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How To Safely Trim Your Dog’s Black Nails

Trimming your dog’s black nails from home is easy when dog owners know what to look for and have the right tools to perform regular nail trims. 

I have 2 Newfoundlands and a Corgi and besides the actual size of their paws, the other big difference is that my Corgi has mostly white nails but the Newfies have all black nails. 

Trimming my Corgi’s light-colored dog nails is easy because I can see the pink area which is where the blood vessels of the nail are. 

However, trimming the Newfie’s nails takes a little bit more focus and more small cuts at the tip of the tail.

Even though trimming black nails on a dog takes a little more time and focus, I’m pretty comfortable doing it because I used to do nail trims on every single type of dog nail when I was a vet tech.

However, for pet owners who are new to trimming their dog’s nails, it can be a daunting task that comes with a side of anxiety.  

In this post, I’m going to share some of the tips that I learned as a vet tech and nail trimming techniques that I use with my dogs. 

trimming black dog nails

Here’s a list of some of the information I’m going to go over that will hopefully boost your confidence when it comes to nail cutting. 

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

How To Find The Quick In Black Dog Nails

The first thing for pet owners to do before they put the nail trimmer to the nail is to learn about the quick and how to spot it.

It’s easy to see the quick in white dog nails because it’s red or pink. 

With back dog nails, the quick is hidden so you’re left guessing where it is.

This is why, for first-time trimmers, it’s important to trim slowly instead of cutting the nail in half. 

Your dog’s toenail is made up of two main parts.

There’s the nail itself, which is a hard outer shell and there’s the quick. 

an easy way to tell where the quick is on black dog nails is to look for a grey or black dot in the center of the nailThe quick is an inner cuticle of blood vessels and nerves.

If you cut the outer shell of the nail, it doesn’t hurt because there’s no nerve but if you cut the quick, it will hurt and bleed. 

When trimming your dog’s black nails, learning to avoid the quick will save you both a lot of stress.

The quick in a black nail is grey not red so in order to tell where the quick is on black dog nails you’ll need to look for a dark grey circle. 

how to find the quick on black dog nails

When you see it, you want to stop trimming. 

Still a little nervous?

Here are a few more 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.

The best way to do this is to start touching their paws when they’re puppies.

Gently grab your pup’s paw massage it a little and put it back down.

Repeat this step a few times making sure that it’s a positive experience for them. 

how to trim black dog nails at home

If your dog shows any signs of being comfortable you can try to offer them high-value treats for good behavior.

Make sure to reward the behavior that you want to see!

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 style clippers
  • Scissor-style clippers
  • Plier style clipper
  • Nail grinders

Guillotine style 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 are the best clippers IMO for large dogs with thick nails like Newfoundlands)

Nail grinders.

These are like a Dremel and they file your dog’s nails smoothly while also making it harder to cut the quickly.

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. 

It’s also a good idea to have styptic powder on standby in case you need to stop a bleeding nail.

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 old 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 surfaces. 

Start Trimming The Black Nails Slowly

If your dog is comfortable, start trimming the nails one at a time.

Gently hold your dog’s paw and and trim the nail tips just a little.

Hold the trimmers at a 45-degree angle and trim from top to bottom. (don’t cut side to side)

At first, you just take off small amounts or even slivers.

Don’t lob off half their nail.

how to cut black dog nail

When you make the first clean cut, look at the inner part of the nail and see if you see the pulp or quick, if not you’re still in the dead part so keep shaving away until you see the beginning of a grey oval. 

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 underside 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 a blood vessel also known as  the quick and the nail will bleed.

How To Safely Trim Your Dog's Black Nails

This was 1/4 of 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)

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 at the top of the paw,  you can’t do that. 

You want to be looking at the bottom of the paw.

Trim the black dog nails from top to bottom not side to side.

If you’re trimming side to side you’re squeezing the nail and your dog might not like that pressure. 

For big dogs I like to hold their leg from the inside of their body instead of just pulling the leg out. 

This offers the dog more stability.

how to hold a dog's leg for nail trims


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

Make sure your nail clippers are sharpened.

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

Trim the long hair on your dog’s paw before trimming the nails especially if you’re using a nail grinder. 

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 dark 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. 

And if you or your dog is struggling too much, call it a day, and maybe it’s time to take them to a professional like their veterinarian or favorite dog groomer. 


Other posts you may find interesting:

5 Easy Ways To Stop A Dog’s Bleeding Nail

Homemade Paw Wax

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Tuesday 5th of March 2024

Someone told me that if you trim them every week or two that you can work the quick to get shorter, is that true? My son's dog is really good, but her nails are Soo long.


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!

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