I was going to write something about housetraining but I changed my mind.

I think it is much more important to write something about another aspect of raising a puppy.

Namely: the behavior aspects of your puppy.

Is your puppy scared to go outside ? Is your puppy wary of human touch?

Does your puppy not like to have certain body parts handled? Scared of noises?

Do not think for one second that your puppy will outgrow this by himself!

If your puppy is scared now, he will be increasingly scared if you are not able to change the emotional response to his fear triggers as soon as possible. Fear is not rational, no amount of reasoning can make any human or dog feel better about the fear trigger unless you are able to change the basic emotional response to the trigger.

Let us assume that your dog is scared of having his nails clipped. You give up because you don’t want to be the one who tortures your dog. You drop off your dog at the groomer’s to have his nails clipped. Now the dog is surrounded by strangers, lifted onto a cold metal table and held tightly by someone who is in a hurry and has been told (or not) that your puppy does not like having his feet touched, not mention the nails clipped. Your puppy screams as he sees the instrument of torture approach. Result: the groomer holds him even tighter or hangs him onto the gallows. Your puppy panics and starts to growl and snap: the groomer slaps on a muzzle. Now the puppy is totally paralyzed and defenseless and in  a high state of fear.  The groomer is kind of safe from bites and just has to deal with the twitching dog ( STOP!!! HOLD STILL!!!) who is desperately trying to protect his paws from the clippers.

The next time you go to the groomer the dog starts shivering as soon as you approach the place and does not want to walk in on his own anymore.

This kind of escalation is predictable.

In order for your dog to learn to tolerate, if not enjoy, nail clipping (or going outside where the noisy trucks are) requires work on an emotional level. Practicing sit, stay and come is not going to address your dog’s basic feelings about those things.

As soon as you get your puppy home, handle him. Take note of the things he really likes and use those to balance out the things your puppy finds objectionable.

Speaking of clipping nails: I recently was able to counter condition a dog who was so terrified of having her nails clipped that the vet had to tranquilize her to do the clipping.

This particular dog craves stroking and attention. I stroked her while touching her front paws with the nail clippers. When she withdrew her paw I stopped stroking her. When she presented the paw I kept stroking her. She caught on to this very quickly. After a total of maybe 30 minutes of this kind of work and paired with treats I was able to clip her nails. She is an older rescue dog. Nobody had taken the time to do behavioral modification with her when she was adopted even though she learned obedience.

And that is the point. Impulse control and behavior exercises should to go hand in hand with basic skills such as “sit” and “down”.





Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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