Dewclaw Mishap – Dog Grooming Gone Wrong

The fact that Lilly lets me trim all of her toenails in a single sitting each week remains one of my greatest dog training victories. We call it Turkey for Toenails, but these days we typically use cheese. Alas, once in a while, I botch things and cause Lilly to bleed. It turns out dewclaws really gush in this adventure with dog grooming gone wrong.

Dog Toenail Trimming Strategy

Our process includes me sitting on the ground with Lilly, and trading her 3 small pieces of cheese for each front toenail trimmed. Often I say, “I … love … you,” as I hand her each piece of cheese, then kiss her before trimming another toenail.

Lilly stands or sits as I trim her front toenails, but she is happier in a DOWN as I trim the rear ones. For some reason, doing the rear toenails is much less stressful for her, so they require a 1-to-1 cheese ratio, rather than a 3-to-1 .

Once in a while, I do cut one too short, causing her to cry and for the toenail to bleed a little. Usually, however, the bleeding stops pretty fast, and Lilly forgives me the error.

Dog Grooming Gone Wrong – Dewclaws

A couple weeks ago, alas, I trimmed one of her dewclaws too short, and that doggone thing bled like crazy in a rotten incident of dog grooming gone wrong. It didn’t help that Lilly kept playing fetch and breaking it open again (for 2 days).

best dog blog, champion of my heart, bandaged leg on a border collieSo, I rigged up a bandage from:

  • Part of a cotton ball
  • A length of bandaging foam
  • Adhesive tape

Lilly played all afternoon the first day without bothering it, but we took it off before bedtime in fear she would pull it off and maybe eat it.

The next day, though, it bled again as we played fetch, so I had to wrap it up for a while to keep her from bleeding all over the house.

Why No Dremel?

I know that most really good dog moms use a dremel to grind their dog’s toenails back without it looking like a scene from a horror movie.

I really did try to counter-condition my sound-sensitive girl to the noise and vibration, but I got nowhere.  And, honestly, I’m more comfortable with the scissor-like slippers. I find the dremel kind of scary and worry about getting hair tangled or something.

I’m told you just tap-tap-tap at each nail until you can see a dot (which means you’re close to the quick).

I might try the dremel again with future dogs, but I’d need someone to show me how to do it. Our dog trainer Gigi Moss once recommended practicing on a piece of plastic.

UPDATE — With our current generation of dogs, I have successfully moved to using *only a dog nail grinder. I’ll probably never go back to dog nail clippers again … except maybe with foster puppies because they are pretty easy to fool and do quick clips of their tiny, baby talons.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Julie - November 2, 2011

Cali absolutely hates having her nails trimmed – it used to take me and my husband to do it – he would feed her treat while I would clip as quickly as possible. It seemed like no matter how careful I was, I always seemed to cut one too short 🙁

I started using the little “pedipaws” that was in the stores to test whether or not she would like that better and it turns out she was much more relaxed. The pedipaws runs on batteries and it took FOREVER – so I finally broke down and bought a Dremel – I still love it, and I like that she doesn’t have any sharp edges on her nails!

kb - October 27, 2011

All that I know is that K won’t even stay in the same room with a running dremel. She must be sound-sensitive too. She’s fine with me clipping her nails with nail clippers…. but forget the dremel!

We use a similar strategy as you do (trading treats for each clip). Funny, every single one of my dogs has had the same increased sensitivity to front paw clipping compared to hind paw clipping as Lilly has. It does help a bit to start with the hind paws… then they’re less tense about the front ones.

Julie - October 26, 2011

I used all kinds of things when I was getting Bajnok used to handling on his toes. Today I usually don’t have to do anything with his claws, but the most stress free thing I found was a regular nail file (for dogs, obviously. A human one wouldn’t do much good). The nail fail turned it into a cuddling session. Finding one the sits well in your hand is essential, because it takes time.

Karen Friesecke - October 25, 2011

Jersey is NOT a fan of the puppy toe clip, it takes the two of us to trim her nails. I’ve never used a Dremel sander and I think that Jersey would flip out, because of the noise, if I tried to use it on her.

Jana Rade - October 25, 2011

Interestingly, while I love the idea in theory, I never used one either. Similar reason to yours, not comfortable with the idea of fast moving parts.

Probably should try it one of these days though.

Erin - October 25, 2011

Stan used to let me clip his nails, no problem. But a few back surgeries and several vet visits and IVs later, he doesn’t even like to have his front paws touched. So, now I hold him and distract him with a spoonful of natural peanut butter (like a popsicle) while my bf clips his nails quickly. We use a regular nail cutter, but I do have a dremel that I use to smooth the edges of his back leg nails. Its pretty quiet, but I think it tickles him.

He scuffs his back feet (neurological damage) so we use a variety of methods to keep his nails clipped, healthy, and not ragged! Recently started using toe-caps so his nails don’t get worn to the quik.

Pamela - October 25, 2011

Honey’s breeder started with the Dremel but I didn’t find it very easy to use myself.

My one nail trimming trick is to make sure Honey’s feet are wet first. That makes the nails softer and easier to cut quickly.

I’m sorry for the accident. It never feels good to hurt our pups, even by accident.

Cathy Lester - October 25, 2011

You can use an old sock (smaller is better). Put a tiny hole in the end and slide one nail through to trim it. This keeps hair mishaps from happening.

I always start training on the grooming table. ALWAYS do the rear nails first as they are not ‘in the dog’s face’. Turn the foot to the back so they are even further away. I get the dog to lean on me with a hip so that they are stable. By the time you get to the front, the dog is usually comfortable with the sound of the grinder. I always lift the front feet up and to the back so that they are under the chest rather than to the front in the dog’s face. This keeps them less stressed.
Good luck!

Dog-geek - October 25, 2011

I’ve never used a dremel, and none of my dogs have ever had problems with the regular old nail clippers – in fact, when it is nail clipping time, my dogs are usually all right there jockeying for position, all wanting to be the first one. I usually have to put everyone outside except for the dog I am working on, so that the other two don’t keep trying to get in the way. I think that most of my dogs would have more trouble accepting the dremel than they do the clippers, plus I also worry about getting hair (mine or the dogs’) caught in it.

Ashley - October 25, 2011

Like a lot of dogs, Tahsis HATES having her nails clipped. Instead of fighting with her to get them all done at once like I used to, I now take a piece of frozen (cooked) chicken – or something equally yummy – and do one nail a day. It’s so much less stressful for her, and she usually looks at me like “what, we’re done!?” I’m up to the point that I can get 2 nails done in the same session. It’s slower, and means I have to do it more often, but it works for us! I find that it works better for keeping her nails in check because I’m not avoiding the process.

Tahsis is also sound sensitive, so I don’t think the dremel would go over very well with her…

Sam - October 25, 2011

Using the Dremel isn’t difficult at all.. the only things I’ve gotten caught in it are my OWN hair and my clothes. Marge doesn’t really like it, but she won’t even let me get near her with clippers. So we have a food trade system, too.

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