Yesterday was a big day for Abey! And of course, the battery in my camera died a few minutes in, so I have absolutely no record of it…
Last night, during our nightly nail filing session, it “clicked” for him. I worked up to having him touch the board with it essentially vertical in front of him, and then I only rewarded a touch WITH movement. Didn’t have to be a full scratch – just had to be paw movement rather than just a touch. Then I started only rewarded for a scratching motion or for alternating paws. Then only alternating paws with a scratching motion. This is all with the board vertical, so he can’t really do much legitimate scratching and get any actual filing done, but it’s easier to teach the scratching motion while using gravity to our advantage. Here’s the video (until the camera died)!
Then, I put the board back on the floor and got him all excited with my voice and treats. He put both paws on the board, which he knows already, and when that didn’t work (no treat), he tried something else: he rocked back on his butt and started to pull his paws toward him. This is the beginning of a digging motion, so he got a treat party! I decided to end it there since 1. I got to the end of his dinner ration that I use for training, and 2. The session was already pretty long and I wanted to end on a good note.
Another breakthrough occurred later, while we were hanging out in my room. He was half-asleep, sprawled out next to me while I watched Netflix. I was handling his feet, and he was totally relaxed. He’s been really good about it lately, so I decided to try something new: I introduced the nail clippers. I let him smell them, touched him with them, tapped his little toesies… No reaction. Thank all that is holy that he doesn’t have any bad association with the tool itself. So I continued to handle his feet and worked in a tiny little nail clip on the very tip of one of his front nails. He kind of startled at the sound, but otherwise he had no reaction. Lots of verbal praise and petting, and he went back to sleep. A few minutes later, I did it again on a different nail on the same foot. Even less of a reaction to the sound. Same praise and petting… Back to sleep. Then I did one of the nails on his other foot – the right foot! He’s always had more of an issue with the right front than the left, but he really didn’t care about that one either! I left it at that for the night because, again, I wanted to end on a good note.
I’ll continue to slowly introduce the clippers while simultaneously working on the nail filing. Ideally, I’d like to clip his nails maybe once every few weeks and keep them in top shape in between by using the filing board.
I am so god damn proud of this dog. He has come so far! I’m glad that I have video documentation of his progress, even though I don’t really have much. I don’t see the progress on a day-to-day basis, but I can definitely see it on video when I go back and watch. The introduction of medication and my consistent, patient, positive approach has made a world of difference. I can’t wait to see the fantastic, happy, confident dog he is turning into.