How To Trim Black Nails (with pictures)
July 29, 2012 in Dog Grooming
How to Trim Black Dog Nails
Relax. It’s actually not that hard. The trick isn’t in where to cut, it’s actually in how you look at the nail. Most people view the dog’s nail from above. If the nail is clear, it doesn’t really matter if that’s how you look at the nail. You can see the quick through the nail, so you more or less no where to cut. If the nail is black however, looking at the nail from above tells you nothing. Instead, when you look at your dogs nails, turn your dogs paw so the paw pad is facing up, and look at the underside of the claw. You’ll see one of three things most likely. Let’s start with the most common thing, the normal-but-needs-cut nail.
The normal-but-needs cut nail looks like the sketch to the left. The lighter triangle you see is the quick. The darker black above it is cuttable nail, and should appear hollow. These are the easiest black nails to cut, in my opinion. Just give yourself some space between the fleshy triangle and the hollow nail your cutting. If your dog tolerates it, you can file the nail back slowly using a dremmel, watching the cut nail to see the middle first turn white, and then white with a black spot in the middle. Stop at the black dot.
A brief disclaimer: Many dogs do not enjoy having their feet handled, and it takes training, patience, and many treats before they will allow you to hold their foot without pulling or biting. Before you start trimming, first see if you can handle the foot. If you can’t, see a professional trainer to help you resolve foot handling issues. Bottom line: Don’t get bit!
If your dog’s nails did not look like the one in the picture above, it may look like this one here. Sometimes if nails are not kept up on, or if the quicks have grown too long, or really just because, the nail ends up looking like this. These nails are more difficult to cut because in this case, you really can’t see the quick from the underside. In the case of the sketch to the side, the quick may be a quarter of an inch past the toe, or it could be all the way out to the end. The only way to know for sure is to cut the nail.
How do you cut it without bleeding the dog?
Notice, once again on the underside of the nail, how the tip forms a kind of oval? (Sometimes it might be an ovalish triangle, but the end will look different from the rest of the nail)
It’s usually safe to cut the oval part off. If you’re a big chicken like I am, start by cutting about half the oval off. You will see one of three things: No change, a white chalky center, or a white chalky center with a dark colored dot in the center.
If it’s a dark colored dot, stop. You’ve found the quick. If you see a white chalky center or no change to the nail at all, you haven’t reached the quick yet. Cut again, the smallest amount possible, and keep cutting till you find that black dot. When you’re done, it should look something like the picture once again to the left.
It may not be as short as you would like it to be, but it’s the shortest you can go without bleeding your dog. Remember that if you do accidently nick the quick, it’s not the end of the world. Your dog will forgive you. Be sure to keep styptic powder on hand and apply it to the tip of the nail. If you don’t have styptic powder, use cornstarch or flour to help stop the blood.
Is this not how the underside of your dogs nail looks either?
That’s okay, watching the tip of the nail actually works on all other types of nail, whether they curl tightly or stick straight out, except in one last case:
See these nails here? They’re actually the same as in the first picture, except they are so darn short there’s nothing to cut. If you clip the tip off this type of nail (unless your very good with clippers) you will probably have blood everywhere. The only thing you need to do on a nail like this is file the very edge off, mostly to keep the nail that length. If you have a dog with long nails like the one above, and a short one like this, treat the long nails like the ones above and the short one like these nails, because it probably broke nad this is the recovering nail.
This type of nail is my favorite to see as a groomer, because it’s the healthiest type. It’s my least favorite to cut, because you have to be very careful working with them. After all, there really isn’t much there!
If you see this when you lift up your dogs paw, congratulate yourself and either gently file the tip, or just plain set the foot down. What ever you’re doing, it’s working. Congratulations!
One final disclaimer: If you’re not sure what you’re doing is correct, print this out, take it to a groomer, and ask them to show you or explain what’s confusing you. Groomers would not be groomers unless they care about the health of your dog. Most groomers will be over the moon that you want to take care of your dogs feet.
Another great tip: Have a groomer do your dogs nails professionally, and then carefully look at the tips of the nails to see how they’re suppoesd to look when they’re cut. That way you’ll no what’s about right for your dog, and what a correctly cut nail looks like.
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