Skip to Content

How to Use Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers in 6 Steps

Poodle getting nails clipped with guillotine clippers

Have you ever had one of those tasks you just HATED? Like scrubbing the base of the toilet bowl?

That’s how I used to feel about clipping my dogs’ nails. Now I have small dogs and I’ve started using what I consider the best nail clippers for small dogs.

But for many years I used guillotine style clippers. Here’s exactly how to use guillotine dog nail clippers.

Should you hear your dog’s nails on the floor? Click here to learn more.

When it is time to cut my dog’s nails?

Dog paw in persons hand getting nails clipped on blue background

This is a question a lot of people ask, especially those who have dogs with dark nails that they can not see the quick. Some people just leave it up to the groomers and then there are others who like to do it themselves.

Basically, their nails do not need to be trimmed more than once every two months. Although if you are cutting dog nails that have grown too long you may have to cut every week to two weeks for a while. The reality is that cutting dog nails too often is just increasing chances of cutting into the quick.

However, it also depends on a number of factors. 

  1. Length – If you hear your dog’s nails tapping on the floor when he walks, it might be time to cut them, but some dogs nails will make that tapping sound anyway so you really need to check and see if your dog is being impeded by his nails.   
  2. Fido or Princess – Smaller dogs that spend a lot of time in your arms, on your lap or the couch should really be watched. They have nothing to grind their nails on, so they may grow their nails longer than a dog who is active and outside a lot. Some breeds grow nails faster than others, so watch out and keep notes of how long their nails grow by keeping the information in a journal. 
  3. Environment – If your dog is running around in the woods or on grass, they may not be able to grind their nails down as much as they would if they were active on asphalt, concrete and other abrasive surfaces.  
  4. Age – Yes, it happens to dogs as well. They slow down even when outside, therefore they are unable to grind their nails down as much, so they may need to be cut a little more often. 

How Do You Know When to Stop Grinding Your Dog’s Nails? Click here to find out.

How short should you cut your dog’s nails?

Dog laying down on grass having nails clipped

According to Petaholics “nails should be just slightly apart from the ground, just a tiny bit so your dog can “grab” the ground with its paws and nails when it needs extra traction doing activities like running and digging.”

It is kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too short, is not good for them, and it is not just if you avoid hitting quick. Blood and nerves may be affected and it can limit their ability to run and climb. Of course, too long is not good either. They may splinter and crack, causing your dog and your credit card, damage that nobody but the vets can appreciate.

Cutting nails too short can harm your pet (even if you don’t hit quick – blood and nerve supply) by limiting its abilities and affecting pace. And leaving them to grow too long might cause the nail to grow back into the paw or cause the nail to rip and tear – exposing the quick. Another problem could be the nail splintering, it could snag snag on something and once again you are back at the vet’s office and he is smiling but your dog and your wallet aren’t.

If you are afraid of clippers (or if your dog is) you can file your dog’s nails instead of clipping.

So, your dog’s nails are getting longer and you don’t have time to take him to the dog groomers. You could clip them yourself and save a lot of time and money. There are three tools to choose from:

The Guillotine. (gulp) Fear not, unless your name is Marie Antioniette, this is not the French Revolution, it’s just one of the best tools for trimming your dog’s nails. However, if you have a large dog, his nails might not fit in the average sized Guillotine. 

The Scissors or Millers Forge Nail Clippers. These may work better for larger dogs simple because the nails will fit. 

The Grinder. Does not sound too good, however they are the safest but take a lot more time and your dog might not like them.

I might cover the others in a later article and here’s a great guide on how to cut newborn puppy nails – but for today, let’s talk about how to use the Guillotine nail clippers. There is a right way, that can be done quickly and without much fuss and then there is a wrong way, which will harm your dog. 

How Do Groomers Cut Big Dog Nails? Click here to learn more.

Choosing the Right Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers

Guillotine nail clippers on a wooden tabletop

We love your pet, and naturally we do not want it to be injured so it is vital that you take the time when choosing good, high quality Guillotine Nail Clippers, so please do not buy the cheapest you can find. Good Guillotine Nail Clippers are not that expensive, and well worth the safety of your pet. Here are some things to keep in mind. 

  1. They are made of solid construction.
  2. They have a comfortable, easy to use handle that fits well in your hand. 
  3. They are easy to use and snap back after clipping each time. You do not want the blade stopped and holding your dog’s nails.
  4. A good, sturdy, sharp blade that cuts right through the nail. Get a cheap blade and your dog’s nail will splinter, and once that happens you got problems. 

After researching, I was able to find the best Guillotine Nail Clippers.

  1. Safari Pro (You can find them on Amazon) – According to Business Insider, these are great for large dogs but may have holes that are too big for smaller ones. They are made from stainless steel blades for a nice, clean and most importantly, pain-free cut. The grips are made of rubber so they feel very comfortable to use, are lightweight and have a locking mechanism for safe storage.   
  2. Epica Pro (You can find them on Amazon) These are great for dogs of all sizes have a quick-stop guard for safety and amazingly enough, have a lifetime warranty. They may be a little stiff the first time you use them, but they are made for comfort and are easy to adjust to. 

Both cost less than $10.00 and are professional grade.

Which Way Do You Hold Dog Nail Clippers? Click here to find out.

How to Use Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers

Most dogs do NOT like having their nails done. Of course, most of them do not sit around and talk about their families or gossip about the neighborhood pooch and who she is now seeing, so the experience is obviously something they cannot understand they need and can sometimes become quite skittish.

That is why K9 OF MINE suggest that you familiarize your dog with the clippers at first, and the site even goes on to say that it may take a week or two before your dog is comfortable around them. I for one, think that you can avoid the apprehension if you do it right the first time. If your dog really does not pay the clippers much mind, then you can start.

Naturally, there is no need to yank the dog up quickly and have your family hold her down while you give her manicure that will make the poodle down the rode jealous. Take your time.  

  1. Try sitting down near your dog and place the clippers on the ground in front of them so as to familiarize them with the object. Most likely a little sniffing will take place for a few moments and then the attention will most likely go back to you as she wonders what this is all about.
  2. To ease apprehension, try providing a small treat, lot of encouraging words and a good petting. 
  3. Gently pick up her paw and check her reaction. Most likely you’ll get a bit of a worried look. If she doesn’t pull away and run off then slowly hold the paw firmly. It is always a good idea to make sure that you have help holding her down. 
  4. Look for the red or pink in the nail. You do not want to cut that. That is the quick. Here’s what to do if you do cut the quick.
  5. Try taking little cuts each time. As you get deeper into the nail, you will notice the nail getting softer. 
  6. After cutting, try to file them off smoothly so as to make sure the nail does not snag anything.

Tips for Cutting Dark Nails  

dog paws with dark nails on concrete

This is always a challenge but Rudy at Grooming with Rudy suggest you try to things. 

  1. Sit facing the dog and pick up a paw. 
  2. Check for any nails that might be light colored so as to find the vein. 
  3. If you are able to find one, hold the clippers firmly in one hand and the digit you wish to cut with the other. 
  4. Make sure the blade is facing you. If it is facing the other way around, it will cut more than you want to. 
  5. Trim the tip of the nail in one, quick pinch of the clippers. 
  6. Check it to see if you can see a vein or a dark spot in the middle of the cut nail.
  7. If you do not find anything then cut the same amount of each nail after that.   
  8. This next part is very important. After cutting, look at the nail carefully. If you see white, then it means you are safe and are not close to cutting the quick. If you see a dark center, it means that is probably as far as you should go. 
  9. Have your quick stop ready just in case. 
  10. If you do cut down to the quick, the bleeding should stop in a few minutes but if it continues then try applying some styptic powder which should stop the bleeding immediately. 
  11. File down any sharp edges. We don’t want them getting snagged. 

Here is a great video by Grooming with Rudy on how to cut the nails safely. 

How to Sharpen Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers

Make sure that your nail clippers are always sharp. If they are dull, you could injure your dog and she may never trust you again, so make sure they are sharp. 

  1. Remove the blades from the clippers. 
  2. Carefully use a sharpening stone or a grinding stone to sharpen them. According to Dog Grooming Supplies you can also use, a diamond-tapered rod or a ceramic rod.

Here is a video that will show you how to sharpen the blades.

Be advised that as goes with all blades, there is only so much sharpening you can do, and you will have to buy a new one in the future. 

The Bottom Line on Using Guillotine Dog Nail Clippers

Clipping a dog’s nails comes down to technique and desensitizing your dog to the clippers. Guillotine nail clippers are what I used for years and they are very effective.

However, if you aren’t comfortable cutting your own dog’s nails then it’s a good idea to take them to a vet or a groomer who will do it for you for a fee.

Please keep in mind that we may receive a small commission when you click our links and make purchases and as an Amazon Associate, this site earns from qualifying purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.