Since Luke is the first dog we’ve formally trained and committed to positive reinforcement training with, I’m new to a lot of things. When we have a breakthrough, either Luke, or I as his trainer, I get pretty excited. Some of the eureka moments we’ve had lately might not be surprising to those of you who have more experience in this area than I do, but I savor each one.
We’ve had two pretty good breakthrough moments lately, for both trainer and trainee.
#1: Even though I did all the things you’re supposed to with a puppy, handling their paws, ears, and mouth; at a certain point Luke decided he didn’t like any of that. That has led to some difficulties, especially when it comes to trimming his nails. During the summer, they seemed to stay pretty trim, with running around in the dirt and some walks on pavement. My vet’s office is great, when they put our dog’s under anesthesia for any reason, they always trim their nails free of charge. So Luke had a good trimming when he got neutered, and then again when he had his knees checked.
In between all that I could manage to get in and trim his dewclaws on occasion somehow. But now with winter and no running on dirt or anything to wear them down, all of his nails need trimming. I have gotten him used to having his ears handled by just occasionally rubbing them and playing with them. But no such luck with the paws.
My hubby wasn’t around to help the other day, and I wanted to at least get his dewclaws trimmed. I was somehow able to get one, then panicked that I’d trimmed it too close because I had to do it fast. Then there was no way he was sitting still for another, even with treats being handed out. When he bonked me in the head jumping off the bench, I felt my patience slipping.
That’s when I had an “ah-ha” moment, and remembered all I had been learning with clicker training: take it slow, and one step at a time. So I put the clippers down, grabbed a handful of treats, and just gave him a treat for letting me handle his paws. Then I put the clippers in the same hand as the treats so he’d get used to seeing those. I was somehow able to get the other dewclaw, and we did some more paw handling only then called it quits.
I came back to it this morning, and did the same thing. I wasn’t able to get a nail this time, but we just worked on the paw handling and when he got tired of that, we stopped and worked on some of his other training. I hope this will lead to getting more nails done, but we’ll see. At the least it will get him used to having his paws handled, and maybe we can work on some tricks from there.
#2: My good friend Sheryl and I had been planning to meet for lunch, and instead of going out, she offered to come to my house. She has been our sometimes pet sitter (but not since we got Luke) and hadn’t seen the dogs for a while. She also wanted to get to know Luke better for future pet sitting needs. She has only met Luke a couple of times, and always when there were other people around, and not for quite a while. So for Luke, she is basically a stranger.
I was thrilled she thought of coming over, and knew it could be a good opportunity for us to work with Luke. One step at a time…one person….I felt pretty confident that Luke would do well with her. I asked her to come immediately into the house when she arrived so that Luke would have less time barking at the doors and windows, and so he would get less wound up.
His greeting to her was typical…he barked at her and shied away. Sheryl is a pet sitter, and always prepared with treats in her pocket. The girls already knew this so they were right there looking for them. Soon Luke was right with them, and would even do a “sit” for Sheryl! He was only allowed to get a treat if he was being nice and not barking at her, and he went up to her first. So how did all this go? I’ll let these pictures do the talking:
I’m beyond thrilled that Luke has a new friend! My sister Lynn, who is our other pet sitter, is the only other person he is this comfortable with. I knew he had it in him though, he was of course shy of our trainer Dave when we started training, and by our last visit they were fast friends. Dave was excited that at our last session, when we were sitting talking at the end, Luke was sound asleep next to us. Dave is a boisterous guy who talks with his hands, but Luke had no problems with him after time, and Dave thought that was a very promising sign. So did I.
Maybe this will be the only way we get Luke used to people, one at a time. If that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do (and just manage things when we do have a group over, which isn’t all that often anyway)….at least now that I’ve learned to slow things down, I see light at the end of the tunnel.
We’re happy to be joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. This hop is held the first Monday of every month, and is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit other blogs through the links below for more training tips.