Sophie and Her Toe Nails, 12-1-13

I don’t often post about Sophie, my foster dog. She’s six and a half and I’ve had her for about eight months. She appears to be a Border Collie crossed with an Australian Cattle Dog. And like many dogs, she doesn’t like having her feet and toes handled, much less having her nail trimmed. But those nails are way too long. Long nails impact on posture and overall health.

I’ve been trying to work on getting her to let me trim her nails since I got her, albeit not very often and not regularly. This is one of those cases where less is actually more and shorter, more frequent sessions work better for both of us.

But in the beginning, I’d sit on a step in my kitchen, with a bag of treats around the corner of the door way and Sophie would sit in front of me. She’d offer a paw, which I’d hold gently. I would click and treat and try to slowly but inexorably raise the criteria. Sometimes I could get the clippers near a nail and trim a tiny bit off. I also tried a Dremel since one of my last dogs preferred the Dremel to clippers. But Sophie doesn’t like either one. I’m tempted to get some really good files and try that. But I haven’t done it yet.

On the advice of a distant trainer friend, I’ve changed a couple of things in my approach. First, we do it on the couch. I’m more comfortable and Sophie likes the sofa. She spends a lot of time sleeping on it. Second, if she takes her paw away, I quit training. The last two sessions have been extremely short as she took her paw away after only three or four clicks. Oh well. Party’s over!

Tonight, I was able to do several 10-treat sessions on each foot. She’d offer a paw into my flat, open palm. I started with just clicking and treating for her leaving it there. The clippers were in my lap. Then I let it go. If she offered again, I put the clippers in the same hand holding the paw (open, flat palm). Ten CTs. Let the foot go. If offered again, I picked up the clippers from my lap even in height to her paw in my hand. Ten trials. Then let go. Then ten trials of touching her foot with the clippers. That was on the left front, which I’ve done far more work with.

The right front went about the same, except that I had to slice it down more between lap and touching. But considering that the last two sessions were extremely short, I’m really happy!

Then we quit and I gave her a handful of treats in my palm while holding the clippers and then a small handful on the floor.

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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