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Nail Cutting Disaster

July 28th, 2010, 10:36 PM
I recently took my 4 year old Pit X Lab to the groomers for the first time (adopted her 5 months ago) to have her nails cut. It was not a successful visit! Despite her her being a sweet and friendly girl who has never displayed any aggressive behaviour, I was apprehensive before the appt. She had a full check-up and vaccinations brought up to date through the shelter I adopted her from prior to me bringing her home, so this was our 1st health care/grooming related experience together. It did not go smoothly. She panicked and struggled. I was with her initially, but my presence did nothing to calm her and the groomers suggested I leave the room. She was muzzled and tied but has incredible strength. There were 3 groomers working to control her and cut her nails, but they were unable to hold her down. They had to stop as it wasn't safe for them or my dog. I know my dog's reaction was due to confusion, fear, and feeling threatened. I do not know her history and she may have had a bad experience(s) in her past. The groomers told me I would likely have to take her to the vet and have her nails done while she's sedated. I have no problem with this (hopefully her 1st trip to the vet goes better!) but am wondering if anyone has advice about possible things I can do to help ease her fear and confusion during these types of appt's? For instance, I am currently treating her for ear mites, but may have to take her in somewhere if the at home treatment doesn't work. Her health is of course a priority and I will take the steps necessary to properly maintain it, but am hoping I can do something to make future experiences less traumatic! Any tips would be appreciated :)

July 28th, 2010, 11:42 PM
Would you consider trying to do them yourself, soozalooza? Our dogs are so much more comfortable getting their nails done at home. :thumbs up I do all of ours here. Will she allow you to handle her paws? If so, half the battle is done. Start slowly and make it a pleasurable experience.

What I usually do with a new addition is start by playing with their paws--just touching the first few days, then touching and examining the nails for a few days, then eventually getting around to clipping. I use the 'examining' stage of the training process to get familiar with where the quick is. You can see where the quick runs either through the horny part of a white nail, or from the bottom of a dark nail.

When I get to the clipping stage, if the dog seems nervous, I'll reward after each nail is clipped to start--not a big treat, but something yummy--and then over time reduce to a treat only when the paw is complete and eventually to a reward only when all four paws are done. It's a very slow process, but it works.

Some dogs do well with dremel-type nail grinders, but my dogs hate the noise, so I use a scissor-type clipper. I stand over them and handle the paws like a farrier would handle a horse's hooves during shoeing, if you've ever seen that done? That way I get a good view of the quick from the bottom of the foot and can avoid it when I clip.

Hope that helps!

July 29th, 2010, 01:24 AM
Thank you for the advice. I had not actually considered trying to cut Lexi's nails myself as this is something I have always been too nervous to try with other dogs. My concern is around making a mistake and hurting the dog or, even worse, causing lasting damage. I realize it is quite common for owners to cut their own dog's nails though, so imagine there is low risk of harm as long as I'm careful. I believe it can be easy to cut the quick and though it will bleed a lot and can cause pain (obviously will take care to avoid this), its not the end of the world?
I think I may try to confront my fears and give it a go! I have been playing with my dog's paws since the trip to the groomers to try to get her used to them being touched. She pulls them away but doesn't seem too bothered otherwise. I really don't want her to have to be sedated every time she needs a simple nail cut :)
Thanks again for the advice. I will post how it goes!

July 29th, 2010, 07:24 AM
My DS has overcome her and her dog's fears of clipping toenails by going very, very, very sllooowwwwllllllyyyyyy. (slowly) and using a clicker. Touch a toe, click, treat. A clicker you can step on really helps. Cannot possibly emphasize how slow enough. Like you, DS began to consider the force the pet care people were using in order to do the job so quickly.

You can find clicker toenail clipping videos too.

This might also help:
It shows how to hold the paw to find the quick on black nails.

Floppy Dog
July 29th, 2010, 11:44 AM
Have you considered play as a way to keep Lexi's nails trimmed? The skidding and sliding on pavement while playing fetch with a ball or frisbee is a great way to keep the nails trimmed. Also, walks on gravel or pavement will also do the trick. We've had our Cocker Spaniel for 2 years and in that time I've never had to have her nails trimmed. My vet told me that if I hear the nails click on the pavement when we walk, it's time to trim the nails. If I can't hear them on the pavement, then they're short enough.

Pulling away when you touch the paws is also a normal reaction. I've been playing with Lady's paws for 2 years now and she still pulls away when I touch her back paws (but not the front paws). I got Lady at 5 months old and I know she hasn't been mistreated, so it will probably take even longer for you to overcome Lexi's reflex.

Dog Dancer
July 30th, 2010, 11:44 PM
I agree that trying to do it yourself is a good idea. Are your dogs nails white? That is definitely easier. Slowly is key. Play with her feet for a while before you try and then when you do, just sort of shave the tip of the nails the first couple times to get her comfortable with the pressure. If she's only good with one nail the first time that's okay. Don't force her so that you end on a bad note. Always stop before she has had enough. I agree that groomers are probably too abrupt and scare the dogs. My friends dog was the same way and the vet had to sedate him. Recently she went to a new vet (a lady) and in five minutes she had his nails trimmed with no stress or sedation. I think it has a lot to do with approach and attitude.

July 31st, 2010, 09:17 AM
Definitely at least try at home, or find a friend to come help you who is more comfortable and go very slow, and stop if she gets too panicked.

My dog has some aversion to having his feet man handled, he tries to pull away and will lick and mouth at my hands but accepts the process. I use human nail clippers since my dog is only small, you can try with human clippers as it will take away edges but you can't chop the whole nail off (maybe toenail clippers since your dog is large).

Its a good idea to try when she is relaxed and ready for sleepy, look at the nails and you should pretty clearly see what needs to be clipped.

August 5th, 2010, 05:37 PM
When you're playing with her paws (to try to get her desensitized), try squeezing the individual nails so she gets used to the pressure on her nails, too. Invest in good clippers - I prefer the scissor style since my dog has extremely thick, black nails and these Miller clippers cut through them like nothing. The guillitone ones are useless if your dog has thick nails.

My dog Ranger recently went from ambivelent to bad about his nails being done for no reason. He'd never been quicked but all of a sudden started yelping when I held his paws. Of course, then I accidentally quicked him (just a little) and then he was really worried about his nails getting done.

Here's what worked for me:

Smear peanut butter on a yogurt lid and getting your dog to sit perpendicular to you as you're sitting on a low chair or step. Place front paw in your lap and make sure peanut butter lid is on the other side of you where dog can see and within easy reach. Without picking up the paw, gently trim off the teeniest bit of nail you can, then let dog lick the peanut butter a few times. Do another nail, repeat, until all the nails are done. If she starts to fuss, end the session. Always end on a good note and then try again later in the day or even the next day.

I've been doing exactly as I described above twice a week for the last month. One day I take bigger pieces off, then the next day I do little slivers like when you sharpen a pencil. Ranger's quicks are gradually receding and I'm hoping to get them just a little bit shorter. If your girl has black nails, take little bits off at a time so you don't quick her. Use the arch of the nail as a guideline - if the nail tip is below the base of the nail, you "should" be able to take off more. Ideally, you want the nails without an arch. Here's a pic of Ranger's front nails - they're almost ideal.

Oh, and these are the nail clippers. I highly recommend them! Good luck!