The manacurist, K-9 division

Our dalmation Simon has toenail problems. He’s essential an apartment dog so they don’t wear down as they should. He’s had a horribly traumatic experience getting them clipped when the PetSmart tech cut the vein in all but one of his nails. His toes are starting to look like something off the cover of Exile on Main Street so we had to take matters into our own hands. On the advice of a friend I will use a battery powered Dremel tool with a sanding drum. I had tried a clipper but the cuticle is so hard it was starting to crush the nail rather than cutting it.

Did I say Simon is a big fella? About 80lb and fairly well muscled. Fortunately he’s not aggressive but under stress even the nicest doggie can be a danger. We bought a muzzle and between TheLadyLion and I holding him down on the sofa I was able to start to trim a couple of his longest nails. He really spazzed out for a while but finally calmed down a bit and at least didn’t struggle. I didn’t want to go too far so I just spend about five minutes and let him up. Fortunately he didn’t seem to hold a grudge and within seconds were were buddies again.

The plan is to do just a little bit every day and get his nails to a normal length in a few weeks. I’m hoping that rather than making him afraid of me every time we do this he’ll become desensitized so it eventually becomes no big deal.

Also, reward him with a treat afterwards. He’ll quickly associate getting a treat with getting his nails clipped and won’t mind it so much. Worked with our collies.

Uh… watch that Dremel. There are electric nail trimmers out there that are really just like your Dremel, so it’s not the using it that could be bad. If you grind down too far, you’re grinding down the nerve. Way ouchy.

Your best bet is a good pliers-type trimmer. (I really like Miller’s Forge.) The guillotine kind will split a thick nail. (But you know that.)

With the two of you working on him (plus the muzzle) you can go slow and get the nails trimmed (over a couple of days or weeks if that’s what it takes). Have a jar of styptic powder on hand, you never know when you might need it. (They might have used nitrite sticks at PetSmart. Stypic powder stings a little, nitrite just plain hurts.)

You could try calling your vet. A lot of them will trim nails for about $5. All at once and you’re done. Plus they do more dogs than PetSmart so they’re less likely to really chop up his nails. Or you could call local groomers.

Our very large female Rottie had no problem with me doing it until she went to the groomer and they hurt her. For a while after that, it was a confrontation complete with growling. Our fault for relying on the groomer to do once in a while, what we should have been doing more often.

Every time you clip, the quick recedes a touch. If you let them grow too long, of course the quick grows back. It can be harder to tell with black pigmentation or encrusted dirt but there is usually more nail than quick, even if it’s just a little more nail.

What we do now: Trim once a week, lots of cooing reassurance during and reward after. Once a week trim helps you stay ahead of quick growth and slowly trims even the longest twisty nails down to manageable length. This way there’s less risk of hurting them and turning nail clipping into a nightmare for everyone.

I prefer the guillotine type clippers as I find I can see what I’m doing (not so much a problem for white nails, they’re sort of transparent) and therefore have better control. This type doesn’t have a stopper but they are not reliable anyway, you can still end up cutting the quick if you rely on the stopper.

Doing a little bit once a week worked out better for our dog anyhow. They love their schedules and she now looks forward to the attention. Of course, I’ve been extremely careful and have never hurt her. knocks wood So far, so good, anyhow.

My little, 13-pound, ball of fluff hates getting her nails clipped. The normally loving dog actually tries to bite us when we clip her nails. It takes 3 people to cut them: one to hold her (with great difficulty), one to keep her head away from anyone’s skin, and one to cut the nails. And she still sometimes manages to get away. We let the groomers take care of it. I’ve heard bad things about PetSmart in the past, though, so don’t take your dog there. Try asking fellow dog owners if they have a groomer they like. Also, I know some vets will cut dogs’ nails, too.

The dremel seems to be working out well. I’m using a large sanding drum which allows me to smooth down just a little bit at a time to let him get used to it. Yes, I know it will be a problem if I grind too far but I’ll likely get lots of warning as I get close from doggie feedback where if I cut too far with any cutter I won’t. I’m also using the 4.8v battery powered version which is extremely quiet. I’m doing one paw at a time, rotating around to give several days recovery before getting back to the same one.

He seems to be doing well. He’s not enough used to it to just let me hold his paw but he quiets down quickly with LadyLion holdhing him and I think in time it will become a non-event for him.

Here is a complete with photos, text description & everything you can imagine about how to do this:

amazing site, really.

Good for you, LadyLion and Simon, Padeye. Any way that works for you is the way to go.

[sub](Even though you’re doing it ALL WRONG! You NEED the Miller’s Forge clippers I say!)[/sub]

Thanks for the link handy. Simon has mostly dark nails so the information comes in, well, handy. :smiley:

I’ll consider the Miller’s Forge clippers if I find a pair but the Dremel seems far less traumatic.

My dog hates this, too. I’m not sure why. She’s a Human Society gal & was abused previously, so who knows how nail trimming was done before me, or even if it was. Anyway, I had to buy a 2nd pair of clippers because the first did that crushing the cuticle thing, too. The new, more expensive pair has a removable backstop, which I use since she’s got black nails. I also bought a little container of styptic in case I end up hitting a vein anyway.

But here’s the key thing: she HAS to be muzzled when I clip her nails. I bought the muzzle originally when she had an ear infection and went crazy every time I did the ear flushing & medicine administration thing, which was twice a day for two weeks. I don’t think she has any control over what she does during ear & nail activities. She seems to go into a panic attack state. I know she’d feel horrible if she bit me, and I’d feel pretty badly, too. So, she gets the muzzle. She doesn’t seem to mind the muzzle (which I ONLY use during these times), so it makes things much safer for us both.

FYI, it’s a soft nylon muzzle, with adjustable straps that go around the back of her head, in case any of you were wondering.

Oh, and not to hijack, but I just figured out yesterday that her true name is Princess Bumblelina of the Satin Ears. What a relief to have that info after eight months of weighing all the options! (She came to me with the uninspiring and impersonal name of Princess last Spring.)

It really is. Great find, Handy! :slight_smile:

I’ll just chime in with a couple of cents. Long ago, in a life far, far away, I went to the top dog grooming school in the country (at least, at that time…I haven’t kept up), although I’m not currently doing grooming. We were taught the method shown on the web page Handy found (except for the “drape yourself over the dog” part…looks weird, but may be good for home groomers), as well as the electric method. The electric method is more dangerous to the dog than the manual cutters. This might seem counter-intuitive, as it seems more like the natural wear an outdoor dog’s nails are exposed to but, because of the high-speed nature of the tools involved, the similarity is more conceptual than factual.

Nerves damaged by grinding heal slower, more painfully, and less fully (by which I mean the pain may not entirely diminish). Grinding can also cause the fibers of the nail to separate enough for fungus to gain a (pardon the pun) foothold. That would be bad. This is usually the result of too much pressure and too little speed or too coarse of a grit. It is also possible to “melt”, burn or scorch the nail with an improperly used grinder. That’s usually due to too high a speed, plus too much pressure. This is also extremely painful.

In spite of all that, I’m not trying to talk you out of using the grinder, Padeye. If your spotted buddy really was traumatised by the PetSmart experience, it may be better to use a method he doesn’t associate with that experience. Just be very, very careful. Dremels run faster (higher RPMs) than real nailer grinders, so be especially careful not to overheat the nails, and use gentle to moderate pressure. Don’t keep the grinder on the nail too long at one time, either. You want to hear “zzzt, zzzt, zzzt”, not “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzt”. If your Dremel has variable speeds, use the lowest speed that doesn’t induce “chatter”, where the tool bounces off the nail. Most Dremels don’t have a setting that’s slow enough to be a problem. but you’ll have to use your judgment on that.

Once he’s used to having you do his nails with the grinder, you might want to try the guillotine cutter (a good quality, sharp one), and see if he’ll trust you with it. I suspect he will. It would be good if you could make the switch. It’s easier and safer.

I should also mention, in case no one else did (apologies if I missed it), that a guillotine cutter, a good sharp one, properly wielded, should never split a dog’s nail. I’ve never used a bad one, and I second Rue DeDay’s recommendation of Miller’s Forge, but I guess if they can design a bad hammer (and they can!), then they can probably design a bad guillotine cutter. I suspect your dog’s bad experience was the result of a dull cutter and/or a poorly (if at all) trained groomer. You might want to warn all your dog owning buddies to avoid that place.

Okay. On preview, I see this is more like $1.50 worth than 2 cents. Can I owe you? :wink:

FWIW the battery powered Dremel runs much slower than the AC version. High speed is only 1/3 as fast and low is 5,000 rpm. Yes, I do cut slowly and take short passes so I don’t heat up the toenail.

Davebear (and anone else that might care), I recomend the Miller’s Forge specifically over the guillotine type cutter because a nail-trimmer is a “once in a while tool” for most people. You don’t use it enough to know when it’s getting a little dull. (Good news! You can get repacement blades for most guillotine cutters! Keep 'em like-new sharp!) They find out the one time things go horribly awry.

The MF cutter is hard and sharp enough to last you “the life of your pet”. Cheaper cutters (Four Paws, etc.) are good too, but they get dull faster.

Most importantly, use what’s comfortable for you and your pet.