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  • Writer's pictureNupur

DON'T TOUCH my legs, paws and nails!

Updated: May 21, 2023


Why is it that so many dogs hate having their front legs, paws and nails touched?

At college they suggested it's a evolutionary hangover from the days when dogs were wolves. In the wild, front legs and paws are used to eat, defend and attack, so having no control over them makes a dog feel highly vulnerable.

Sometimes it could be because of previous bad experiences. If a dog has been reticent to have its nails, paws or legs touched in the past, then maybe other, previous groomers restrained them, or forced them to be groomed to get the job done there and then, without understanding the negative long-term consequences. (the dog will resist far more the next time, and begins to loathe going to be groomed if it happens repeatedly.)

Regardless of the underlying reason, the answer is always counterconditioning. I was trawling YouTube for some good videos and found this great one.

Why I rate this video

It's been created by a professional behaviourist who clearly knows her onions. She has:

  • Provided all the important information we need in order to succeed at counter conditioning

  • Explained how to start by building association with a marker (a clicker, or a word such as 'yes') and a positive consequence (a high value treat or attention) before doing anything else

  • Talked about why using high value treats to begin with is important

  • Used a great quote: "buy a roast chicken"

  • Demonstrated how to break the desired result into lots of baby steps to practice over time

  • Reminded us to start with something easy and gradually build up

  • Advised us how many repetitions to aim for...

  • ...and over what time period we can begin to see results

  • Shown us how to CORRECT unwanted behaviours. She calls this 'attitude.' I love this!

  • Told us to create a calm environment before beginning training

The best bit

She's serious about it. Her advice is practical and actionable. She manages expectations about what to do, and for how long:

“Counterconditioning doesn’t work if you just do it a few times. When you want to use a positive reinforcement method, we’re talking about hundred of repetitions to see a state-of-mind change”

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