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.
I’m so impatient, I just want to get in there and trim those nails… which has ended badly a few times. Good for you for going through the proper steps.
And yay! Luke has a friend! I remember how rewarding it was with Isis when our friends liked her and she liked them. I hated the idea of people thinking I had a scary dog.
Well, I did originally just try to jump right in there and do it, but I quickly learned that was a mistake! 🙂
Yes, I know exactly what you mean. We know (knew) what loving dogs we have, and we want everyone else to see that too. Hopefully one at a time Luke will make some more friends too.
I’m so happy that you’re making good progress with Luke. There’s a great sense of satisfaction when you work with a dog that needs a little more patience and “paw holding” along the way. Great job!
Thank you, Elaine. I think all of this has really brought Luke and I closer. It’s also gotten me to work with the girls a little more too, even though they’re older, they still seem to enjoy it.
2 Brown Dawgs says
I think you are on the right track by taking it slowly. If Luke meets enough people one-on-one, I bet eventually he will be fine with many people.
Thank you, I sure hope so!
Thanks for this great story! By the way, i have noticed also that if a guest comes into our house very quickly and without knocking, then Kiefer makes a litle wuf and then already remembers that people are his friends 😀 No frantic barking then 🙂
Thank YOU! I think that is definitely something that helps….getting the people into the house as quickly as possible. It just gives them less time to get all worked up.
Jen Gabbard says
I can relate well to this – Laika is the first dog I’ve had in my adult life and really made a commitment with as far as positive training. When I was starting out I know I was expecting too much and being too pushy. Like you we’ve slowed things down a bit and have been working small steps at a time. It’s amazing how well it works, and I love how much trust my dog has gained from it.
The bond it creates between us and our dogs is just awesome, and I think they are forgiving when we push a bit too hard. The bond is the bonus I didn’t realize would happen. That and just seeing Luke shine when he gets things right make it all so worthwhile.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Good boy Luke with your new friend. Slow and patients with training and with trimming nails. Even know I have done mine every couple weeks since they were 8 weeks old they still hate it. I find it best to teach them to lay down and stay there and rub feet and clip nails and treats. Usually I have to have John hold them laying down and cut their nails.
I can do both girls by myself, they’re pretty cooperative, even though they still make it clear they don’t like it (Cricket being small helps). I might just have to enlist my hubby’s help to get all of Luke’s, because I just don’t have enough hands to treat and clip at the same time!
Lara Elizabeth says
It can be hard to maintain patience when you’ve got your mind set on a goal, but you emphasized the importance of breaking that goal into smaller steps. I’ve done similar work with Ruby on her nails – luckily she wears them down a lot herself but those pesky dewclaws always need attention! It sounds like you’re making wonderful progress with Luke. Thanks so much for joining the hop!
Thank you! Things are easier in the summer when their nails seem to wear down more naturally, but yes, there’s always those darn dewclaws! At least so far those are the ones I’ve been able to get!
Chewy the Golden says
We have tried the “giving treats while holding the nail instruments” approach, but it’s one thing to be holding them and a whole other thing to be using them! So I have resorted to just giving a fresh chewy thing to keep Chewy occupied.
With ear cleaning, Chewy is really cooperative if someone just covers his eyes. He’ll sit there and lick his chops while I put in the ear wash because he knows his treats are coming. If I try to wash his ears without someone covering his eyes, he usually runs and hides under the table.
That’s kind of funny that he wants his eyes covered! We haven’t had to try cleaning Luke’s ears yet, but I’m hoping that won’t be a project as well.
I’m not quite sure how to coordinate holding the treats while clipping Luke’s nails…LOL…I’m not even sure how I got the two dewclaws that I did! I might try some kind of chewy thing too, once he’s gotten more used to the paw handling.
Oh I hate my nails cut. Humom is too scared to do them but I’z told her to get the treat’s out 🙂 xxoxxxxx
Mollie and Alfie
I’m pretty conservative in how much I trim off, I could never do it right up to the quick. But it seems to be good enough, I just have to do it more often. The girls are happy to see the treats come out, even though they don’t care much for the nail trim.
I think going to a groomer to have it done is fine! Whatever works, I say.
Bev Green says
Bravo Jan and Luke…great progress…that nail thing can be such a drama..we have issues with Doc too..urghhh but baby steps 🙂 and to have another accepted pet sitter brilliant 🙂 loves Bev xx
Thanks, Bev! We’ll both just keep trying, with Luke and Doc, right? Sounds like you know all about it.
Mary @ Stale Cheerios says
Sounds like he is doing great!
That is awesome that you are making progress on trimming his nails — this can be pretty hard for so many dogs.
Thanks! The girls don’t like having their nails trimmed either, but I can at least do it without too much drama, as long as there are plenty of treats on hand.
Awesome pawsome about Luke and Auntie Sheryl, yay! So glad you all got together too!! He is such a love as we know, just takes him time with people-he will get there with your good training!
Thanks, Lynn! Sheryl and I did get to have a very nice visit!
Jackie Bouchard says
That’s great – don’t you love those aha moments?! Rita is pretty okay with me touching her feet and trimming her nails, but we’re always working on meeting new people! She mostly does fine with women, but men can be sketchy! That’s great that Luke likes your pet sitter! That’s important if you want to be able to go away and not worry!
We don’t go away a lot, but we like to sometimes, and it’s been a problem to even go visit our grandchildren when my sister, our other pet sitter, went with us as well.
Cricket is shy of men too, but she mostly adjusts much more quickly than Luke (though there are a couple I don’t think she’ll ever like).
Christine & Riley says
It’s great when we have those ah ha moments! Going back to basics and slow with clicker training is so important. It’s all about breaking something down to tiny little parts! When Kyra was young she had some bad experiences with getting her toes done. It took a long time, and even though she didn’t like it, she would sit and let me dremmel her nails. Again, it took a long time, but it worked. 🙂 Good luck and you guys will get there 🙂
Thank you! I just need to keep remembering this all the time now. I’m definitely learning patience through this process, which is something I’m in dire need of!
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Good work with Luke! Mr. N thinks everyone should adore him but our foster pup was really shy with strangers. My solution sounds similar to yours. I would push Mr. N out front and be like pet this one and ignore that one! And eventually foster pup would come up and take treats.
I’m glad to hear that way worked out for you with your foster as well. Luke is funny in that he wants to be ignored, but then he doesn’t want to miss out on anything either!
Hey, you’re making great progress! You know, I hate getting my nails trimmed, too. At this point Mama and Papa have caved and usually just take me to a groomer that has this lathe machine that wears the nail down without any snip (which comes with the risk of a cut with bleeding, which if you’ve ever experienced it is a horrible thing). Our local PetCo is the place that offers this, though I imagine other groomers may offer it. *wags* – Gilligan from WagsAhoy.com
Believe it or not, we don’t have many groomers in our area, nor any big pet stores like that! Unfortunately, Luke is just too afraid of strangers to try it with our local groomer at the vet’s office anyway. I’ve never seen that machine though, very interesting!
Dolly the Doxie says
You are way braver than mom, she’d never try to trim my nails, we have to go to a groomer that will do it on a walk-in basis. Do you do it from behind? We’re told that’s a good way to do it, like have him sitting on your lap with your arms around him. He may be too big though, just thinking. Love Dolly
That’s a good idea, Dolly, I might try that. I actually do it that way with Cricket, and it works well with her, but she is small. It’s always worth a try though!
Lots of patience and going slow is really the key to training, but sometimes it is hard for humans. It does payoff, though. Glad Luke likes the pet sitter. It probably helps with the other dogs liking her.
That is one way I hope the other dogs help him out. Cricket barks at strangers too, so if it’s someone she doesn’t know, that probably makes it worse. She just stops more quickly than Luke does!
Thanks for joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop again this month Jan! This post is an excellent testimony about so many of the wonderful that positive training can do. I always enjoy the creativity positive reinforcement trainiers summon in solving problems but also that so many solutions are often similar. You did exactly what we used to do in training classes I assisted with nail trim shy dogs! Brychwyn also had all the proper body handling socialization when we was a puppy but is very upset about nails trims and paw touching. In baby steps, he now allows the groomer to trim his nails without snapping at her, his massage therapist can work on his paws and he is learning a paw lift/wave. He’s four so it’s been a VERY slow process but he now has the rest of his life to live with a but less stress. While working in doggie daycare I learned that not all dogs like everyone so it is okay for Luke to be choosy. This was often a really difficult thing for the daycare dogs owners to accept. I observed that the dogs who picked their friends carefully, were more deep thinker type dogs. This is such a plus that missing out on the “my dog loves everyone” part shouldn’t have mattered! Have you tried teaching Luke to go to his bed or crate when visitors come? It will solve the going crazy at the doors and windows part but might worsen the shyness. It is possible he would feel safer though and maybe get over the shyness more quickly.
Thanks, Bethany, I love to think of Luke as a “deep thinker”. I am fine if he doesn’t ever learn to love everyone, as long as he has a few friends (and the pet sitters are the important ones)!
We have been working with him to go to his bed, but it doesn’t always work yet. He starts getting wound up as soon as he hears a car, so by the time people get inside he’s gone too far. But he will go to his bed some so we’ll continue to work on that. When we had a big group of people at the holidays, we did put him in a room with a gate up so he would feel safer. People still went to the gate to say hello so I think that worked out OK.
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Oh how wonderful!!!! I love hearing good news about Luke’s training!! i think he did fabulous with your friend coming over! That is a great step!!!
The nail trimming can be tricky for sure, but from what I read it sounds like you are doing everything right. And good for you for knowing when your patience were slipping and planning out what to do next! I a person of little patience at some times (lol) and I find myself doing exactly the same thing as you. It is SO important being able to recognize it and fix the situation.
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
I’m not sure who’s getting more out of this training….me or Luke….LOL….I am bound to learn more patience as time goes on, and I definitely need it.
Seeing Luke’s successes definitely makes all the work worthwhile!
Talent Hounds says
Congrats on successes for you and for Luke! Sounds like he is really coming along.
Thank you! He just loves showing off, and I think that helped with Sheryl as well. When he was able to show her how he could sit, I think that actually relaxed him some!
Hooray! I’m a big believer in celebrating all successes–whether big or small–and these sound like huge successes for you and for Luke! Congratulations. I often have trouble remembering to take it slow, so thank you for the reminder! Barley usually catches on to things really quickly, so I tend to rush to the next step and add a challenge when it would probably benefit both of us to just build our comfort level with the first step (ex. the Pawz boots I wrote about today!).
Yup, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back to the previous step because I got ahead of myself! It’s easy to get encouraged by things going well and to want to move on, but I think in some cases a little more reinforcement of the successes can be good too.
Jeanne Melanson says
Ah, the joys of dog training. It’s so rewarding though, isn’t it, when they “get it”? I’m glad Luke is coming along. Just a thought about the nail trimming. My German Shepherd and I practically wrestled on the floor come nail trimming time. Then one day at her obedience class, another pet mom offered to give it a try. She took Star off to a corner away from the other dog students, sat on the floor, then proceeded to trim each and every nail with no problem whatsoever. After that, I was able to do it myself. Don’t know what that was all about, but you might consider trying to get your pet sitter to try? Good luck.
That’s very interesting! I definitely think anything is worth a try, so next time she comes over we just might do that!
Groovy Goldendoodles says
I like that – “take it slow” so important. With Harley, he seems to like learning something new a lot better when I talk about it aloud. I know it sounds crazy, but if I resemble an infomercial while I’m teaching, he seems to be calmer with my voice. #gofigure So sweet that your friend got to cuddle with Luke, she looks to be enjoying his company as much as he does hers! Good job my friend.
You are so right, Cathy, my friend was definitely enjoying Luke’s company….she is a true dog lover.
I might try talking to Luke just a bit more when training, who knows, maybe it will help!
Alix Mitchell says
You and Luke are both making great progress! It’s so exciting to see them come along that sometimes it’s hard for me to handle my excitement when I know I need to stay calm. Buster had the same nail problems. I trimmed and handled him, but once we boarded him for our honeymoon, he was never the same and didn’t let me do that stuff. With lots of cheese and patience after about 7 months, my husband and I can trim all of his nails super quickly. Good luck, and I hope it keeps going well!
Thank you! I am going to remember to be patient and not to rush it.
One time I got so excited when Luke responded to “here” when I called him (he was distracted and I didn’t think he would). I praised him so much, he got totally wound up and out of control, and tore around the house like a crazy dog! LOL….I apparently need to tone down my enthusiasm!
Christina Berry says
Sounds like Luke is coming right along! If meeting new people one at a time is what works for him, then so be it. Baby steps, I always say! Keep up the great work!
Thank you! I am really learning how important those baby steps are. We don’t have a lot of company, which really makes things go even more slowly, but that’s OK. This step was important because we needed another person that could care for the dogs when we go away.
Kim Mangrum says
I loved this post. I am working on two pug puppies to get them trained and used to people. My little girl Olivia (7months) hates having her nails trimmed. It is a process. I had a great groomer that could do it no problem but she has moved boohooo my heart. I would love to be able to do them myself and I am working on it but still no luck now searching for a new groomer I trust and that can handle her. She is only 13 lb pug but when you start to cut her nails she becomes this WCW wrestling Champ I no one can believe.
It took me a long time to get comfortable doing it myself, and I still don’t trim them as short as I should. But I’d rather do it more often than make them bleed, which is not fun!
I can’t imagine how much a little pug can probably squirm! It took me a while to get our beagle Cricket to settle down (and she still struggles some). She’s 22 lbs but seems like pure muscle at those times!
Oh that’s so awesome!! I love it when our hard work pays off and we discover something new that works with our pets.
I’ve worked hard with Delilah on having her feet handled (she has some scarring from her previous life) and she’s very good about it. She’s also seeking out attention (finally) and all of this came from being patient and using positive methods. It does work, but sometimes we just need a little help in figuring out what we need to do.
Patience is not my strong suit, but I have a feeling I will be learning to have far more now that Luke is in our lives. That’s a good thing! That and just learning to adjust when things don’t go right. The rewards are well worth the wait!
Had a great time with you and all your fur babies, Jan. Luke is a total love. 🙂 I was happy that he took to me so quickly. He’s a great snuggle buddy. I think all of your hard work with him is paying off.
I really enjoyed our visit, Sheryl, and it made my heart so happy to see him snuggling with you! I appreciate the fact that you helped us with him, and knowing that you’ll be able to care for him next time we need you!
M. K. Clinton says
It looks like you and Luke are making an excellent team! I think Luke has accepted Sheryl into the pack! BOL!! I can’t cut Bentley’s claws, but the vet does a great job. They are too thick and black for me to attempt to cut them with confidence.
I have trouble with my hands, so I can’t really do Sheba’s very well anymore, because she has those thick ones. Cricket’s I can though. They all seem to have some of the black ones, so I only take off a very small amount. But that means I have to do it more often.
Luke definitely accepted Sheryl, and that’s so exciting! He’s expanding his horizons. 🙂
Yvonne DiVita says
Nail trimmings were always a reason to be worried, back in my veterinary tech days. Most of MY dogs have allowed us to trim their nails at home, but I often let the vet do it, anyway. It can be stressful and I’d rather have them stress out with the vet’s office, than with me. I wonder if that makes me a bad mom.
Oh, I don’t think so, not at all. You do what you have to, to get it done. Sheba goes in for grooming anyway, every 3 months or so, and I only do hers in between that maybe once. All of our dogs have always let me do it, even though not thrilled. Luke is the first to really resist. I wouldn’t hesitate to take him somewhere to have them done, if he wasn’t so afraid of strangers.
Beth | Daily Dog Tag says
Sounds like Luke is making some great progress! Poor Theo hates to have his nails clipped and the last time the vet did it, he ended up with three bleeding nails. I think I have to find someone new to clip his nails!
You would think the vet would do a better job, wouldn’t you? Or maybe they just don’t panic when they clip too close. The time I did it to our beagle Kobi, it didn’t bother him a bit, but it sure bothered me!