How to Dremel Dog Nails

Dremeling dog nails is a fantastic alternative to the traditional method of clipping dog nails. It is not surprising that many dogs react badly to nail clipping. Even if you do not cut painfully into the quick, the motion of clipping still pinches the sensitive nerves within the nail. Dremeling is a great way to maintain healthy nails, and to lessen stress for everyone involved. You don’t have to be a professional to do a good job, but, there are some important steps involved in properly Dremeling nails.

How to Dremel Dog Nails

Essential Tools

  • Variable Speed Dremel: I recommend against using a single speed model, which may spin too fast. Beyond it being a Dremel and a variable speed one, the only other choice is cordless or corded. If you have poor arm/hand strength, go corded. Otherwise, I personally prefer cordless. Cordless Dremels are heavier, but, they are also less disruptive to the dog – whereas corded models do not require charging, and are lighter to handle.
  • Sanding Drums: 1/2” diameter, Fine 120 Grit, Dremel #432. The fine grit provides maximum control when sanding, and prevents flaking of the nail in between sandings.

Optional (but useful) Tools

  • Dremel Ez-Drum Mandrel, Dremel #EZ407SA. This inexpensive part makes routine Dremeling so much easier. This tool (shown below) allows you to swap out dull sanding bands in seconds. It doesn’t come with the Dremel kit, but almost all hardware stores carry it in the rotary tool / Dremel section.
  • Safety Glasses, to keep nail dust out of your eyes.
  • If you have asthma, you might also want to wear a respirator or dust mask.

How to Dremel Dog Nails

How to Dremel Dog Nails

Preparing & Positioning

You can practice putting your dog in “Dremeling” position for short periods of time, treating often, long before you introduce the Dremel tool. Doing so is a great idea to make the eventual experience relaxing, familiar, and positive. After many practice sessions positioning your dog, treating her, and sitting for a minute or two, you can then eventually begin introduce the Dremel, without using it, to familiarize your dog to the sound of the tool. Taking it slow will pay off!

For a medium or small dog, I recommend that you place the dog belly up on your lap.  A large dog can be laid gently on his or her side on the floor in front of you. Talk to the dog in a soft voice and allow them to relax. Once either size of dog is used to this process, you may also choose to have them up on a grooming table.

Miles is a dog that absolutely cannot stand having his nails clipped (I cannot emphasize how passionately he hates nail clipping – no amount of food or training could convince him to tolerate nail clipping), but, he is completely content to relax and take a nap while I Dremel his nails. This is because I introduced the tool slowly, and because I use it properly.

How to Dremel Dog Nails

Safely Sanding

Turn your Dremel on, and set it to a low speed. Start out at a very slow speed. When you are experienced, you’ll be using a slow/slow-medium speed. Hold up one paw, select a nail, and push any stray fur away from it. (People whose dogs are very furry often recommend pushing the paw through a nylon stocking prior to Dremeling). While supporting the nail between your fingers, touch the sander against the nail, and then retreat. Never leave the sander touching a single spot on a nail for more than a second, and never apply any pressure. The goal is to smooth little sections off, while never putting enough friction on the nail to generate any heat. That is why using a Dremel that has variable speeds is very handy for the safety and comfort of the dog, because the slower the speed, the longer it takes to build friction, and the more control you have over ensuring the process never creates any heat, or sands the nail down too fast. As long as you never put pressure, and you gently and briefly smooth the sander along the nail, and never remain in one spot more than a second or two, you will do just fine. The best way to Dremel nails is to focus on one paw at a time, rotating between all of its toes.Below is a video of me Dremeling Miles’ nails that clearly demonstrates the process:

Goals While Dremeling

Aim to smooth the nails, and focus on creating nicely flattened rounded ends. After creating a nice smooth flat surface at the end of the nail, I suggest that you also gently take away the thin flaky layer that runs along the bottom of each nail. You can do this by quickly rotating the Dremel around the nail in one or two swipes. Doing so will prevent any flaking or cracking of the nails.

When to Stop Dremeling

Over time you will learn exactly when to stop sanding. A sure indicator of when to stop is when you begin to see a little white dot in the center of the tip of the nail. Also, the tip of the nail will start seeming a bit softer and moister – and less dry and flaky. That is because you are entering the “living” part of the nail. That little white dot is the beginning of the quick. The first time, don’t do too much. You can always try again in a few days. If you don’t see a little white dot, but you get too close to the quick, your dog will lightly flinch. Stop sanding if your dog shows sensitivity, as this is an even clearer indication that the nail is finished.

How to Dremel Dog Nails

Finishing The Nails

When you are finished Dremeling all of your dog’s nails (bottom left), the final step is to rub a thin layer of olive oil over each nail. Doing this moisturizes, and most importantly, seals the nail. Applying a little bit of olive oil prevents the nails from absorbing nasty stuff outside, and from drying out and chipping as it grows back before your next Dremeling session.

How to Dremel Dog Nails

Advantages of Dremeling Dog Nails,
& How Often to You Should Dremel

One great advantage of Dremeling your dog’s nails is that if you introduce the process slowly and positively, the likelihood that your dog won’t mind it is much greater than the alternative of nail clipping. Being able to trim your dog’s nails yourself doesn’t just save time and money, it also can ensure that your dog will get his nails trimmed often enough.

Over time, not trimming dog nails often enough can lead to all sorts of health problems. Every single part of your dog’s body depends on, and is affected by his feet. Nails that aren’t clipped often enough will to grow longer quicks over time. This means, if your dog goes for periods where his nails are on the medium/longer side, the live part of the nail will also longer, and that is the part that you cannot cut. Therefore, every time a dog whose nails aren’t trimmed often enough are trimmed, they will be longer than they were the previous trimming.

For most dogs, Dremeling once a week is a good schedule of how often to trim. With that said, how often you Dremel really depends on how fast your dog’s nails grow, and how often she is running around on rough surfaces, which also can aid in wearing down the nails. For this reason, avoid Dremeling your dog’s nails right before strenuous activity. The soft part of the nail can be a bit delicate for the first few hours after Dremeling.

Additionally, say you’ve just discovered Dremeling, and your dog has a longer quick area than he should. I have found that if you Dremel on a schedule of around every 3-4 days, you can actually trick the quick into retreating over time. With this sort of frequent trimming, you will need to be diligent, careful not to ever trim too far (but to make sure to trim close enough), and to trim every 3-4 days on a strict schedule. Once the nails have reached the desired length, you can go back to regular maintenance (weekly) trimming.

  • Practice positioning your dog for Dremeling in short sessions, treating often, before ever introducing the Dremel. Then, practice having your dog in position, and having the Dremel on, without actually Dremeling. Do several of these sessions until your dog is relaxed before introducing actual Dremeling.
  • Use a fine grit (120) of sanding band, buy a variable speed Dremel, and when using, set it on slow or slow/medium.
  • Touch the Dremel to the nail to sand for a second, retreat, touch again, repeat.
  • Never put pressure on the nail when sanding
  • Never leave the sander on the nail for more than a second at a time
  • Dremel on a schedule to maintain healthy nails (once a week is recommended).
  • Rub nails with a thin layer of olive oil after each Dremeling session to seal them and to prevent flaking of the nails.

18 comments on How to Dremel Dog Nails

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  • Sheila Lester

    Thank you for the clear and concise description of how to dremel a dog’s nails. Now I just have to decide if I’m up to doing such a thing as I have never even clipped nails…. always had it done. And, I wonder if my eight and nine year old pugs will be receptive. You’ve certainly laid out an understandable program.
    Thank you.

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Sheila! Thanks for writing. I am really pleased that you found the article to be useful. For the first few times, have a helper handy to dispense lots of little treats. When your pugs see that nail time can be fun and easy, they too will relax at the idea! 🙂 You are most welcome for the help! – Emma

  • Mariana

    Hi,

    Thank you for this guide. I have had my bichon nails dremeled almost every week since I brought her home. This service cost $18 where I live and it seems like something I should be doing (not to mention that I could do many things with $72 I would save). Which specific dremel model would recommend for a small dog?

  • Karin

    Which dremel model are you using looks like 8000 but not sure?

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Karin, in the video I am using an older corded Dremel (similar to a 200). Shown in the picture is the model I’ve been using for the past several years, which is a 8200. I am happy with the function and battery life of the 8200. If you have more questions let me know.

  • Jennifer

    Are there oils we can use other than olive oil? Thanks for your help.

    • Emma (author)

      Hello Jennifer, thank you for asking. I believe any foodsafe oil will work, or even a little bit of vaseline. The main idea is to moisturize the nails to prevent cracking and splitting – and to use an oil that is safe if the dog licks away any slight excess.

  • Jimmy

    As a Doberman owner, I introduce mine to the Dremmel very young. First with no power on then gradually. And in the very beginning patience is a virtue. I will do one nail per session and stop. Then next day try 2 nails and stop. And a treat or two during each session makes it a reward time rather than a scary time.

  • Kim

    What a great article and video. I am going to start using your suggestions to train my girls so that I can do their nails. I had them to the vet recently and even though I have their nails clipped regularly when groomed they were very long. The vet said this is a common problem that she sees. The groomers don’t take off enough so the nail is still long and then it continues to grow. The vet had to cut their nails short which made them bleed and I am sure it hurt them. I won’t put them through that again. Now that they are short I am going to start doing it myself.

    • Emma (author)

      Hello Kim!

      Thank you so much for the note. I am thrilled you are inspired by the article. I looked into Dremeling for the same reasons as you, plus of course, Miles’ crippling fear of nail clippers! As long as you use lots of treats, your girls should relax into the practice! As part of me and Miles’ ritual, I also now pour the finishing olive oil into a little dish. After I apply it to the finished tips of his nails, I release him from my lap, and let him lick the last little bit of oil. It is so cute how he holds frozen in anticipation just as I am finishing the last touches… He can’t wait for the finale treat!

      Emma

  • Desiree Hanzelik

    Thank you Emma for the clear concise explanation. The video was a big help too.
    My dog who is six years old has been having his nails dremeled since he was a pup..but with a groomer.
    I have decided to step up to the plate so I can be a bit more consistent with trimmings. I never realized it had to be done as frequently as you mentioned, so I’m grateful for finding your article.
    Thank you.
    Desiree

    • Emma (author)

      Desiree,

      Thank you for the comment, I am so happy to share my findings! I know — it is so much more often than I thought too. Now that I’ve made it part of my routine over the last few years, I am really happy with the results. I think you will be too! And hopefully doing it yourself, you will save a little bit of money, too! Let me know how it goes.

      Emma

  • Cody wilson

    Thank you so much for your article! My french bulldog tore a nail when he was a puppy, and ever since has been deathly afraid of clippers. His nails got so long they were curling towards his pads. I just dremeled the first time today and it was a success! My main goal is to make his quicks retreat back to a manageable length. Do you think if I do it every 3-5 days, it should work?

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Cody,

      Aww I love Frenchies! Poor little guy. I don’t blame him for his fear. I am so excited that the first Dremeling was a success! Definitely continue to keep it positive by giving him lots of little high-value treats every time you Dremel.

      To safely and gently urge the quicks to retreat, Dremel on a strict schedule of every 3-4 days. Mark it on your calendar or program your phone to remind you. You will soon get the hang of how much to do from experience — just be sure to use the tips suggested:

      Never press down on a nail
      Dremel a single nail for only 1-2 seconds
      Alternate between nails
      You’ve reached the right spot when the tip of the nail seems supple and moister than the rest, and/or if you see a faint white spot in the center of the tip
      Stop of your dog twitches or seems sensitive
      Treat freshly Dremeled nails with a light coat of Olive Oil

      That will be your best shot. Good luck! And please let me know how it goes, and if you have any questions!
      Emma

  • Rachel

    Hi, I was trying to see which dremel to buy for my dog. I was looking on amazon and saw a 7700 series. I’m not sure which series I should buy. I was given a dog who had never had his nails cut and I’m worried about hurting him because the quick seems to be very long and the nail is as well. Should I also buy a quick stopper to stop bleeding should it happen? I found the dremel #432 but I’m just wondering what series to buy. I’m trying to do his nails as soon as possible. Thank you so much!

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Rachel,
      Thank you for writing! Any of the cordless or corded models that have RPM between 5 – 20 or 25 are great. 2-speed is essential, variable is even better. The 7700 is 2-speed, which will suit your needs just fine. I own this model and use it for travel because it is light. It doesn’t have the adjustability that my bigger one has, but it does the job. I am going to update the article above to include all of this information, thanks to your comment!

      You won’t hurt him if you follow the instructions carefully. Start very slow and have someone feed him lots of little treats as you go. You’ll have some idea of how close you are to the quick by the instructions.

      If you Dremel a little bit every 3-4 days on a strict schedule, it is possible to see the quick retreat a little bit.

      It should be rare to see blood, but if you do, definitely, a quick-stop product would be good to have on hand. However it is best to go in tiny bursts, with no applied pressure, and to stop the second the nail begins to feel soft, the white tip shows, and especially if the dog shows any sensitivity.

      Let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂 That dog is lucky he came into your life, how wonderful!
      Emma

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