Sunday, April 14, 2013

Trimming your dog's nails.

I've been thinking about writing a blog post about nail trimming, I'm house sitting right now and don't exactly have all of the proper equipment to give a good how-to but I did get some pictures with my phone and just thought we could talk about nail trimming in general and what I do with my own dogs.

First off - you need a dog. I am watching a bulldog named Darla so she is my model for tonight. As it is, I have done her nails recently so I don't have very satisfying before and after photos. Anyway, I make all of my dogs lay down for their nails.  It's easier for me to look at the nail and my dogs aren't balancing while I'm trying to work on their feet. I realize not all dogs are keen on having to lay down - Seth and LiLo will roll over no problem. In fact, Seth falls over the minute he sees that I have the dremel in my hands. Sepp on the other hand is a bit more stubborn, he will lay down, most of the time he'll go onto his side automatically, but sometimes I have to push him over. My dogs don't really have an option - take it how you will.

Darla pretty willingly rolls over, I've done her nails enough that she is like Seth and she now 'knows' and will roll over without me touching her.

Once you have your dog in position you can start to get to work. As an example I took a picture of the nail before, and then a picture of a trimmed nail with trimmers, and also took a picture of them after being dremeled. As I'm sitting here I probably should have taken a picture of the dremel I use too - oops! It's cordless and made by dremel pictured here!

Here are the clippers that I use, they are the guillotine style made by resco. I have to say I used to love the resco brand but the quality has really gone down hill the last few years. Lately we open a new pair and they don't clip well, or they close funny. Anyway I prefer this type of clipper. Pictured below is how I personally hold them. I'm fairly certain that if you read the package they want you to hold them the opposite way. The way I am holding them is the way that I was taught and personally. I feel like you have more control when you hold them this way, vs the way they tell you to.

This is the nail before trimming. it's kind of hard to see [gotta love phone pics!] but you can see that there is a little bit of nail that can be clipped off.

After trimming. You can see the quic is exposed [bottom of the nail, is soft in comparison to the nail], the method of trimming I use is a 3-way trim. I trim the front of the nail as well as the sides in an effort to expose the quick. When the quic is exposed to the ground it starts to recede.

This blurry awesomeness is just a reference to show how I hold the toe/nail when I dremel them.

This is her foot with all of the nails dremeled. Again - sorry for the crappy quality. There's also not much to take off, I generally try to just dremel to the quic - to get it exposed.

Here is a picture of Seppel's nails. I've been dremeling them several times a week, sometimes everyday. As you can see there isn't much to take off but if you take off a small amount frequently it helps the quick to recede so your dog can have shorter nails. Especially with his nails being white, I cannot stand seeing excess nail. Honestly - in dog pictures, nails are probably the first thing I look at and I cringe when I see nails that are ridiculously long!


So pictures out of the way - let's talk nail trimming. First of all my method of choice is the dremel. All three of my dogs [four when I had Sofie!] prefer the dremel to the nail clippers. Seth and LiLo tolerate the clippers just fine but they are a lot less fidgety/concerned that I am going to quick them when I use the dremel. With Seppel using the clippers is nearly impossible - someone is going to get hurt, someone meaning Seppel. Every time that I squeeze the clippers he will jump, I even tried holding him for Danielle to do his nails and he still jumped for nearly every nail. Since there's not a lot to work with I'd rather dremel his nails and not have to worry that I might chop off half of the nail when he jumps. 

When I first got Seppel he was afraid of the dremel. Some of it I think was smoke and mirrors because his former owner had said she used a dremel on her dogs. But his nails were a little long, so maybe it had been a while. Initially he tried to run away when I tried using the dremel. He is a reactive dog to things that make noise. As I mentioned earlier, my dogs don't have many options. I put a leash on him and touched the body of the dremel to him so he could feel the vibration. It took a moment but he realized he couldn't go anywhere and the dremel wasn't killing him. I then proceeded to work on a foot and when we were successful we had a huge party with lots of treats and we stopped for the day. Then for a time I dremeled his nails everyday. The routine stayed the same, lay down, I do your feet, you get a snack. Boom. We did it every day until it wasn't a big deal anymore. It's still not his favorite thing but he does well.

Seth and LiLo adjusted to the dremel without issue but they were also good for their nail trims. I've seen dogs who don't tolerate it and have had friends with dogs who don't tolerate it. I honestly could never own a dog like that because a nail trim is a very basic thing and there is no reason for a dog to misbehave or have a heart attack over it.

With LiLo as a puppy I was told she was horrible for her nail trims. LiLo is really what made me insist that my dogs lay down. Long story short we sat on the kitchen floor, my leg over LiLo one hand on her face, one hand holding her foot while I waited for her to quit screaming. After she realized that screaming wasn't actually getting her anywhere I was able to actually trim a nail and give her a treat. LiLo was very food motivated, but a HUGE baby so we had to wait out the dramatics so that she could focus and understand that when I trimmed a nail good things happened. I think I did her nails once a week - just taking the tips off, giving her a treat for each nail. Eventually we got through our nail trims without issue. 

Seth has never given me trouble. He's just a go with the flow dude.

If you are afraid of taking off too much nail and quicking your dog the easiest thing to do is to only take the tips off, and do it once a week to slowly get the nails shorter. It takes some time but it works really well and that way you're less likely to cause trauma to you or your dog. 

It's also important to remember if you DO quick your dog, DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT STOP! I always have some quick stop[styptic powder] on hand, but if you don't have anything like that you can use corn starch. I have also tried flour - but it really didn't stop the bleeding. If you do quick your dog they are not going to bleed to death, it's very important that even though you feel bad, and even though your dog might be stroking out that you finish the nail trim. If you stop trimming the nails your dog will eventually learn that if he freaks out you won't follow through and he can get out of a nail trim. They aren't stupid. 

For those of you who would rather have your veterinarian or a technician do the nails it's important to remember that we can only take off as much as the quick allows. This means that if your dog hasn't had a nail trim in 6mos, we might not be able to take a lot off. I can't tell you how often people say "Get them as short as you can!" Truly if you want your dog to have short nails they should be coming in once a month for a nail trim. Sometimes your vet may tell you that running your dog on concrete or in a tennis court can file the nails but it really depends on how your dog walks in terms of how much they will be able to wear the nail down. 

So - there's a little bit about nail trimming, hopefully this post was somewhat helpful. It's just something I've been thinking about as of late, it's just a part of dog care that I think is really important.

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