HomeDogsHow to Cut Black Dog Nails

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

When deciding on cutting your dog’s nails on your own, you need the right tools to do so. Your local pet store will surely have some in stock, and you can always order clippers online. There are three different tools you can choose from. When picking a tool, you should keep in mind what kind of dog you own, as well as what you feel comfortable with using.

First, there is the scissor-style clipper. This tool works the same way any scissor does. When cutting the nails of a big dog, or one with thick nails, this tool is the way to go rather than the guillotine. This tool will cut through thick nails easier, which makes the experience better for your dog.

The guillotine-style clipper works by putting your dog’s nail through the hole. When clipping, a blade slides out, cutting through your dog’s nail. When cutting the nails of your smaller dog, there is no real downside to this tool when compared to the scissor-style clippers. However, both cutting tools should be sharpened regularly. A sharp tool makes your job more comfortable, and your dog will feel less discomfort.

The last possibility is using a grinder. Grinders are also often referred to as Dremels, after the famous brand name. However, this is not the only brand on the market for nail grinders. When compared to the cutting tools, it highly depends on your dog which one is better. While grinders are more precise, they also make a noise. When you own a fearful dog, this may work against you. On the other hand, if your dog is afraid of having its nails done because of negative experiences with a cutter, this provides you with a second chance.


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.