Training premises for your anti dog nail trimming anxiety training
The basic principle of clicker training is creating an enjoyable, playful training situation for the dog by the use of positive reinforcement, rewarding and enforcing good behavior and ignoring unwanted behavior (from a human perspective, of course :). If your dog feels challenged and entertained by the training, like you guys are playing a game, that’s where you want to be with her in clicker training.
Also always be prepared for taking baby steps.
This may require some patience at first, or sometimes A LOT. But you will be amazed how huge the steps can be every now and then, when the both of you have a breakthrough. Also never underestimate your Bull Terrier. Just because it looked like she just did not get it today, that does not necessarily mean she really didn’t. She may already surprise you tomorrow.
If not, maybe it is necessary to modify your steps a little bit, for example break them down into more small phases, to better communicate to her what you want her to do.
I have to admit that I do not consider an anti dog nail trimming anxiety session as the ideal very first clicker training session. Although clicker training is really no rocket science, trying to do everything right at once may be a challenge at first.
Did your very first lesson of driving a car feel like controlled chaos?
Well, then you get the picture of how this can make you feel: dealing with your Bull Terrier trying to nip or even bite you, remaining calm, watching the treats (at some point your dog WILL get interested in that yummy smelling bag or cup :), holding the paw, finding the quick fast and then cutting, clicking instantly, rewarding and calming your dog down – Yep! all that with only two hands and one brain.
Therefore if you have never done clicker training before, I would recommend to waive the clicker at all for this time and not bother with handling it. It is likely you don’t even own one yet, anyway. Just use your treats and maybe a “marker word” and my other tips.
It is wise to familiarize yourself and your with that kind of training, before trying more advanced lessons such as anti dog nail trimming anxiety training.
Besides you getting it all together, another good reason is that if your dog is used to clicker training, she will be less likely to just walk away, if she does not understand what you want from her or if she is becoming nervous.
What you really don’t want is to force your Bull Terrier to stay with you. Your goal is to get your dog wanting to stay on her own, because it’s fun for her to be around you and positive things happen in your presence.
I know, this essay is all about that mysterious clicker training so far. And now I am telling you that if you have never done it before, you should not use the clicker for anti dog nail trimming anxiety training. WHAAAT?
Good one, ha? 🙂
But here’s the good news: This article may still be helpful for you, you will also get by without the clicker and you can try the tips.
Instead of the clicker, like I said, choose a “marker word“.
A hearty “YA!” can do the trick. It is only important that the word is pretty distinct and you do NOT use it all the time in everyday life. ONLY for the training. Try to pronounce and emphasize it the same way as much as possible every time you say it.
If you choose a word you always use in everyday life, it will completely confuse your dog. Shouting “GREAT!” when your Bull Terrier does something right, but also when your husband suggests to go to the movies tonight, doggie will not know, when you talk to her and when not. Therefore reserve your special word for training only. This like the distinct noise of a clicker will be your positive indicator for your dog that she has done something right!
Note: Please be aware that my tips CAN fail! I cannot guarantee for EVERY dog and I can not take over responsibility for you trying my advice! The dog nail trimming anxiety may overwhelm your Bull Terrier and she may seriously try to bite you. If that happens and you can’t manage to calm your dog down, if you experience growling and aggression, please STOP the training immediately! Your dog clearly is not able to handle her fear in this situation and may hurt you, because she does not see another way to evade the situation.
Dog nail trimming anxiety comes in different levels. If your dog does not make ANY progress at all, maybe it is just time for some professional help from an experienced dog trainer. Please don’t be disappointed in your dog. I am sure your Bull Terrier loves you to pieces – she just needs to learn how to handle her fear better than through aggression.
What the fun are negative and positive indicators?
Always a good preparation for the clipping is to eliminate negative indicators and bad associations. This will help a lot to reduce the stress for your dog during nail trimming in the first place.
A negative indicator or bad association would be, for example, the muzzle I discussed before when this is only used during nail clipping. Another negative indicator could be only touching your dog’s paws for nail clipping.
If handled like this, pretty soon your dog will associate: “arrgh, nail clipping!” when you just touch her paw or put on the muzzle and maybe get stiff already.
We will kind of do the same with our clipper later in our training session.
You cannot eliminate all negative indicators at once in one or two training sessions. So it is a good idea to use natural situations without any connection to the trimming for the elimination.
For example, many dongs do not like to have their paws touched. Of course this can set the first barrier for nail trimming.
To get her used to have her paws touched, just touch them frequently during play and cuddling. Pet them, later hold them for a moment, gently isolate the toes. Just let her get used to being touched there without anything else happening – especially NOT nail clipping! And, again, use tiny steps.
Just in case you consider using a muzzle: I would recommend NOT to use it ONLY for clipping. Rather get your dog used to it in very short sessions (first only a few seconds, then a minute and so on) over time and use it on different occasions. If you don’t need or want to use it in public, then do it only at home. It doesn’t matter, because for now the only goal is to avoid creating an indicator for the clipping. Reward and praise for acceptance.
Ok, we’re ready to start. Read on about how to perform your anti dog nail trimming anxiety training on the next page.