- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Finishing The NailsWhen 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.
- 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 (typically, once a week is recommended).
- Rub nails with a thin layer of olive oil after each Dremeling session to seal them.