How I outsmarted my mom

Dear friends,

My name is River, and I'm taking over the blog today.

Why? Because I outsmarted my mom, being too smart for my own good, and my story might help other dog moms and dads be very mindful about how they tackle an event that creates doggie anxiety.

Usually Mom is one step ahead of me. But, I took full advantage when she let her guard down.

First of all, I don't know how any dog can tolerate this, but I HATE getting my nails trimmed. My paws belong on the ground. Those nail clippers are so clunky and the sound of the metal coming down on my nail....ugh. I shudder at the thought.

But, at least I got my nails trimmed at the vet. Mom didn't do that scary thing to me at home. At least, she didn't use to.

An unforgettable experience

My story begins with cardboard boxes.

I don't understand why there are so many cardboard boxes coming into the house these days, but I can't play with any of them. Mom says they might be dirty so we have to throw them away.

One day, the most terrible things came out of one of those boxes. They looked like those things I only saw at the vet.

Nail clippers and syptic powder. I don't like those things at all.

The people at the vet would try to give me treats as they touched my feet and cut my nails with those terrible plier-looking things. There's also that yucky powder they sometimes put on my nail when the pliers get me. I never eat the treats until it's all done. I don't like anything about nail trims. Why was this stuff in my house?

I sniffed them, but they didn't smell like the vet's office. Strange.

I didn't know what my mom was saying all the time, but I watched her every move. She was doing some things differently, and she looked worried. She kept holding those terrible nail clippers and watching weird videos of other dogs getting their nails cut. And she and I worked a lot more on me tolerating my paws being touched. It took 2 years for me to let her put that awful, goopy paw creme on me. Yuck.

Then one day, Mom set up her phone on the tripod like she does all the time. I remember the house smelled divine. There was a gamey smell of lamb infused in the air, my favorite. I had been running to the kitchen all morning to check if it was ready yet. Sometimes my mom roasts a leg of lamb and shares it with me. She knows I love this. (I have expensive, picky taste).

But this day felt different, and I was getting suspicious. She had so much lamb made for me! We sat on the floor in front of the tripod, me laying on my mat, and the phone started to talk. My vet was on the screen. I'm not sure what they were talking about, but then, Mom picked up those nail clippers.

Oh. That's what all of this was about.

Since I've been watching her every move, I l knew EXACTLY what she was going to do. So, I ran and hid under my mom's desk. She threw hunks of lamb in my direction in her happy voice, but I didn't care. I stayed put, staring her down.

I knew the nail trim was coming. But, I wanted to avoid it for as long as possible. Plus, if I stayed there long enough, there would definitely be a jackpot pile of lamb by the end of it all.

After a very long time, Mom stopped throwing lamb towards me and instead made me come out from my hiding spot. I was very scared and got caught in a corner. It felt like an eternity standing there. My mom was holding my paw and she knows I don't like this. Finally, Mom cut a nail and started gushing over what a good girl I was.

This means I was done! One nail is all she is getting. So I ran and snatched up the giant hunks of lamb, gobbling them all up. But, I didn't forget...SHE CUT MY NAIL (yes, this is singular).

For the next few days, Mom would try to cut a nail after a walk, and feed me lamb. I loved the lamb. But the nails were so scary. I was always worried about when the next time she would cut my nails would be, and where it would happen.

Then a few days later, Mom set up the tripod and phone again. Since I'm so smart, I remembered that the last time this happened, I had to suffer through the horrible nail trim. Plus, she does this in all sorts of different spots around this room...basically wherever she can catch me. So I ran to the only place I knew nothing bad would happen. My crate. I love my crate and it's my safe place. This time Mom wasn't talking to the vet, but I stayed there until everything was put away. I didn't come out no matter what. The phone is so scary now and the room makes me nervous.

My advice to you:

I want to tell all the dog moms and dads to not touch your dog's nails. It's just wrong. But, my mom would say that it just has to be done.

My mom thought if she just kept working on me letting her touch my paws, that it would be okay. Since she herself was nervous about cutting my nails, she forgot that I'm brilliant and notice everything, and therefore forgot to make a good plan.

I admit, I'm slightly dramatic...screaming the first time I got my nails cut, and clippers weren't even next to my paw yet.

So, although I know that she's probably not going to cut my nails every time the phone comes out, I think I'll hold my ground in the crate and wait for the treats to accumulate. We now battle over anxiety in the entire living room, with the phone as the main trigger. I'm always on high alert in my own house now to make sure I can get ahead of the nail trims. The only obvious solution is to move to a new house...but my request doesn't seem to be heard.

If your dog already has a fear or anxiety over something, be really careful not to make it worse. If you HAVE to do something your dog doesn't like, make a routine out of it, the best you can.

I got the hang of going to the vet for a nail trim. This was my routine, and I knew what to expect.

My mom tried to cut my nails under the desk, on the mat, by the sofa, and finally by the wall. She had every intention of cutting my nails on the mat, but I wasn't cooperating.

I need a strict routine.

If you absolutely have to cut your dogs nails (or another equally awful thing), consider this:

1) Pick one spot to perform the undesirable thing, and one time to do it (ex. after a walk).

2) Set up your environment with everything you need. Your dog should not watch you get ready to perform the task. Anything your dog sees is fair game to become a trigger for anxiety over this undesirable event. (Ex. the phone is now a trigger for nail trims).

3) Bring your dog into the room, in one particular place, and do the thing.

4) Give lots of treats (maybe a leg of lamb and invite me over).

5) Don't ever do the scary thing anywhere else, and out of routine, or you're going to make your dog very nervous, like me.

The Coronavirus has changed the normal. This is the new normal, and now Mom has to help me get over my new fear of the phone and anxiety over the entire living room. She's also working on building my tolerance for my paws being touched. We have to work on it a little bit at a time.

I know Mom sneakily takes videos of me when I'm playing and distracted. But I don't voluntarily get in a picture's too risky!

Be really careful and thoughtful about how you set up a nail trim or other event you have not done with your dog in the home before. Know your pup. Make a plan, and keep a routine. Cooperation is not guaranteed, but a routine does help.

If you have the time, work on getting your dog comfortable with the handling skills before jumping in. But, if something absolutely must be done, think through all the possible fear triggers you could be creating. Try to avoid creating those triggers, or at least be sure that the possible trigger isn't something that will immensely affect your everyday lives together.

Looking back, Mom knows better. She should have cut my nails in the bathtub or somewhere we don't hang out all the time. But she was too worried about figuring out how to cut my nails to make a solid plan, and forgot that I could outsmart her. Hopefully by sharing my story, your dog's nail trims (or other scary event) won't be as terrible as mine!

Yours truly,

Dramatic-and-too-smart-for-my-own-good, River


Piper's Walk is a socially-conscious small business dedicated to the safety and well-being of all dogs.

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