How to Trim Dog Nails that are Black

Dog with black nails waiting for a nail clipping

One of my daughters has dyslexia. This is a condition where the words you read swim on the page in front of you and appear jumbled. It makes reading extra hard and you need some special teaching and learning techniques in order to be able to read well.

Another thing that makes things hard (although nothing like dyslexia) are dog nails that are black. You can’t see the quick in the nail when it is black and because of that you have to have special techniques to make sure that you are clipping correctly.

Most dogs have black nails from birth, other dogs develop nails that turn black, if that’s the case here is what you need to know about dog nail discoloration.

How Short to Cut Dog Nails That are Black

Rottweiler puppy with paw in human's hand with house and trees in the background

According to Devoted Dog World, the appropriate length of the nails should not come down over the pad of the paw. If they do, it might be a good time to break out the clippers and give your dog a pedicure. But what if your dog has black nails and you can’t find the quick? Now, you’ve got problems.

Clipping Black Dog Nails

Those pesky black nails are so hard to cut. They’re a pain because we cannot see the quick from the outside. Without knowing where the quick is, it could be a very painful experience for your dog. But no worries, we are going to cover exactly how to do that here. 

How to Find the Quick on Black Dog Nails & How to Cut Black Dog Nails

Curly white dog getting nails trimmed

Since we cannot see inside the nail, like with white ones, we need to look very carefully at the part of the nail that remains after clipping the tip off. 

Note: Never attempt to cut your dog’s nails with scissors. They can crush the nail. Always use proper clippers or grinders.

  1. Hold your dog’s paw in your hand gently and separate the toes, exposing one nail at a time. 
  2. If your dog has a lot of hair around his paws, go ahead and trim the hair so that you can get a better view of the nail. 
  3. Firmly hold the clippers in your hand. They should run parallel to the nail, never across it. Make sure the blade is facing you and at a 30-degree angle. If it’s facing the other way around, it will cut more than you want to.  
  4. Insert the nail into the clippers. 

To be sure you are not cutting into the quick, squeeze the nail lightly and check the dog’s reaction. Be careful not to squeeze too much. We do not want to splinter the nail down to the quick. If your dog yanks it’s paw away, you MIGHT be up too far and in danger of cutting the quick. If it feels spongy or soft, STOP! That is the quick. 

Take your clippers and cut the very tip of the nail and look at what is left there. If you see a lot of white, then you are safe to cut more.

How short to cut dog nails that are black?

Dachshund on white background getting nails trimmed
  • Well, the goal is to cut them down to a good length that will not obstruct them when they walk or splinter when they are running around.
  • Now, even though we don’t want to cut into the dog’s quick, we do need to cut pretty high into the pulp because without doing so, the nail will get longer and so will the quick. 
  • We don’t want to cut them too short because dog’s use them to dig in when running and jumping. 

So, let’s continue on with our clipping. While clipping the nail you will see a black dot in the center, underneath the surface of the white. The black is the pulp. The pulp is right before the quick.

  1. Take another small clip of the nail. It should reveal more of the black center and less white surrounding it.
  2. If not and you see a lot of black and very little white surrounding it, then stop. You have gone deep into the pulp and are right about to cut into the quick which will bleed and be quite painful for your dog.

How to Dremel Black Dog Nails

There is no difference between cutting dark and light colored nails with a Dremel.  You can use a Dremel for filing a dog’s nails instead of clipping them.

Important: Please be sure that you do not hold the Dremel on the nail for very long. It could get hot and that would not be comfortable for your dog, so after a few seconds, take the Dremel off the bottom of the nail and start again.

This video will show you how to clip the dog’s nails with a clipper AND how to use a Dremel.

  1. If it is the first time for you to use them with your dog, turn then the device on and check how nervous it makes him.  
  2. If your dog has a lot of hair around the toes, DuAnn Chambers recommends clearing away the hair so that it will not get caught in the Dremel as you are shaving down the nail. She also recommends that you start at the dewclaw when you use the dremel.
  3. Now, that you have the dewclaw insight, lightly touch the nail with the Dremel at the tip and let it grind some of the nail down, but not too much. 
  4. Once you have worn down a bit of the nail, make sure that the sides are done as well so that you can create a nice smooth nail all the the way around the tip.
  5. Lift up the dog’s leg, get a firm grip of the paw and separate the toes, so you can work with one of the nails. 

As DuAnn Chambers points out in the video above, there are some good and bad points about using a Dremel.

Here are a couple of dog nail Dremel tools you can pick up on Amazon.  

Dremel 7300-PT which is priced at 29.99.  

Dremel Pawcontrol 7760-PGK Cordless Pet Nail Grinder. It is a little pricier at $49.99, but a great, versatile machine. 

Summary: How to Trim Dogs Nails that are Black

Black dog paws on mat with nail clippers

 If you have concerns about trimming a dog’s nails that are black, please check out the video above. She does a great job of showing you how a pro does it. She even cuts a little too deep, which we all do at one time or another, but she handles it very well. 

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.