How to cut Dog Nails That Are Black

Cutting your dog’s nails is an essential aspect of grooming and healthcare, especially when dealing with black nails. Unlike light-colored nails, where you can easily discern the quick (the blood vessel and nerve inside the nail), black nails conceal the quick, posing a challenge to avoid cutting too deeply. However, with some preparation, patience, and practice, you can learn how to safely trim your dog’s black nails at home. Below, we'll outline several tips and steps on how to cut dog nails that are black.

Trimming black dog nails safely

What You Need

Before you start trimming your dog’s black nails, you need to have the right tools and supplies. These include:

A pair of dog nail clippers. Two primary types exist

Scissor-style and guillotine-style. Scissor-style clippers look like scissors and cut the nail from the side. Guillotine-style clippers have a hole where you insert the nail and a blade that cuts the nail from the top. Both types work well for black nails, so choose the one that you feel comfortable with. Make sure the clippers are sharp and clean.

A nail file or grinder

This is optional, but it can help smooth the edges of the nail after trimming and prevent splitting or cracking. A nail file is a metal or cardboard tool that you rub against the nail. A grinder is an electric device that spins a sandpaper-like attachment and grinds the nail. If you use a grinder, make sure it is designed for dogs and has a low noise level.

Styptic powder or gel

This is a substance that stops bleeding in case you accidentally cut the quick. It is available in most pet stores or online. You can also utilise cornstarch or flour as alternatives.

Treats and praise

These are essential to reward your dog for being calm and cooperative during the nail trimming process. You can also use a toy or a lick mat to distract your dog and keep them occupied.

How to cut dog nails that are hard to see

How to Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails

Once you have everything ready, you can start trimming your dog’s black nails. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Choose a time and place where your dog is relaxed and comfortable. You can trim your dog’s nails after a walk or a play session, when they are tired and less likely to resist. You can also choose a quiet and well-lit area, where you can see the nails clearly and avoid distractions.

2. Hold your dog’s paw gently but firmly and pick a nail to start with. You can start with any paw or nail, but it may be easier to start with the back ones, as they tend to be shorter and less sensitive. Lift the paw slightly and squeeze the pad to extend the nail. Avoid holding the paw too tightly or pulling it too much, as this may cause discomfort or pain to your dog.

3. Position the clippers to cut the nail from top to bottom, not side to side. This will reduce the pressure on the nail and the risk of splitting or cracking. Align the blade of the clippers with the nail, leaving a small gap between the blade and the quick. If you are not sure where the quick is, start by cutting a very thin slice of the nail, about 1/16 of an inch or less.

4. Examine the nail's cross-section after every trim. As you cut the nail, you will see a change in the colour and texture of the nail. The outer layer of the nail is hard and shiny, and the inner layer is softer and duller. The quick is located in the centre of the nail, and it may appear as a black or gray dot, or a pink or red circle. The closer you get to the quick, the larger and darker the dot or circle will be. Stop cutting when you see a solid black dot or a pink or red circle in the middle of the nail. This means you are very close to the quick and any further cutting may cause bleeding and pain.

5. File or grind the nail to smooth the edges. This will prevent the nail from snagging on carpets or furniture, and reduce the chance of injury or infection. Use a gentle motion and avoid touching the quick or the skin around the nail. You can also round the corners of the nail to make them less sharp.

6. Reward your dog with treats and praise. After you finish trimming one nail, give your dog a treat and tell them they did a good job. This will reinforce the positive association between nail trimming and rewards, and make your dog more willing to cooperate. You can also take a break and play with your dog for a few minutes before moving on to the next nail.

7. Repeat the process for the rest of the nails. Trim one nail at a time, following the same steps as above. Check the cross-section of the nail after each cut, and stop when you see the black dot or the pink or red circle. File or grind the nail to smooth the edges, and reward your dog with treats and praise. Be patient and gentle, and avoid rushing or forcing your dog to stay still.

8. Apply styptic powder or gel if you cut the quick. If you accidentally cut the quick, don’t panic. It may bleed a little and cause some discomfort to your dog, but it is not a serious injury. Apply some styptic powder or gel to the tip of the nail, using a cotton swab or your finger. Press firmly for a few seconds until the bleeding stops. You can also opt for cornstarch or flour as replacements. If the bleeding does not stop after a few minutes, or if the nail looks infected or swollen, contact your veterinarian.

Dog nail trim for dark nails

How to Maintain Your Dog’s Black Nails

Trimming your dog’s black nails is not a one-time thing. You need to do it regularly to keep them healthy and prevent problems. Here are some tips on how to maintain your dog’s black nails:

Check your dog’s nails every week or two, and trim them when they are too long. A good way to tell if your dog’s nails need trimming is to listen to the sound they make when they walk on a hard surface. If you hear a clicking or tapping noise, it means the nails are touching the ground and need to be trimmed. It is ideal for your dog's nails not to make contact with the ground while standing or walking.


Trim your dog’s nails more often if they are inactive or live indoors. Dogs that spend a lot of time outside or on rough surfaces may wear down their nails naturally and need less trimming. However, dogs that are inactive or live indoors may have faster nail growth and need more frequent trimming. You can also encourage your dog to exercise more or provide them with chew toys or bones that can help file their nails.


Trim your dog’s dewclaws if they have them. Dewclaws are the nails on the inner side of the paw, above the other toes. Some dogs have them on their front paws, some on their back paws, and some on both. Dewclaws do not touch the ground and do not wear down naturally, so they need to be trimmed regularly to prevent them from growing too long and curling into the skin. You can trim them the same way as the other nails, but be extra careful not to cut the quick, as it may be longer and closer to the tip of the nail.


Keep your dog’s nails clean and dry. Dirt and moisture can cause bacteria and fungi to grow on your dog’s nails, leading to infections or diseases. You can prevent this by washing your dog’s paws with mild soap and water after they go outside or get dirty, and drying them thoroughly with a towel. You can also check your dog’s nails for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or odor, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any.

Tips for cutting black dog nails at home


Trimming your dog’s black nails may seem daunting, but it is not impossible. With the right tools, techniques, and tips, you can effectively learn How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black safely and efficiently at home. Remember to go slowly, check the cross-section of the nail, and reward your dog with treats and praise. By doing this regularly, you can keep your dog’s nails healthy and prevent problems. Your dog will thank you for it!


My dog gets anxious during nail trimming sessions. Any tips for a stress-free experience?

Many dogs find nail trimming stressful, but there are strategies to help ease their anxiety. Start by associating nail trimming with positive experiences, such as offering treats and praise. Additionally, introducing your dog to the tools gradually and keeping sessions short can help build their confidence. For more tips on managing your dog's anxiety during nail trimming, refer to our guide on How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black.

How do I know if my dog's nails are black?

Typically, a dog's nails appear black when they have a dark-colored outer layer. This is more common in certain breeds. However, even if the nails are not entirely black, the tips may still be black, indicating the presence of quick, which you should avoid cutting. Learn more about identifying and handling black nails in our guide on How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black.

What tools do I need to cut black dog nails safely?

To cut black dog nails safely, you'll need specialized tools such as guillotine-style clippers or grinder tools specifically designed for pet nails. Additionally, having styptic powder on hand can help stop bleeding if you accidentally cut the quick. Our comprehensive guide on How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black can provide more insights into selecting the right tools.

How can I prevent cutting the quick while trimming black dog nails?

It's crucial to proceed with caution and trim small sections of the nail at a time, especially when dealing with black nails where the quick is not easily visible. By trimming gradually and checking the cross-section of the nail regularly, as outlined in our guide on How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black, you can minimize the risk of cutting the quick.

How often should I trim my dog's black nails?

The frequency of nail trimming depends on various factors, including your dog's activity level and the rate of nail growth. As a general rule, aim to trim your dog's nails every 2-4 weeks to maintain optimal nail health. Regular trimming, following the techniques outlined in our guide on How to Cut Dog Nails that are Black, can prevent overgrowth and associated problems.


Conversation with Bing, 2/13/2024
(1) How to Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails Safely – 
(2) 12 Ways to Cut a Dog’s Black Nails – wikiHow Pet.
(3) How To Safely Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails – My Brown Newfies.

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