Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

When it got hot this summer, I stopped walking Sheba. I couldn't handle it, and she's black, and in a fur coat, so she's not crazy about going out in the heat either. We'd still go out in the mornings, and I'd throw a tennis ball for her to fetch, but that was it. It saved me a lot of time, she still seemed to be getting adequate exercise, and I didn't have to get heat exhaustion first thing every morning, so it worked out great.

However. This meant, also, that Sheba's nails weren't getting worn down by walking on concrete and gravel. We can't cut her nails for her -- she will permit us to touch her feet now, which she wouldn't when we first got her, but she still won't let us hold her feet, and she gets pretty freaked by any objects near her feet.1 So, during the morning tennis-ball throwing, she was catching her nails in the lawn and breaking them a lot. (Possibly "a lot" is inaccurate, but after the scary first one a while back, which I wrote about, she's broken one at least two more times. I don't know if it's the same nail or not, though I think I've read that once a nail's broken once, it's more prone to breaking again ever after.) Which means that I've resumed the walks, though I'm not terribly happy about it. I'm not sure if this is a particularly good way to deal with the nail-splitting problem, but it at least doesn't appear to be making things any worse.

On the other hand, when we go out, she spends basically the whole walk with her hackles raised, as in the above photo. This is new: she didn't do this in the spring.

Googling was inconclusive: ordinarily it's a sign of fear or aggression, but I read that hackle-raising also sometimes happens when the dog is surprised or nervous. She certainly isn't acting particularly aggressive when it happens -- usually there's not even a person or dog around to be aggressive towards -- and it seems to happen particularly often when she's smelling something really intently. Perhaps she's just surprised. A lot.


1 It's not like her nails never get trimmed; we've just never been the ones to do it. Once at the vet's, once at a pet store (which sounded like it was a terrible experience for all involved; I wasn't there), maybe another time at another pet store, I can't remember.


Paul said...

Can't help you with the hackles raising, but you WILL need to start taking care of her nails on a regular basis. If she won't allow you to hold her feet and you can't bring yourself to force the issue, then fork out the dough and take her to the vet or to a pet grooming place. Sheba doesn't have to like having her nails cut (most animals don't) but she does have to get used to it. If she is uncooperative, that just means it's a two person job for you and the husband. One person holds her still, the other clips the nails.

NOT taking care of her nails can wind up causing her pain/discomfort as well as adding to your vet bills down the line. Possible issues:
1) If the nails get too long, then when standing/walking/running Sheba's toes will experience added stress and may even twist because the too long nails are preventing her feet from resting on the ground properly.
2) If the nails get too long it is possible for them grow to the point of the leading edge growing/cutting into the toe. Besides the pain there then is the extra added 'fun' of infection.
3) By not cutting her nails and allowing them to grow too long, the cuticle (living tissue of the toe that extends part way into the nail) will extend itself further into the nail zone. (So instead of occupying a region of only about 1/2cm or so may grow to extend 1cm or more in really bad cases.) This leads to:
3a) The possibility of her pain or discomfort if a nail breaks off in the area of the cuticle tissue. (Think about what it feels like when your finger nail gets flipped/torn back.) And of course, being that her feet are always in touch with the ground ... yes, once again the 'fun' of infection.
3b) Because of the cuticle having extended too far, the odds of having her nails cut being an uncomfortable & even painful experience is increased greatly.

Any time there is a long spell of her not going out for walks on a hard, rough surface, her nails should be trimmed every two to three weeks. At this point, I think you should probably plan on a vet visit for a nail cutting session. (Btw, you can also have the vet or a tech show you how best to go about holding and cutting Sheba's nails so you can later do this at home.)

orchideya said...

We have a german pointer Emma and she points at lots of things - birds, groundhogs, groundhog holes, big piece of paper moved by slight breeze. When she points - her hackles raise too. I wouldn't say she is aggressive or fearful at that, rather very concentrated and probably excited. Maybe Sheba gets excited when she can detect some new smells around too.
With nails - occasional bike runs are the best. My husband rides the bike with Emma running beside. Bike paths ususally grind her nails very well.

Diane said...

We use a dremel tool with a sanding tip to do the greyhound's nails. You get a lot more control and can do a little at a time and not have to worry about nicking the vein. The beagle however will not let us mess with her feet in any way and the groomer has to do those.

mr_subjunctive said...


Working on getting an appointment with the vet now. (I don't see us doing it ourselves as a realistic possibility at the moment.)


The husband bought something similar for Sheba (little rotating wheel inside a hard plastic guard, with a nail-sized hole in the guard) a while back, but the sound freaks her out on its own, never mind trying to get it near her feet. Which is a pity, 'cause it seemed like a really good idea.

paivi said...

Could you try to make her used to the noise by operant conditioning? Give her a really tasty treat when the sound is on in another room, them give a treat when it's in the same room and so on. Gradually work towards being able to touch her nails with the machine.

My dogs actually salivate when I show the nail clippers to them, since they've come to associate it with food. They still don't exactly like the actual clipping, but won't raise hell either.

Corey W said...

It sounds like the hackle raising is due to being in an excited state - the fact that she didn't do it before makes me wonder what is different, because you'd ideally want them to be calm. I usually deal with this by bringing their attention back to me (instead of what is exciting them)and make them do something (like sit), then walk on when they are calm and paying attention to me. It takes some effort to figure out what gets this going, but eventually (when done right) this gets them in the habit of checking with you to see if what caught their interest is worth getting excited about rather than just getting excited. If you aren't getting wound up about it then they learn to know they don't need to either.

My mom got the little doggie dremel deal for the nails and the different dogs had different reactions... one didn't like the sound, the other two (who think an air horn is fun and must be part of a game - no kidding) got weirded out by the vibrations. It involved a lot of treats, a lot of sitting there turning it on an off near them (for sound) or part of it that wasn't the business end touching them (for vibration) to get them to not react to it. Two of them were ok with it, the one that was bad about her nails never warmed up to it - it tends to be scarier than nail clippers and she runs when she hears it because she knows it will touch her feet.

The one with the feet issues gets regular clippings (which is key here as mentioned) by a professional groomer (NOT one at a pet store, but a pro show groomer - there is a HUGE difference!) or by the vet techs at a check up. These people do it fast, just right, and have assistants to help them hold them. If it can't be done in under a minute and turns into drama, all it will do is traumatize the dog more. If they know your dog has issues with it they get the experienced person to do the clipping while someone holds the dog. It should be quick, and if it's not and they can't get it done in under a minute then stop and try it another week.