Updated: Feb 3
It is easy to teach puppies to be comfortable with necessary husbandry care, such as toenail trims, clipping, brushing, etc. if you listen to them and let them feel that they have some control over the situation.
On this ranch, I have a lot of demands on my time and tend to be task oriented. If I make the time to do grooming with one of the dogs, I like to be able to complete that project and cross it off my list. I have learned that mindset can cost me in terms of the trust my dogs have in me, so now I slow down and listen.
We teach the puppies to climb a ramp and be comfortable on our grooming table. They learn that good things happen there, and sometimes some worrisome things too, but the good things always outweigh the bad.
Sometimes trimming the toenails on one foot is all the pup will tolerate in one session. That’s fine because I am always training forward for the next session. A pup that has learned that I will change what I am doing if he needs me to will trust me with more the next time.
When you watch the video below, really look for the beginning signals the pup shows us as she becomes scared; we change how we are doing things and what her body looks like when she relaxes. Working with this pup was a tender balance because she is in her fear period.
This five-minute video shows our grooming process with a pup who is in her fear period.
This next pup we worked with is not in her fear period, so she sees her world through a different lens than the first pup, even though they are litter mates and have had similar experiences throughout our training.
In a day or two or three, the fearful pup will come through her fear period, which is more accurately stated as heightened sensitivity to novel situations, and be less challenged by experiences such as grooming sessions.