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How to cut black dog nails?

How to cut black dog nails?
How to cut black dog nails

For many owners cutting their dog’s nails is a real challenge. It’s stressful for us humans and for our dogs. Cutting nails becomes even a bigger problem when your dog has black nails, which the majority of dogs do. Now, the question is how to cut black dog nails?

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But why are black nails so difficult to cut because you can’t see the quick. With clear nails or white nails it’s easier to trim them as you can see the quick, it’s the pink area that is in the center of the base of the nail.

How to cut black dog nails?

So, how do you cut black dog nails without actually being able to see the quick, or that pink area? Well, it is a bit more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

Dog nail anatomy

Before we explain how black nails should be cut let’s take a look at the anatomy of the dog’s nail.

Basically, your dog’s toenail is made up of two main parts.

First, we have the nail itself. It’s the hard outer shell that grows similarly to human nails.

The anatomy of a dog's nail
The anatomy of a dog’s nail explained

Secondly, we have the quick that we mentioned earlier. The quick is the inner cuticle of blood vessel and nerve.

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The difference between these two is that the nail itself, so the hard shell doesn’t have nerve endings, so your dog doesn’t feel any pain when you cut this part of the nail.

However, if you cut the quick this can actually cause pain! This is why you need to avoid the quick in order to not hurt your dog.

How to cut black dog nails

No matter if you’re cutting white, clear or black dog nails, you should always cut the nail at a specific angle. So, how to cut dog nails?

There are different recommendations at which angles to cut the nail. However, the most common suggestion was to cut it at a 45° angle. Also, if your dog has short nails then a 90° cut would work.

picture on how to cut black dog nails
Cut your dog’s nails at either a 45° angle or a a 90° angle

When you start cutting make sure you’re calm, then follow these guidelines:

  • The most important part is to go slowly, take your time
  • You want to hold your dog’s paw firmly but gently in order to have full control
  • Always position the clippers to cut the nail from top to bottom, and never side to side
  • Babysteps! Trim very small pieces of the nail, only about 1/16th of an inch

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Now, with this last step, you should also know ho much to cut. YOu don’t want to cut too much or too little.

With black nails it’s very hard to tell when you’re near the quick. The best advice we can give you on this is to continue cutting small pieces until you see the pulp.

how to cut black dog nails explanation
Cut your dog’s nail until you get to the pulp

This black spot, or also called the pulp, lets you know that you’re near the quick. Of course, for this you will need to use high-quality clippers, otherwise, it won’t be as easy to spot the pulp.

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What if you cut the quick?

We keep repeating that you should never cut the quick, but what would happen if you do cut it?

If you’re cutting your dog’s nails and accidentally cut the quick, don’t panic! Of course it’s something you should always avoid, however, it’s something that can happen.

Even veterinarians and groomers might not have 100% success rates at not cutting to the quick, despite being professionals!

If you cut the quick your dog’s nail will start bleeding. If this happens you’ll need to put down the clippers and find a way to stop the bleeding.

How you do this depends on how much your dog bleeds. We have a whole article that explains how to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding.


In conclusion, the process on how to cut black dog nails is the same as with cutting white and clear nails. However, you just need to be more careful, because with black nails you do not see the quick.

If there’s one thing you learn from this article, it’s that you should always cut small bits of your dog’s nail until you get to the pulp. This way you’ll be careful enough to not hurt your dog.

However, if you do end up clipping too much and you end up with a whiny, bleeding dog, the first step is NEVER PANIC! Stay calm, asses the situation, and decide whether you should take your dog to the vet, or you can stop the bleeding at home.