How to Cut Dark Dog Nails

Let sleeping dogs' nails abide, dude.

Let sleeping dogs' nails abide, dude.

Nail cutting is an essential part of grooming your dog. It prevents nails from breaking and causing discomfort. Dark dog nails are more difficult to cut than opaque ones because the quick, made of nerves and blood vessels to the nails, is harder to see. Cutting into the quick causes pain and bleeding.

Items you will need

  • Dog nail trimmers
  • Styptic powder

Step 1

Choose a sharp tool designed for cutting dog nails. Scissors, clippers and tools with guillotine-style blades are widely available and effective, so select whichever is most comfortable for you and your dog. Just make sure to keep the blades sharp and clean.

Step 2

Instruct your dog to lie down on his side on the floor. If your dog is comfortable doing so, you can have him lie down on a table so that you need not bend over. If your dog resists, have someone help you or make an appointment with your vet for a nail trimming.

Step 3

Use your chest and upper arms to restrain your dog if he wiggles around and cannot lie still. You do not want him moving around while you are trimming his nails.

Step 4

Hold one paw firmly with your left hand (if you are right handed), so that his nails are clearly visible and his paw is at a comfortable height for your reach.

Step 5

Look at dark nails straight on to determine the location of the quick. It will look like a dark circle inside the nail.

Step 6

Hold the nail between your fingers while keeping the rest of your hand on your dog's paw. Insert the tip of your dog's nail into a guillotine-type trimmer, or hold the nail at a right angle to scissor-type trimmers.

Step 7

Cut the nail only to the point where the quick begins. Do not cut into the quick. If your dog's nails are not short enough after trimming to this length, cut them again in a week or two. The quick will slowly recede as you cut the nails shorter over time.

Step 8

Apply pressure to your dog's nail tip if you cut the quick and trigger any bleeding. If you have styptic powder on hand, apply some to the nail tip.

Step 9

Remember to cut the dew claws, which are located higher up on the paws, on the inner surface. Because dew claws do not touch the ground when your dog walks, they may grow very long.


  • Regular nail trimmings ensure your dog can walk without discomfort. Shorter nails also help protect your furniture and flooring.
  • Dogs are less likely to resist having their nails trimmed if you start grooming them when they are puppies.

About the Author

Sandra Ketcham has nearly two decades of experience writing and editing for major websites and magazines. Her work appears in numerous web and print publications, including "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The Tampa Bay Times," Visit Florida, "USA Today," AOL's Gadling and "Kraze Magazine."

Photo Credits

  • sleeping dog image by Evgeny Rodionov from