Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Training is for the Life of Your Dog

I don’t want to sound like Debbie Downer, but let’s face it, dogs are sentient beings who think and feel. Therefore, sometimes when new experiences are thrown at us, we are reminded of what we need to work on the next time it happens.

I learned a new training exercise for me when I took Tristan to the vet for his annual wellness exam today. He’s always been a bit shy and squeamish when it comes to shots and bloodwork, so I was prepared. I had treats for us to play a Find It game while waiting for the vet and vet tech (to get him relaxed and in a jovial mood). Plus, I brought a container with some peanut butter (natural kind of course!) to have Tristan lick from my fingers while the vet and vet tech did their business at his back end.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that I would need to pick him up to get him on the examination table. He’s a 45 lb. cat. Okay, he’s really a dog. But he’s so lean and flexible I swear he must have been raised by cats while out on the streets the first year of his life. Because he’s 45 lbs. I don’t typically lift and carry or hold him.

He was in a sit position and I bent down to pick him up and hold him like a baby, with head over shoulder. After a few seconds of that, he squirmed and contorted and eventually wiggled his way out of my arms and onto the floor. Whew! No broken legs. But, boy do ‘we’ have something to work on.

After a few moments of gently coaxing and persuasion, with heart rate down for both of us, I did it again. A whole lot quicker this time and got him on the table with a glob of peanut butter for him to start licking before he knew what was going on.

Pretty much smooth sailing after that; got him back on the floor as soon as the blood was drawn and shots given. My vet and I chatted for a bit and Tristan just lay quietly on the floor. Bygones!

Guess what I’ll be working on with Tristan (and the rest of the dogs)? Holding and picking them up, but it will be in short successful stages. The end result… to love being a baby in mom’s arms.

It will be a very similar process to what we did with Katja and nail trimming. That used to be a full week process. Now, easy peasy. Time us! I bet we can do it less than a minute AND she enjoys it.

First, we put treats around the nail trimmer and let her get used to the device. Next, we moved the trimmer next to her paws and opened and closed it. Treat! Then, when she was comfortable with the moving of the nail clipper near her feet, we trimmed one nail and treat. Tada! Session done. She lets us handle her paws, so that wasn’t so much of an issue.

Each day we would do a nail or two with lots of treats and happy talk. And end it at that, just a nail or two. From there we would build up to an entire paw. WooHoo!! We were almost home free at this point. Sure, it may have taken a month of what seemed like constant nail trimming, but this is a dog who needs her nails cut several times a month because they grow so fast.

It takes an initial investment in creating a nurturing, positive experience with stressful tasks. But, it’s well worth it when you think about it. Dogs will need their nails trimmed and bodies examined for the duration of their life. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if it was a pleasant experience for both you and your buddy?


  1. Much different result than when we saw a breeder put a half nelson on our corgi pup to hold him and do nails... he was terrified of the process forever!

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