In the past some people have expressed wonder why I spend as much time as I do teaching my dogs husbandry behaviors. Why I spend so much effort and time teaching them to be ok with nail trims. Or stand for exam. Or brushing. Or baths. Or letting me look in their mouths. Or their ears. Or lift up their tails. Why I spend time conditioning them to wear a muzzle. Or stand comfortably on a grooming table. Or tolerate a hair dryer. Or being towel dried. Why I set up an actual training plan for myself to progressively get any of my dogs over the years to the point where they have the safe coping skills to handle this kind of stuff. Why I don’t force any point of it. And do my utmost best to listen to my dog and what they are saying they can handle.
Yes it takes time. Often lots of time. And planning. And forethought. And progressive bit by bit steps. But experiences like this morning remind me why all of that planning and effort and practice and time are oh so worth it.
This morning we went for a woods walk. And a bit through the walk, while we were on a board walk over a stream I noticed Zora seemed to be gimping a bit. So I stopped her, picked up her feet, stretched her out, and then she seemed fine. No more limping. No easily visible cuts or thorns. So off we continued on our walk.
We get to the end of the walk. As I’m leashing her back up I go, “Why are your legs all red? Wait, why are you all bloody?”
She has a cut in her front paw pad with a lovely gash and flap of skin. Ok, great. And yet, she still isn’t limping. Or licking it. Or seeming upset about it in anyway.
So we get home. I lock her in the bathroom while I take care of everyone else so she doesn’t track blood through the house.
And then I give her a bath. And I wash out the cut. And I trim off the flap of skin. And I have her stand in a few inches of water and Epsom salts to soak it for about 10 minutes. And then I rinse her off again. And then I towel dry her. Then carry her to the basement, to up on the grooming table. Where I take the hair dryer and dry her foot off. To where I can bandage it. And vet wrap it. And put a sock over it. Give her a biscuit. And carry her back upstairs.
Through all of that she was perfect. No panic. No upset. No trying to escape the tub. No muzzle needed. Not even flinchy with her foot. Tolerated everything I asked her to. Let me handle her foot. Let me cut a freaking flap of skin off of it! Let me flush out the dirt. And all the rest.
Because I’ve taken the time over the past 2 years to ensure she trusts I would never intentionally do anything to harm her. Taken the time to build that trust. Through all of our training and practice and skill building. During every nail trim experience. Every time I brush her. Every time I try to honor the trust she and I have built.
So that when days like today happen. So that when days when I really need that trust happen. It’s there. And all can be well. With no trauma. And as little stress as possible. And a dog who still believes and trusts that I’m on her side and together we can handle anything.