also long been our personal preferred pick for our own dog, whose long, black nails are practically impenetrable. The semi-circular blades surround the nail, allowing you to see precisely where you’re cutting, and a quick guard prevents you from going too far or deep.
The rubber coated handles are comfortable to hold and squeeze, an easy to manipulate safety lock keeps them closed when not in use, and the set comes with a lifetime warranty. Not too shabby for a clipper that only costs $10.
The actual inventor of the guillotine-style clipper, U.S.-based Resco has been in business since 1937. They’ve remained an industry leader since then (often used by vets and groomers), and If any clipper could woo us from our long-term relationship with Epica, it’s this one.
It cuts so fast and cleanly, our pup barely registered the pressure, making what could otherwise be a stressful, drawn-out job a two-minute snap. Available in multiple sizes (there’s even a specialized option for tiny pets like ferrets and lizards), the clipper is properly proportioned for any job.
A powder coat offers a no-slip grip and added comfort. Replacement blades are available, and Resco also offers a lifetime warranty—no wonder the American company has stood the test of time.
Available in multiple sizes
Downward pressure may be uncomfortable for some dogs
This highly established power tool company was the first to repurpose their signature item for cutting dog’s nails. And they clearly take that task every bit as seriously as they do heavy duty construction projects.
This kit is no joke. It comes with a variety of sanding drums, bands, and accessories, for swapping in and out for an optimized and effective claw-cutting experience. Which is to say, the grinder isn’t exactly usable straight out of the box. There’s some potentially confusing set-up involved, and you need to charge it for 2.5 hours first.
It’s also quite bulky—which can be uncomfortable for the owner when it comes to extended use—and very loud; so it’s possible your dog could balk at the sound.
Available in small/medium and medium/large sizes, the Safari can accommodate a range of nail types, and the stainless-steel double blades seem reasonably sharp and durable for such an affordable cutter.
However, our hands quickly cramped during use, and we found the various locking mechanisms difficult to maneuver.
GoPets Nail Clippers: While we didn’t actively dislike anything about these traditional scissors, we felt the performance simply didn’t fit the price (around $30, three times the cost of our top pick).
If you decide to purchase these, make sure to select the right size for the job. The small didn’t accommodate our ¼-inch dowels.
There are several different types of dog nail trimmers we evaluated for this guide.
Scissors: The most common kind of cutter, these plier-style tools have steel blades that snip off bits of the nail when the handle is squeezed. Ideally, they also contain a quick stop guard, to keep you from slicing into a nerve.
Grinders: This electric option uses a rotating, emery board-esque wheel, as opposed to a blade, to gradually grind bits of nail off.
Guillotines: Like the name suggests, these clippers feature a hole that the nail fits through. The handle is squeezed to descend a blade that chops the nail off vertically, as opposed to horizontally.
Since this is a cutting tool, it goes without saying that the blade should be high-quality stainless steel, resistant to dulling, bacteria, and rust. And while special features are nice (such as emery boards tucked into the handle!) safety is of utmost importance. The biggest danger to your dog is accidentally cutting into the nail's quick, so make sure the clipper has a quick guard, as a failsafe against overcutting.
What Type of Clipper Is Best for My Dog?
The most important thing dog owners can do when selecting the right clipper is to make sure it's the right size for the dog; small clippers won’t stand up to the density of a large dog’s nails, while a large clipper may be clumsy and aggressive against the tender nails of small or medium-sized dogs.
Classic scissors can be found in both small and large sizes, and are almost always equipped with quick guards, but if your pet jerks their paw when you’re trying to cut, it could definitely provoke accidentally cutting too much of the nail (or worse!).
A grinder offers a gentle, less abrupt way to both shorten and buff your pet’s nails, although you may have to do some work to acclimate them to the buzzing sound.
And a guillotine is quite effective on small dogs or even cats, although animals may be uncomfortable with the rough downward pressure.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.