The last couple of days I've been slowly working my way through grooming necessities for each dog. We started with brushing, a relatively easy and safe task. Nala, Roscoe, Jetta and Otis are easy with their short coats. A zoom groom and a comb to finish them off and they are good to go. Hermione obviously is a bit more of a challenge. With her long Spaniel feathers and flowing ears, I have to check her over carefully for mats/tangles/burs/twigs Etc. Quite often, despite my best efforts, I always manage to miss at least one knot. Just this morning I found one under her chin and I swear I checked under there thoroughly.
After brushing we moved on to ears. No one likes getting their ears cleaned. Otis is probably the most tolerant and the easiest with his big sticky-up ears. However, I have to make sure all dogs are secured in the living room before I get the ear cleaning products out because as soon as they see the bottle and tissues/cotton pads they are all heading for hiding places; except Otis. Maybe he can't see as well as the others or maybe he just doesn't care as much, but I can usually coax him over with a kibble, clean each ear and send him on his merry way with another treat. He sits nicely for me, waiting for me to finish. I don't even have to hold on to his collar or him.
Nala will hide, but will come to me, albeit reluctantly. But, the point is she does come. She can't help it. Her sense of duty is too strong and that means that she will brave the ear cleaning solution to make me happy. Of course her good recall is rewarded with a kibble and she too is sent on her way with a small treat.
Hermione's ears are a bit more difficult to clean because they are so furry. When we were researching her breed I read somewhere that Cavaliers are easy to groom.
Compared to what?
I would have given Cavaliers more of a medium grooming indication. She's pretty good about her ears being cleaned as well and will hold still for me to dump solution into her ears.
As for Roscoe and Jetta, I have to hunt them down which is particularly trying since Jetta is currently having her ears cleaned twice a day in order to combat her ear infections. Yesterday I managed to catch her off guard by climbing over the baby gate with the dreaded ear cleaning products hidden behind my back, but she's too smart-I don't think she'll fall for that again. I also have to hold her and Roscoe still while cleaning. I'm really trying to make this a positive experience for them though so every time I do anything to their ears, they get a kibble.
Grasp collar to keep dog from taking off, administer kibble. Wipe with tissue, kibble. Put solution in one ear, kibble.
Aside from ear cleaning the next most dreaded thing in the grooming regiment is nail trimming. Otis and Hermione we've had since they were babies and so Mr. K and I both handled their paws as much as we could. We also tried trimming their claws from a young age to get them used to it. In all honesty, I would recommend this to any new puppy owner, however be warned: it's still a struggle for most people and their dogs. It's just not as much of a struggle.
There is method to my madness when I trim the dogs' claws as well.
Hermione is the princess, we all know that, and in being the princess she requires special treatment. Well, at least she thinks it's special treatment. I call it "distraction and entrapment." When it's her turn, I put her up on the kitchen counter on a towel with her coveted treat across the kitchen on the other counter. She can see the treat, but she can't have it until I trim one claw. For every clip, banana/chicken heart/cheese/kibbles are handed over. She knows that and doesn't struggle too badly. If she can't see the prized treat on the counter, you can forget trimming her claws. With her treat in sight and her standing high up on the cupboard, she is secured for nail trimming; hence "distraction and entrapment."
Otis and Jetta are two who require very, very valuable distractions. If the trimmers are touching a claw, someone better be shoving something tasty into their mouths or no trimming is happening. You can call it "bribing," "distraction," "spoiling..." you can call it whatever you want, but I call it "getting the job done." And getting it done without fear, pain and as little stress as possible. This method requires two people: one to trim and one to stuff food stuffs into doggie mouths.
Nala and Roscoe are both pretty good for nail trimming. They obviously don't like it, but they will sit for it. They don't need entrapment or distraction as much as the others, but I do reward their good behaviour; otherwise, they may not be as well behaved the next time. I also reward them because sometimes mishaps happen and along with those mishaps comes a more difficult trimming claws in the future.
Take yesterday for example.
It was Roscoe's turn to have his claws trimmed and so I set to work, front paws first and then back ones. He was being pretty good, but his claws were longer than I'd like and so I was trying to take as much off as possible without hitting the "quick:" a blood vessel/nerve bundle that is in a dog's claw to keep it alive. I was doing great until the last claw. It was a back paw, outside claw that didn't seem to have worn down very well from is walking around. Sometimes I can feel the difference between the part where the quick is and the "dead" part of the nail. This one I was struggling with and probably should have left it alone, but it was long. There are so many reasons not to leave a dog's nails too long, the main one being that it can hurt them when they are walking with long claws. So, I went for it.
He didn't say anything, but he jerked and I knew I had hit the quick. I didn't know how bad it was, but my instant reaction was to elevate the paw to try to stop some of the bleeding. As I sat there with his paw raised blood started trickling down my hand. This was a bad one. There was a small throw blanket on the couch I had made and I wrapped his paw up in it and ran to the kitchen. I should have had stuff ready just in case this happened, but I didn't. As I stood in my kitchen, completely panicking, I realised that I didn't know which container house the baking soda which can be used to stop a dog's claw from bleeding. I grabbed two containers and ran back to the living room and started shaking powdery substances over his claw. It wouldn't clot. Either I had the wrong stuff or it had been a deep cut. I remembered reading somewhere that you could use corn starch. I raced back to the kitchen, and grabbed a bag of corn starch from the cupboard. I knew which package the corn starch was in because I had bought it from the Bulk Barn to use as icing for my dog cookies.
I opened the bag and thrust Roscoe's entire paw into the bag. I would keep this for later emergencies-I'd have to buy new corn starch. I elevated the paw again, still stuffed into the bag and waited. When I pulled his paw out a few minutes later, the bleeding had stopped. Since it had been so deep, I made him stay still for 30 minutes, but the excitement of breakfast being served popped the blood clot and he started spotting blood again. At least it wasn't gushing this time. Worried about infection, I cleaned the claw, packed it with corn starch again and put his paw in a sock, wrapped that in a plastic poop bag and tied it to his paw. He was none too pleased, but he left it alone.
With all of that drama, I put the rest of grooming on hold for the day. I really wasn't ready to clip anyone else's claws. That said, as one of my friends pointed out, at least I trim my dogs' nails and don't let them get over grown and curly. I also do it blind and since this bleeding bit is rare, I'm doing all right. With four dogs in the household and nail trimming costing anywhere between $5 and $10 a pop, I'd rather do it myself. Not to mention, I've heard some horror stories about SOME groomers. (Notice I said "some." Not all).
I know the next time I have to trim Roscoe's claws he'll be a bit wary and I may have to use the "distraction" technique initially. I may be even a bit wary myself, but it will have to be done. I'll just make sure to have the corn starch on hand and hope that I won't have to use it.