For all of my disgust with people who abuse animals, you would think that I wouldn’t have done it. But I did.  There’s blood everywhere. The rug, the kitchen floor, a trail to the counter where the dog treats are stashed. A forensics dream come true. I suppose it’s happened to almost every dog owner – the ones who brave to trim their dogs’ nails, that is.

Yes, I cut one of my dog’s toenails too close that it bled. Not just a little – a lot. Everywhere.  It looks like I killed him. The nail won’t stop bleeding and I don’t have styptic powder in the house because I’ve never needed it. I’ve always been so careful! 

My dog Gizzy is a 13-year-old big, fluffy Golden Retriever who shuffles and stumbles when he walks due to arthritis and advancing weakness. As a result, some of his toenails are worn down from scraping the pavement.  But a few of them are not. And Gizzy has a lot of fur between his toes, making it more difficult to see the nail. It just takes a little nick to made a lot of blood.

Gizzy was such a trooper. He didn’t cry, he didn’t even run from me. Most of us know that just one cut of the quick can forever make a dog fearful of future nail trims. Thankfully, my guy has been trained to associate nail trims with getting chicken jerky when we are through. Thus, the trail of blood from the living room to the kitchen counter! When I jumped up to grab a tissue to stop the bleeding, he thought that we were finished and he made a beeline for the treats despite my requests for him to “stay, stay!”

I learned several lessons from this scenario of dog abuse: 1) always keep styptic powder on hand, 2) don’t take for granted  that all nails need to be trimmed equally, 3) always do nail trims in the kitchen, 4) trim the fur around the nails to better see them, and 5) be thankful that I have learned that counter-conditioning works. My Gizzy did not freak out when I cut his nail too close because I taught him to associate great things (chicken jerky) with getting his nails trimmed. He isn’t scarred forever because of my boo-boo. Thank goodness!

I like to recommend that any time you or your veterinarian or groomer trims your dogs nails that they use the counter-conditioning technique that I described in my article, Grappling With Grooming. It can ensure that your dog will not freak out during nail trims.

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