Teaching a fearful dog to like nail-trimming – **Positive reinforcement, force-free training**

Hello everyone This is Rosie
Rosie is my dog who we rescued about a year ago She came from a very abusive situation When we got her home, she had a large cut on her neck she’s very fearful of strangers she had a lot of insecurities she has slowly gotten over some we’ve had her for almost a year one of the things I have been trying to teach her is just the handshake that you teach dogs she’s also terrified of anybody holding her paws or having her nails trimmed and that’s a big issue when we take her to the groomer it’s stressful for her, it’s stressful for the groomer so I am trying to teach her
through a process called counterconditioning she is conditioned to respond to objects like this like the nail trimmer if anything comes close to her paws, especially she is afraid and she runs away so what I am trying to teach her,
and we have already started this process I am trying to teach her that actually this is awesome, this is fun and the way you do that is by the technique called counterconditioning where you associate a tool like this with good stuff, in her case, it is going to be food this is just her every day food, she has finished most of it there’s just a little bit left but that’s what I use to train her because that really helps I’m going to show you the process One of the things we are struggling with is just her trusting to give her paw to me and keep it in my hand We’ll see how that goes Alright Rosie… hey leave it! Good girl! Shake As you can see, she hesitates tremendously she doesn’t want to do this this is incredibly scary for her Shake! Come on Yes! So, she pulls back her leg but she’s letting me hold it a little longer What she is doing is protecting her paws by placing her face on them You know what I am lying down now, I cannot really do what you want me to It’s a very scary process for her one of the other things we have been working on is counterconditioning with this What I do is, I just start it and the minute the sound starts, she gets a treat so what that does is, she associates the sound with food which is something good the other thing I have been doing
is touching her paw with it she flinches and tries to take her paw away what I want her to do is stay there Yes! The ‘Yes!’ means I like what she is doing and that she gets a treat as you can see, I am not touching the dog there’s no leash, there’s no prong collar there’s no choke chain All it is is, if I touch this, Yes! and she does what I want, she gets a treat if she doesn’t do what is expected of her she doesn’t get a treat That’s it There is no punishment, there is no yanking there is no yelling Either she does it or she doesn’t she gets power, she chooses to do what she wants and she will get a reward for that depending on what she does Yes! to give you context, when we started this process yesterday, when I touched her, she ran away and hid in her bed as best as she could so she’s already made a lot of progress One other thing that happens with nail trimmers like these is they create a vibration To get her used to that, what I am doing is instead of directly starting the trimmer I am just tapping her nail with it and she is learning to tolerate that However, if I put this away and say, Rosie Shake! you can see she is still very averse to anybody holding her paws she is terrified of that Okay, come here come here… Yes! sit shake YES! Good job! When I started this process,
if I held her paw, she would scream Good job! what about this leg? so she’s a little more sensitive with her right leg and she does not give it to me, I have to take it from her and you can see she is kind of uncomfortable but she is dealing with it Yes! Good job! what a good girl! if you notice she touches my hand with her nose in the beginning, if I asked her to shake,
she would keep her mouth there the whole time worried about what I was going to do and ready to protect herself if I did anything Shake, yes!! Good job! She gave me her sensitive paw! she gets a big reward for that Good job! So that’s me saying, I really liked what you did with fearful dogs with dogs that have trouble trusting Oh good job! Look at you! she’s got the idea, she gets it She’s like if I let you hold me paw, I get food? I’ll do that! with sensitive fearful… Yes! What a good girl! But if you notice she kept her mouth there all the time with sensitive and fearful dogs punishment techniques often backfire Yes! Good job! what a good girl! so it’s very important to Yes! What a good girl! Look at you go! Shake. No, give me the other paw the other one okay Yes! Good job! It is very important to earn their trust, with fearful sensitive animals okay, I want the other one Yes! As you can see, she tries to pull it away but that’s okay, I’ll slowly extend the duration so I can hold her paw a little more reliably Hey, wait! shake Yes! Paw hold + trimmer! Yes! What a good girl! So that’s the first time we’ve done that and that’s a big step for her shake Rosie! so this is a tactic that dogs will sometimes use like, oh I hear something! she’s ignoring me because I just escalated things She’s saying I am not sure I am ready for this shake sniffing the ground, pretending to be interested in other stuff like us, dogs sometimes don’t want to deal with what is happening shake Yes! What a good girl! Good job! what I am going to do is, start the trimmer and give her the rest of the food she earned it Good morning everyone, this is session number 4 Rosie, sit! Yes! Good job! Good job, shake can you shake? come on Rosiekins, it’s okay No? Alright what about this? yes! yes! give me this leg! Yes! Yes! Good job! Good job! Good girl shake one of the things about dog training is it’s simple to teach a dog a new trick but if a dog has had a bad experience before it takes time and patience to help them understand that you are not going to hurt them that whatever we are doing right now is safe and that they can trust you Rosie, sit good job shake Give me this leg Yes! Yes! I know my Yes! is very high-pitched but that is to make sure that I distinguish it from just every day yeses so the Yes! I give to her when she does something right is very different shake as you can see, she is still struggling with it
it’s very difficult for her she’s trying to tell me, can we do something else? Rosie, come on, shake Yes! Good job! Good girl, Rosiebear! Give me this leg Come on Give me this leg Yes! Good job! Very hesitant, wanted to pull her leg away I am not sure about this
Sit Yes! To give you a sense of how tough this is for her her food is still here but she just left to go outside she’s drinking water but then she’s going and sitting in the sun there she goes so she’s not had her morning food much of it is still here she barely even ate half but it just got so overwhelming for her that she needs to go away from me and just take a breather but that’s what you are dealing with, with fearful dogs or dogs who have been through abuse clearly someone did something terrible to her but you can’t be upset, you can’t be angry at them this is just her trying to cope with what I am trying to help her with which is getting her nails trimmed and trying at the same time to deal with what may have been years of abuse so if she needs a break, she gets it Hi everyone, Rosie is back from her break That’s the thing I like about this technique, it let’s the dog choose what to do if it gets overwhelming, there is no leash restraining her or keeping her here she can go away, take her time, then she always comes back because she wants her food and she also enjoys training just that this part is super scary for her Yes! Good job! yesterday, she kept her mouth very close to the trimmer and my hand today she is a little more relaxed and a little more okay with not having her mouth right there Yes! and I am rewarding that with praise and food and attention That’s the great part about using positive techniques to train dogs the dog is in control, feels in control and therefore trusts you because you are not going to do anything that will hurt them and that builds a bond between people and dogs a lot faster than trying to use force or trying to use punishment or any other negative techniques that use choke chains or prong collars so I am a huge advocate for positive reinforcement training techniques that don’t use force because that’s the best way that dogs learn and it’s the best way to teach fearful, abused dogs we just finished training and she knows she did well so here she is, celebrating with her favorite and only toy the Tuffy I say only toy because everything else she destroys in 20 mins so nothing else has survived this is the reward you have after training a dog with humane, positive methods that empower the dog and encourage them to do what you want without using force. The dog is a much happier, calmer version than if we had used force or punishment I am now turning on the trimmer and putting it on her nails Yes! The trimmer is on and I am actually filing her nails I start the session a little slow so she gets the hang of it Yes! but you can see she is letting me hold her leg a lot longer she is not upset, is not trying to run away and in general she has improved a lot she does prefer one leg over the other but we’ll work on that Yes! Alright, we’ll do this paw here Yes! As you can see there is no hesitation, there’s no fear Good girl, puppy! Such a good job! Oh my goodness! So good!

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