Nail trimming nightmare

We were told to trim C-Biscuit’s nails once a week. I spent $25 on a high-tech nail trimmer with warning lights as the blade gets closer to the quick. While I was trying to adjust the first nail in the guillotine to read the lights, Biski got nervous and restless so I dove in and pulled the trigger – BLOOD EVERYWHERE. That was the end of that.

C-Biscuit loathed the guillotine-style nail trimmer and I could tell why: it bent back the nail before it cut it. Ouch. I could only get a couple tips off while she was held barely under control by Bob. Reading Cesar’s tips to “drain the dog’s energy” before nail trimming did nothing. She could be exhausted from hiking and actually asleep, but she bolted awake in a panic if I even thought about the clipper.

After 2 months, I resorted to taking her to PetCo. I had to capture her and stay with her while she was put on the grooming table and had her neck lassoed. She stood shaking while the groomer tipped each nail, which took a matter of seconds. It cost $12 and seemed worth it, except for how traumatized Biski was. Plus, I got a look at the clipper, which was a scissor-style rather than guillotine-style, and thought that was worth a try myself. 

The scissor-style (another $10) worked MUCH better, slicing through the nails without bending and squeezing. However, C-Biscuit still didn’t take to it and still had to be captured and immobilized, which was nearly impossible.

I got the idea to trim while giving her a bath. While Bob massaged and shampooed her, I got ahold of her paw and got a nail clipped without Biski realizing what I was doing. Unfortunately: BLOOD! I had hit the quick again. Biski didn’t seem to notice the stream of blood flowing onto the wet towel at the bottom of the tub, but Bob certainly did. “SHE’S BLEEDING!” he announced. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this!” Not a confidence booster.

When we released her from the tub, C-Biscuit ran onto the white bedspread, then around the living room rug, trailing blood the whole way. Bob and I spent the rest of the evening in silence while I crawled around with a sponge and a dish of vinegar & water, dabbing out blood stains.

After another month I took her to PetCo again. This time, they wouldn’t trim her nails because they said the quick had grown too long and they couldn’t cut them without cutting the quick. But her nails shouldn’t stay that long, either, the groomer said, because they were hitting the floor and could cause arthritis, etc.  The only way to solve it, they said, was to have the vet put her under anesthesia and to cut and cauterize each nail! I felt like a pet parent failure. 

Thank goodness for the Internet. I found out about dogs’ nail growth and how to get them shorter: by a consistent, gradual process of trimming or grinding, as often as every other day, by which the quick would gradually recede. “Grinding” (sounds awful) is sanding them using a Dremel rotary sanding tool – that way you can’t take off too much and cut the quick. Here’s the most detailed article I found on nail grinding.

A grinder! Of course. Why  hadn’t we done that from the beginning? Back to the, our discount pet supply source, for a $50 grinding tool. (You can see how these things add up.)

I tried to do everything right with the grinder: I showed it to C-Biscuit, and gave her a treat when she sniffed it. Over several days, we repeated: Dremel vibrating – sniff – treat! This vibrating tool is your friend! we tried to convince her.

Finally it was time to try a single nail. We put Biski on the coffee table, Bob held her while I took a paw and singled out a nail. It rattled me that Biski was shaking and struggling and acting as if she were being tortured when the sander hadn’t even touched her yet. I barely touched the nail with the sander, she yanked her paw back, and just then: VVVVRRRRvvvvrrrrr….. the battery ran down. 

I e-mailed the breeder that we continued to struggle, even with the grinder. He replied, “Have a friend hold her and touch each nail quickly. Ignore her protests. She’ll realize and remember that it doesn’t hurt.” Voila! We seemed to be especially nail-trimming challenged.

I found videos on YouTube of people grinding their dogs’ nails. Like this one. That helped rebuild my confidence. 

A whippet-owning friend told us she had eventually tied up her dog and said, “We’re doing this!” She told us, “His eyes were all bugged out in fear, but I did it. After that it wasn’t a big deal.” 

The next day, I worked myself into Little Engine/Obama/warrior mode (“I can do this! I can! I can!”), put C-Biscuit in a snug harness, and tied the harness handle to the soap dish. I stood over her in the tub and held her captive between my calves while I took each nail and touched the grinder (“Ignore her protests!”). She was so upset that when I offered her her most beloved treat – freeze-dried liver – after each paw, she stood paralyzed with her jaw snapped shut. Talk about tough love. These are the moments you don’t know about when you see Purina commercials with children romping outside with the family Golden Retriever. 

When we told the vet, she was encouraging: “Most people don’t even try to do it!” Really?  And I’d felt so inferior – especially to those competent people on YouTube!

I’ve made mastering nail care one of my conditions for getting Sesame. I figure if I can’t take proper care of a dog, I can’t get one (or another one). My goal is to keep up with the sanding, and hope eventually not to hear her nails clicking on the floor.

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One response to “Nail trimming nightmare

  1. Krista V.

    After trying all styles of clippers, I bought a 2 speed rechargeable Dremel. I have never had a problem with it running out of juice. I do my whippets “claws” every two weeks.You should check out this link for more on the topic.
    My dog hates it- he just hears me going to get it and he gets all shaky. It used to be a two person job but now I can usually do it by myself if I can move his lead-butt to the proper position. Now, I sit in a chair with him on my lap with his belly facing up. He usually hides his head under my arm.(I keep telling him that he will get a piece of Jack Links turkey jerky while I’m grinding.) It’s messy so I usually cover myself with a towel to catch the dust. Just a couple of tips- don’t stay on one nail too long because the nail will get hot from friction – keep an eye on the nail quick (it’s usually pretty easy to see the pink under the nail) plus you should notice that the nail almost gets a bit softer when you’re getting close. Good luck! Krista

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