Toe Nails

Subject of toe nails trimming is close to my heart.  It’s been trial and error over the years, but I think I finally got it!

Here are my tips/advise:

  1. Start them as young as possible and make sure they are fully awake during the process. I made a mistake trimming toe nails on my puppies when they were tired/half asleep and it only made it more difficult as they were getting older, bigger and harder to control.  Trim or simulate trimming every week to get them used to the process.
  2. With small puppies, I used human toe nail clipper. I would put the puppy on their back to see the quick (soft tissue) and make sure I don’t go too far. The goal was just to take off the hook.
  3. As the puppies outgrow the human clipper, there is a decision to be made:  dog toe nail clipper or the dremel/toenail grinder. I tried both and here are my findings:                                                                               


    • Pros: Faster!   If you want to save time and your dog is OK with the process, it is the most time efficient tool.
    • Cons:  It is very easy to cut the nail too short and create a long lasting negative experience with your dog. Otterhounds have a surprisingly long memory and will remember all your mistakes! We never made a mistake with Mamba/Leeloo, but for some reason @ ~9mo old they decided they hate the clippers and it became obvious that we had to look for alternatives.

    Dremel/Toenail Grinder:

    • Pros: it is difficult to make a mistake. It will take a while to figure out your trimming technique, but it becomes easier with time. You can also round up the edges so the toenails are not too scratchy. My girls use “the paw” to request attention and sharp toe nails are no fun.
    • Cons: it is SLOW!!! With multiple dogs it takes a long time to trim those toe nails! Your dog may not tolerate the sound/high pitch of the dremmel, especially on hi/higher speed setting. The lower the speed, the slower the process though.
      When buying the dremel, you want the one with multiple speed selections. Cordless is the easiest to use in my opinion.   Get  brand recommendation from your local groomer.  Don’t buy the highly advertised PediPaw – it is slow and an Otterhound paw kills the battery way too quick and you/your dog will only get frustrated.
  4. Grooming table is a good idea to keep your back healthy.  However, most pet owners probably don’t have one and/or never thought of buying one. We use a couch instead (yeah.. I can see some people smiling 🙂 ). I have my dog laying on its side so I can clearly see how far to go. Good lighting is the key. My goal is to take off the hook and make sure that there are no hollow tips/edges. My dogs have white, black/white and black toenails and this ‘technique’ works on all of them. As an option, you can have your dog laying on its back (between your legs) as long as you can keep your hound steady. This is where early training comes into play.  If you teach them young, it will work when they grow up.
  5. During trimming process, negotiate with your hound, but be firm. As you may have noticed, the art of negotiation is critical when dealing with an Otterhound. You must have a trust and understanding with your dog – he/she trusts you will not hurt them and know there is no getting out of the toe nails trimming. Be firm but calm.  No yelling/screaming. The dogs will get upset if you do, so make sure you keep the dog calm during the process. I don’t talk or use hi-pitch praises. I also don’t use commands Stay, Sit or Down so the dogs don’t associate these words with an unpleasant experience.  I use the word “Easy” to keep them steady. After the nails are done, we make sure the dogs are rewarded. Treats are the best part of the process 🙂

When I first used the dremel, my girls had very different reactions. Starr trusted me completely and had no issues with the feeling of dremmel on her nais, but was unsure about the noise. Leeloo @ ~1 yr was shaking and Mamba @ ~1yr was resisting and showing her teeth. It took both Mike & I to get the nails done. The second time was much easier and the only dog challenging the process was Mamba.  With time, things got smooth and easy: we all accept that toe nail trimming is part of life, whether we (humans & hounds) like it or not.

With the addition of Ozzy, things changed again. We decided to get our boy used to both: the clipper to do the most of the trimming and the dremmel to round the edges. It works like a charm! It’s fast and efficient. Ozzy likes to watch when we play with his feet. It’s a good thing, because at 110lbs, his cooperation is critical! Bella is still getting used to the process but loves the attention we give her during grooming. So far, so good 😉

Our goal is to trim the toe nails every other week. If the nails are kept short, the process is short and less frustrating for dogs and humans. Trimming once a month in my opinion is a must or it becomes a PROJECT. With 4 hounds, if we go too long without trimming the toe nailes, the project may take more then one day – we simply run out of batter power .. Literally! Procrastination is not our friend!

We’d rather have fun at the beach!

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