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How To Safely Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails

Trimming your dog’s black nails from home is easy when you know what to look for and how to safely go about it.

Trimming your dog’s black nails can be a delicate task especially if you’ve never done it before.

There’s a bit more involved when trimming black nails because, unlike white or clear dog nails, you can’t see the quick. 

This is why it’s important to know how to find the quick before you start cutting the nails. 

trimming black dog nails

If this is your first time trimming your dog’s black nails, we got you! 

Here are all the things that we’ll go over in this post so you’ll dive in full of confidence!

  1. How to find the quick in black dog nails
  2. How to introduce nail clippers to your dog
  3. What type of nail trimmers you should use
  4. How often should you trim your dog’s nails?
  5. When to stop trimming your dog’s nail


How To Find The Quick In Black Dog Nails

When a dog has white or clear nails, the quick is easy to find because it’s red.

When a dog has black nails you can’t see the quick so you’re left guessing where it is.

When trimming black dog nails should only trim a little bit at a time so you don’t accidentally hit the quick and make it bleed.

The quick in a black nail is grey, if you’re close to it, you will be able to see it if you’re paying attention. 

When you see it, you want to stop trimming. 

Still a little nervous?

Here are a few tips for trimming your dog’s black nails.

Introducing the Dog to Nail Trimmers

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Before you begin trimming your dog’s nails make sure that your dog is comfortable with you handling their paws.

It’s always a good idea to start this when they are young.

Gently grab their paw and massage it a little and put it back down.

Repeat this step a few times.

If your dog shows any signs of being comfortable you can try to offer them treats for good behavior or you can even use some homemade peanut butter or spray cheese and set a few squirts in front of them or on a wall or cabinet.

There’s even a product called a Lick Lick Pad that you can stick to a wall and spread peanut butter on it.

If your dog still seems super uncomfortable or agitated I would suggest stopping right there and just letting a vet tech or veterinarian trim the nails.

The struggle isn’t worth you getting bit or your dog getting hurt.

What Nail Trimmers Should You Use For Black Dog Nails?

There’s no special clipper for black dog nail clippers but trimmers, in general, come in a variety of sizes and shapes so it’s important to choose a style that works for your dog. 

Types Of Dog Nail Clippers

  • Guillotine clippers. These dog nail trimmers have a hole that you poke the nail through. They stay sharp longer but are harder to use and not my personal favorite.
  • Scissor-style clippers. These look like small scissors with divots toward the end of each blade. These are best for small dogs and puppies.
  • Plier-style clippers. Look similar to scissor-style clippers, but they have a spring and they are stronger and better for large, thick nails. (Millers Forge is the best IMO)
  • Nail grinders. These are like a Dremel and they file your dog’s nails smoothly while also making it harder to cut the quick.

There are also a few types of nail finders that have “quick finders” on them. 

I haven’t read good reviews on these so I don’t have any experience with them but you can get trimmers that have a nail guard on them. 

How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails?

Every dog is different but a good rule of thumb is to trim your dog’s nails when you can hear them clicking on the floor. 

Long dog nails can cause injuries to dogs and they can break off leaving you with a mess and your dog with a painful broken nail. 

Dogs that have long nails are also prone to slipping on ice and hard flooring. 

Start Trimming The Black Nails Slowly

If your dog seems good, start trimming its nails one at a time.

Just take off small amounts or even slivers.

Don’t lob off half their nail.

how to cut black dog nail

Keep shaving away until you see the beginning of a grey oval and it’s recommended to hold the clippers at a 45-degree angle when trimming.

This grey oval is the pulp or quick and if you see it, stop trimming.

A few more slivers and you will be at the dog’s quick.

One more trim here and the dot will be a lighter grey, almost whitish in some nails.

identifying the quick in black dog nails


This is what it will look like if you keep going.

Another way you can find the quick on black dog nails is to look at the underneath of the nail. 

You should be able to see the shell casing.

It’s kind of like a groove without flesh.

locating quick in black dog nails

When to Stop Trimming Your Dog’s Black Nail

When you see any sign of that grey dot, stop trimming.

This is the farthest that you should trim.

If you can’t contain yourself and must keep going you’re going to hit the quick like this and the blood will begin to flow.

This was 1/4 off a sliver after the above picture.

(this was not done intentionally and my dog didn’t even flinch when it happened because it was such a small amount BUT if you go further it’s going to hurt)


How To Safely Trim Your Dog's Black Nails

A Few Tips On Trimming Black Dog Nails 

If your dog has white and black nails you can use the white nails as a guide to where the quick may be on the black nails but keep in mind that all nails are different and the quick may be longer or shorter on other nails.

Cut your dog’s nails from underneath and not from the top and trim at a 45-degree angle. 

You want to be able to see what you’re cutting and if you’re looking down at the paw you can’t do that. 

You want to be looking up at the paw. 

If you don’t see a grey dot for whatever reason and you’re getting nervous either apply pressure to your dog’s nail and see if they react or just stop cutting.

You can use an emery board or Dremel to finish the job off.

Make sure your nail clippers are sharpened.

Blunt clippers will crush the nail and make trimming much more difficult.

If you hit the quick and the nail is bleeding, don’t panic, you can easily stop the bleeding.

Read this article here to stop a dog’s bleeding nail.

If your dog has nails that are overgrown, just go slow and take a little off at a time. 

You don’t even have to do it all in one day, you can back tomorrow. 


Other posts you may find interesting:

5 Easy Ways To Stop A Dog’s Bleeding Nail

Homemade Paw Wax

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Friday 14th of January 2022

This is exactly what I've been searching for to trim my dog, Henry's black nails. Thank you! I have to admit, I'm still a bit nervous. But at least I have the information I've been looking for to do the job. My one groomer (before she retired) used a Dremel to trim his nails and it lasted a lot longer than his new groomer. The wait for just nail trimming is several weeks. I don't know how his nails and fur grow so fast. I think he might be part wild weed, instead of Cockapoo.

I'll work on building up my confidence.

In the meantime, I'm sharing this valuable information with my dog-loving friends.

It's Not The Dog That Needs Training—It's Me | Something Wagging This Way Comes

Friday 9th of February 2018

[…] Jennifer of My Brown Newfies did a great post on understanding the anatomy of a dog’s nail and how to trim them even when they’re dark. […]

Cheri Davis

Saturday 9th of January 2016

This is a great post! Just finished cutting my dogs nails and looked up a post on the the quick of a dog's nail and found your post. It's perfect. I stopped just in time! Thank you.


Thursday 20th of August 2015

Excellent post. I use the grey dot trick all the time at work. And your right, I have seen lots of post about nail trimming, but none that talk about this. "Stop When You Get To The Spot"


Thursday 20th of August 2015

Thanks Anne! I couldn't agree more! I like that tagline!


Thursday 20th of August 2015

Love it, 'color-coding' the mysteries of dogs. Excellent info, Jen! :)


Thursday 20th of August 2015

Thanks Monika! This was a fun one!

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