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How To Cut Black Dog Nails: Safe & Stress-Free Trimming Tips

Do you get nervous anytime you think about cutting your dog’s nails? If that sounds familiar, you’ll be glad to know you’re not the only one.

Trimming black nails can be particularly difficult because the location of the quick – the blood vessel and accompanying nerve that nourish the nail – isn’t always obvious.

The good news is that with a little knowledge and prepping, nail trimming doesn’t have to be a daunting task! In this blog post, I’ll explain exactly how to cut black dog nails with minimal stress for you and your pup.

How to Cut Black Dog Nails Safely – What Are They?

To cut your dog’s black nails as safely as possible, it’s important to know a little about their paws and claws. This will help you know exactly what to look for and understand the role that nails play in your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.

Generally, you’ll find four types of nails on dogs. Let’s check them out below:


Dewclaws are the thumb-like nails located on the inner side of your dog’s leg, above the paw. Not all dogs have dewclaws, but if yours does, you’ll find them on the front legs.

White Nails

White nails are similar to black nails in that they have a hard outer cortex and a soft quick in the center. The main difference is that you can typically see the quick in white nails, whereas it’s not as visible in black nails.

Clear/Pink Nails

Clear or pink nails are mostly made up of quick with only a small amount of cortex at the very tip. This means that it’s especially important to be careful when trimming them as they’re extremely sensitive.

Black Nails

Finally, we have the focus of this blog post – black nails. Black nails are made up of a hard outer shell (called the cortex) that covers a softer, spongy center (known as the quick).

The quick contains blood vessels and nerves, which is why it’s so important for pet parents old and new to learn how to cut black dog nails with an extra level of care and attention.

A black Labrador


Why Do Black Dog Nails Need to Be Trimmed?

Just like our own fingernails, a dog’s claws grow continuously. If they’re not regularly trimmed, they can become overgrown, which can cause your dog pain and make it difficult for them to walk.

Overgrown nails can also split or crack, which can lead to infection. In extreme cases, overgrown nails can actually cause your dog’s toe to twist out of place! For these reasons, trimming black dog nails is an important part of at-home dog care.

When Should Black Dog Nails Be Trimmed?

How often you need to trim your dog’s nails will depend on how quickly they grow. Some dogs may need their nails trimmed every couple of weeks, while others may only need it done once a month or so.

You’ll know it’s time for a trim when you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the ground as they walk, or if their claws are starting to curl under. If you’re unsure, you can always ask your vet or groomer for guidance.

How Do You Find the Quick on Your Dog’s Black Nails?

One of the trickiest things about trimming black nails is that the quick is not always easy to spot. The quick – the blood vessel and nerve that runs through the center of your dog’s nail – will bleed and cause your dog discomfort if you accidentally cut it.

For this reason, you’ll want to err on the side of caution by trimming only a small sliver off at a time until you get close to the quick.

To identify the quick, gently press on your dog’s nail until you see a white dot appear in the center. This white dot is the beginning of the quick. Once you get close, you’ll see a pinkish color in the center of the nail. Stop trimming when you get to this point!

What Are the Best Trimmers or Clippers to Use for Black Dog Nails?

When it comes to trimming your dog’s nails, you’ll want to choose a good quality trimmer or clipper designed specifically for the job. Guillotine-style or plier-style trimmers work well for black nails.

Guillotine-style trimmers have a small hole in which you insert your dog’s nail before cutting with a blade that comes down from above. Plier-style trimmers have a slightly curved blade that you use to snip the nail from the side.

Some dog nail trimmers designed for black nails also have built-in sensors that emit a warning sound if you get close to the quick, alerting you to stop trimming.

You can also try using a nail grinder instead of traditional scissors or dog nail clippers. Nail grinders are designed specifically for grinding down dog nails and they come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different breeds. If you’re unsure which size to get, ask your veterinarian or groomer for a recommendation.

A dachshund with black nails

How to Cut Black Dog Nails: A Step-By-Step Walkthrough

Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics, let’s get into how to actually trim your dog’s black nails. Follow these steps in order and the process will be as pain-free and pooch-friendly as possible!

1) Acclimatize your dog and make sure their environment is comfy and relaxed

Start by getting your dog acclimated to the trimmer. Show it to your dog and let them sniff it and get used to the sight and sound of it before you start trimming. You could also prepare some treats to reward your dog with after a successful trim.

Make sure you’re in a comfortable environment too, your dog will be able to sense your stress levels and if you’re feeling anxious it will only make them more nervous.

It may also be helpful to have another person on hand to help hold your dog still (if necessary) and offer moral support!

Choose a spot where your dog feels relaxed, like their bed or couch, and have everything you need within reach so you don’t have to get up in the middle of trimming.

2) Start trimming slowly and carefully

Next, hold your dog’s paw in your hand and press gently on the top of the nail to extend it. Cut off a small amount of the nail at a time – if you’re using a guillotine trimmer, insert the nail into the hole in the trimmer and squeeze the handles together.

If you’re using a plier-style trimmer, position the blade next to the part of the nail you want to remove and squeeze. Remember, it’s better to be cautious when trimming black nails because blood vessels and nerves are involved. So, cut only a small sliver off the tip of the nail at first.

If you see a pinkish color in the center of the nail, you’re getting too close and it’s time to stop trimming! If your dog has dark nails and you can’t see the quick, try holding a flashlight underneath their nail to help illuminate it.

Once you’ve trimmed a little bit off, take a break and let your dog relax before moving on to the next nail.

3) Once you’ve finished trimming, give your pup lots of love

After you’ve finished trimming all of your dog’s nails, it’s time to give them a well-deserved treat or two.

Some positive reinforcement will help them associate getting their nails trimmed with something good, making the process less stressful for both of you in the future.

Let them stick their nose in a bag of doggy treats, go nuts with their favorite squeaky toy or take them for an extra walkie in their favorite shady spot – they’ve earned it!

What Should You Do if You Accidentally Cut the Quick?

Despite all our love, care, attention, and best efforts, sometimes accidents still happen – it’s an inevitable part of being a devoted pet parent.

If you go too far when cutting your four-legged pal’s black nails and accidentally cut the quick in the process, don’t panic. Here’s what to do:

If you see your dog bleeding, apply pressure to the nail with a clean cloth or gauze to stop the bleeding. You can also use a styptic pencil or powder (available at most pet stores) to help staunch the flow of blood.

Once the bleeding has stopped, give your dog a little break from the trimming session and let them relax for a while before continuing. If they’re feeling particularly stressed, you may want to wait until another day to finish the job.

When you’re ready to start again, use a nail file or emery board to smooth out any sharp edges on your dog’s nails. This will help prevent any further accidents and make their nails more comfortable.

A Rottweiler puppy

At-Home Nail Care Products for Your Pup

If you’re looking for an at-home solution to help with your dog’s black nails, there are a few different options worth considering.

First, you could try using an electric nail grinder. These devices work by slowly grinding down your dog’s nails instead of cutting them, and some dogs find the sensation less stressful than having their nails clipped.

Another popular option is a Dremel. This tool is similar to an electric nail grinder but uses a rotating abrasive tip instead of a grinding wheel.

It can be a bit tricky to use at first, but many pet parents find that it helps them get a more precise trim on their dog’s nails. If you decide to go the DIY route, make sure you take your time and be extra patient with yourself and your pup.

Whichever method you decide on, don’t be afraid to go at a pace that suits you and use an abundance of caution. With a little time and tenderness, you’ll get the hang of it.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on how to cut black dog nails, and find the tips I’ve shared here useful. Cutting your dog’s nails can be a daunting experience, particularly if you’re a new pet parent or doing it for the first time. But with this handy guide, you’ll be a pro before you know it!

Remember to go slowly, take breaks if you or your dog are getting tense, and always have plenty of treats on hand to make the experience as positive as possible for your furry friend. Good luck, and don’t forget that you can always get help from an expert.

If you’re still feeling nervous about trimming your dog’s black nails, why not book an appointment with a professional groomer? They can show you exactly how it’s done, and give you some one-on-one guidance so that you feel more confident doing it yourself next time. Happy trimming!