Tuesday, March 1

Making Nail Trims Fun

Well, at least "less likely to have gaping bloody wounds after angry cattle dog mix ravages your hands."

That's a pretty good intro. :D

See, when I got Popper at 6 weeks old, he was insanely insane about his feet. Insane. Being the good little dog owner, I massaged his little tootsies daily so he'd learn that it was okay. I also daily was chomped, bitten, and maimed. Usually, I am sad to say, with broken skin. He was a very small puppy. With very sharp teeth.

As time wore on, I had my husband wrap him up like a mummy in a blanket, and then we put a muzzle on him. He turns into little Cujo and froths at the mouth, but I get all his toenails cut and dremeled. If he were any bigger (he's only about 26#, keep in mind) and he acted this way, I have NO idea how we would trim his nails.

Then my friend Trish shared this video. It was a similar story (except I am not intimidated by Popper - I am bigger, I am stronger, and daggonit I'm smarter!) though it didn't sound like the dog had nearly the foot aggression that my dear little buddy does. I've seen a lot of clicker videos for the issue, and this particular one struck a chord with me. Everything was sooo slow. I decided to give it a shot.

So today, I took 30 minutes and played the nail clicker game.

First off, I discovered that Popper is indeed much, much worse than the dog in the video. If I would try to get my hand REMOTELY near his feet, he skittered off instantly. I could get about 8-10" away, and that's it. So we had to try a new tactic just to get to the first part of the training.

Popper loves to play. Popper loves to target. And Popper love love LOVES food!! So I would throw my hand down beside him (palm down), and he would POUNCE on it. If he pounced with his paw, click treat. He loved the game. So after he was awesome at it, which didn't take too long, I changed to slamming my hand down palm UP. He handled the switch just fine. The key here is that he is GIVING me his paw. He WANTS to play. The next step was to just lightly grab his paw, starting with a little thumb stroke and working up to a full grab. He was shocked. Mom grabbed his PAW. Click treat. :) Oh, wait... I got a treat. So we played that game for a looong time, just getting him comfortable with me grabbing his foot for an instant. No toe playing, no massage. Grab and go. He started rolling on his back and batting at me - honestly, any foot grab was my goal. I'd grab, click treat, and he'd bat me again.

That took quite a while. When I left the game, after 30 minutes (and Popper's tail wagging madly once he understood the "rules"), we had worked up to grabbing AND holding his paw for 2-3 seconds. Without rolling over. Popper discovered that he could just lay there and let Mom do all the work and get a click treat. As he is always looking for shortcuts, he was perfectly fine with the new way the game was going. With his right foot I can even massage it a little bit. Unfortunately, I kept playing with one foot more than the other, so his left foot he is still kind of dodgy on, but I CAN grab it. Without so much as a snarl. Which I can tell you I never thought was remotely possible.

So we are not going to progress at the same rate as the dog in the video. But that's fine. I never thought Popper would willingly give me his paw, so I am willing to be unusually patient with this new game. :)

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