The bucket game

The bucket game

Even though I try to make the life of my dogs as pleasant as possible, there is one area that I could improve: nail trimming. They cooperate, I can trim their nails without problems, but they really, really, really don´t like it. They put up with it because I make them. Gently but firmly. With treats and praise, but still…they would choose not to participate if they could.

Am I happy with that? I was once. I’m not any longer. I’d like to think that I learn more and become a better dog trainer as the years go by, and now I see all around me new ways to train the dog (or any animal) to freely participate in and have control over “not so pleasant” procedures that need to be done. As the animals get a voice, the right to say “no” and to be listened to, things like nail trimming, ear cleaning, taking blood samples, vaccinations, and so on, become less stressful and the animal freely participates. It chooses to do so to get a reward. It’s in control.

Yes, I know this has been going on for a while. Sometimes my mind is sloooow on the uptake…But better late than never, right?

For those of you who have only a vague idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an explanation of what I want to train:

1. The Bucket Game

As explained by amazing Chirag Patel: https://www.animaltrainingacademy.com/podcast/training-tidbits/chirag-patel/

2. Start button behaviors

The podcast Drinking from the toilet is always worth listening to, here with two of my friends: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/hannah-branigan/drinking-from-the-toilet/e/51441310

And if you have no patience, here’s the quick version:

Bucket game (my version, not exactly as described by Chirag)

  1. Teach a trick, like “put paw on hand” (or look at a bucket of treats)
  2. Add duration.
  3. Add distractions.
  4. Add touching paw, nails, pull on nails.
  5. Add do the same with a pen.
  6. Add do the same with nail clippers.
  7. Trim one nail.
  8. And so on.

The important thing is: she is free to remove her paw at any time, and that makes me stop. She is in control. If she doesn’t put her paw on my hand at all – we don’t play. Again – she gets to say when, and she gets to say “no”. It’s up to me to do this in small steps and make it rewarding.

Start button (again, my version)

  1. I show clippers – she looks at clippers – click – she gets a treat. We get a rhythm going.
  2. I interrupt the rhythm. She does something – anything. Clippers come out – click – treat. The behavior she chooses is her start button behavior. When she does that she tells me she is ready for the clippers.
  3. We build a chain. I put a treat on the floor. She looks at me > I put out my hand. She gives her paw > I pick up the clippers. Her paw stays put > I continue. She removes her paw > I stop.
  4. We build new chains for different procedures. Lift back paws, put head on chair (ear cleaning), put top of nose in my hand (check and brush teeth). And so on.

My spread looks like this:

We’ve come a bit further than this, I’ve started to pull on her nails a bit.

The training looks a bit like this, so far:

It’s really interesting to work with! For both of us, I think. I’ll keep you updated on our progress.

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