How to Use Dog Nail Clippers with Guard: A Quick Guide

What is a guard? You may be wondering this exact question. Not all dog nail clippers come with it, but if you look down at yours now and you see a small metal bar protruding to one side, this is it. It’s called a guard. I don’t know about you, but it always seems to do more harm than good. It’s always in my way! So what is this sliding little piece of silver metal for? Read on to find out!

Everything You Need To Know About A Nail Clipper Guard

What is the Guard For?

I know, it rotates around and gets in the way more than anything else. So why even put something as inconvenient as this on the clippers? We have a hard enough time trying to calm our dogs down.

If this is what you are thinking, then you have it all wrong. Well, you can be confused by it don’t get me wrong, but there is a very specific purpose for this little bar’s existence.

The (safety) guard is a safety stop bar, and it plays a very important role. It’s supposed to keep you from overcutting your dog’s nails. 

Overcutting your dog’s nails can bring a slew of problems. It might permanently deter your dog from ever wanting to get his nails trimmed again, and just to see them in pain is the worst consequence. Even when they need it, dogs can be sensitive to grooming. You can also see our list of top dog ear cleaners to make the process easier.

Use Nail Clippers Safely On Your Dog With A Guard 1

Should I Use the Guard?

It’s supposed to be getting in your way. You need to keep it in line with the little open hole where the two blades meet. 

I know most of us just push the handy little bar aside, myself included. You don’t have to use it, but since it’s there to keep your dog safe, why not give it a try?

 It's also a good idea for you to try it if your dog doesn't have clear nails. Many light-colored pups have clear nails to give you a plain view of the quick (the nerve in the dog's nail). If your dog is of a darker color, chances are he has opaque/black nails that are impossible to see through. In this case, the guard could come in handy as it’s much easier to accidentally nick the quick (hey, that rhymes).

How to Use the Dog Nail Clipper Guard

As said before, keep the metal bar aligned with the center space between the two blades. This prevents you from cutting too much nail. If you're trying to cut off a large piece or have many little toes to trim, it can, in fact, get in the way.

What you can do about this is to undo the little nut that holds the safety bar in place, remove the guard, and then replace the nut. This will keep it permanently out of your way for those seasoned groomers.

What Are Some Issues with the Nail Clipper Guard?

It’s near impossible to correctly measure a dog’s nail. How often they get trimmed, how often your dog goes for walks, the breed and the time of year are contributing factors to how long the nail is. 

If you cannot see through your dog’s nails, then under-clipping is the way to go. Do not trim more than you are comfortable with. Take a little off the top and use a nail file or grinder to smooth it out. The file or grinder can give you better control of the efficacy. Here are some of the top reviewed dog nail grinders to help you with the task.

If you keep your dog’s nails relatively short throughout the year, then the bar really does get in the way more than anything else.

Use Nail Clippers Safely On Your Dog With A Guard 2

Types of Dog Nail Clippers

Just to help you with this stressful process, we’re going to go into more detail on the different types of dog nail clippers.


Similar to the scissor-type, plier dog nail clippers have a spring between the blades and a more comfortable grip. Hence the name, they resemble pliers. Oftentimes you see a tiny spring between the blades, which gives this type of clipper more power. The best thing is they come in many different sizes to suit all dogs. These clippers are the ones that possess guards and sometimes even an automatic locking system for safety. Although you should be aware that if your dog has brittle nails or if the blades are dull, they will crush and the nails instead of cutting them.


Again, you can tell what these look like by the name. They lack the power of their predecessor on the list, so they are mostly suggested for small dogs with softer nails. They might be more difficult to use due to the grip and can put more strain on your hands and wrists. Since we are all well-versed in the use of scissors, this option is much easier to use if you have a smaller dog.


The guillotine clippers are quite popular because they give you more control. They have one blade that comes down (much like a guillotine) and slices cleanly through the nail. When they are sharp, they offer more precision. It can cause problems when they become dull, so make sure to keep them sharpened or replace the blades. It could be trickier to use than the other options, too.

Nail Grinder

A dog nail grinder is a power tool that allows you to exercise more control over the amount you take off. The process is slow, so there is no need for a nail guard. It’s likely you will need to sand down your dog’s nails after clipping anyways, and this option is less likely to hurt your dog. However, the noise and vibrations could scare your dog, so it does take some getting used to.


Dog nail clippers with nail guards were invented with the best of intentions. However, they can certainly get in the way of veteran groomers. It’s good to note that they can be removed, and other types of dog nail trimmers could be easier for you to use and less risky. If the guard is constantly getting in your way, consider another one of the suggested options.

Need help maintaining your tools? Read our guide on how to sharpen dog nail clippers.