How to Cut Black Dog Nails

Cutting your dog’s nails can be a challenge, and black nails are even harder to cut. Here, I’ll tell you how you can trim these black nails.

The risk in cutting black dog nails lies in the fact that you can’t see the quick. The easiest way to clip the nails without hitting the quick is by cutting off small bits. Keep cutting until you notice the black center of the nail.

If you are anything like me, you will have a lot of questions before attempting to cut your dog’s nails. This article will cover some of those questions. First, I will talk about when to trim your dog’s nails. Later on, there will be a more extensive explanation of the trimming and different tools for it. Lastly, I will cover what to do when you did cut the quick, what to do with long quick, and how to make the trimming process as easy as possible.

When Is It Time for Trimming?

Every dog is an individual. Therefore their nails don’t grow at the same rate in every dog. That is why it’s best to figure out your dog’s needs before setting a cutting schedule.

The general rule is that you should clip your dog’s nails when they are touching the ground. This principle applies to most healthy adult dogs. A dog that has its claws tilted slightly upwards should have them cut earlier. You can often see this in senior dogs. Once cut back to the right length, it takes about eight weeks until another trim is needed. However, this depends on the growth of the nails in your dog.

However, there’s another factor as regards when you should cut your pup’s nails. Some dogs will wear down their nails naturally. Walking your dog on concrete and other hard surfaces will do a lot of the work for you. How well this works is slightly dependent on your dog’s size and age. Big dogs will wear their nails down faster than smaller ones.

Cutting the Nails

There is more than one way to keep your dog’s nails at a healthy length. One of the options is cutting off small bits of the nail until you’ve reached the black center of the nail. The outer layer will be colored slightly white when cut off, while the black center indicates that you are close to the quick.

Professional trimmers and vets may cut off the nails without paying much attention to the angle at which they are cutting. However, when doing it yourself, it’s best to tilt the side of your tool that is closest to the dog a little upward. This angle makes it harder to cut into the quick by accident. As soon as you notice a small black dot, you’ve cut far enough. Another technique to avoid cutting into the quick is putting a little pressure on the tool before making the actual cut. If your dog pulls back his paw, you might be too far in.

Another way to trim your dog’s nails is by using a nail grinder. Even though you are using a different tool, the basics are still pretty much the same. When grinding your dog’s nails, you press down on the nail with your grinder for one to two seconds. In between grinding, you check how close you are to the quick. This avoids both hitting the quick and your dog’s nail getting too hot.

Clipping Tools

To safely shorten a dog’s black nails, you need to trim in small steps, so you can always check the bottom of the claw until you find the black core (quick). That said, you should avoid using a nail clipper at all costs, as it cuts the nail in one shot, and can also tear down thick dog claws.

The most recommended by vets is the LuckyTail nail grinder, considered the safest trimming device for pets with dark claws. This powerful grinder features a whisper-quiet and vibration-free operation that makes your pet feel safe near the device. Moreover, LuckyTail comes with LED lights that help to see the nail structure, thus spotting the quick with ease.

This nail grinder also comes with a protective cover that safeguards the nail from being over trimmed, and two-speed modes that keep the process fast and accurate. LuckyTail is wireless, giving you the flexibility to bring with you and your pet on all adventures together.

How to safely grind dark nails withLuckyTail

First of all, gather all necessary items: LuckyTail, a distracting object (if needed), and treats as it helps your dog to feel more comfortable during the process).

Take one paw at a time and hold it firmly (but gently) in one hand with the toes curled up towards his chest. Use your other hand to support your dog’s leg above the ankle so that he cannot move much while you cut his nails.

Tilt your LuckyTail at a 45-degree angle and start grinding small bits off at a time, looking at the trimmed end after each small session of no more than 5 seconds. If it appears whitish, you’re still in the shell – dead zone -, which means you can trim a bit more.

As you get closer to the quick, the center of the nail turns black, and may eventually look reddish right before the blood supply. You should stop grinding as soon as you spot the quick, without even touching the reddish part with the grinder.


When cutting your dog’s nails, you might hit the quick by accident. Cutting into the quick is painful for your dog, and on top of that, it bleeds quite heavily. Luckily, there is something you can do to stop the bleeding. The most common way to stop the bleeding is by applying styptic powder to the nail. When using a swab to do so, you should keep light pressure on the wound with the swab for about half a minute. The bleeding should have stopped after that.

Another difficulty you could run in to is the quick being too long. When your dog has long nails for an extended period, the quick can grow. This results in not being able to cut the nails back as much as you should. To get the quick to recede, you still cut until you see the black center. It takes about seven days for the quick to reduce a bit. So after seven days, you cut off just a tiny portion of the nail again. Keeping this up will help you cut the nail back to a healthy length.

It’s also good to keep in mind that cutting your dog’s nails can be scary to your pet. Counter conditioning your dog to the process gives you a head start. To do so, start with the process of inspecting your dog’s nails and holding its paws. Reward calm behavior with a treat. If your dog sits through this process calmly, you can move on to the nail clipper. Let it inspect it before putting it on its nails and keep rewarding calm behavior. Finally, when your pup is comfortable with the clipper near its paws, you can start clipping. Keep rewarding your dog in between cuts, so it builds a positive association. The chance that your dog will sit through its nail trim quietly and comfortably is higher this way.

Final Thoughts

Cutting dog nails can be scary for both you and your dog. However, knowing what to do can take away some nerves. With black dog nails, you should cut in steps. Essential is to stop before hitting the quick.

Choosing a tool that fits both you and your dog’s needs is also essential. None of the tools are bad, but they may not be suitable for your situation. For example, guillotine-style clippers are not helpful when trying to cut your big dog’s nails.

When still running into trouble, however careful you have been, you now know to apply styptic powder. And an early start with counter conditioning to nail clipping can save both you and your dog a lot of stress.