Back at the beginning of October I wrote that my goal this month was to successfully trim Silas’s nails.
It has not happened.
This is not entirely from lack of effort, although I did flag a little mid-month. (We ran out of our A++ value cookies, and I was thwarted in replacing them.)
You know what the problem is? Silas is too smart for this game.
He’s perfectly happy to do anything involving the nail clippers, short of actual clipping. We worked through all of the following:
- Approaching me while the clippers are nearby
- Approaching me while I hold the clippers
- Him touching the clippers with his foot while the clippers are on the ground (foot targeting is one of the first behaviors he offers in a shaping session.)
- Offering me his paw while the clippers are nearby
- Offering me his paw while I hold the clippers
- Letting me hold his foot for moderate duration while I hold the clippers.
- Letting me touch his nail with the clippers
But the little rat is quite capable of believing both that “this is some bizarre but okay shaping exercise that involves the clippers as a prop” and “Hell, no, you are not actually clipping my nails.”
We’re in a vicious cycle now, where his nails are long and very sturdy, but probably also sensitive because they are too long and clack on the floor constantly. I broke down last week and trimmed a few of the worst ones on the front. At that point I realized that my clippers have gotten really dull and are squeezing his nails too much. (It also hurts my cause that I went ahead with the clipping, but I am only human and couldn’t take it anymore.)
So, the next part of our action plan, in a roughly chronological order:
- Acquire new clippers. (Check.) Repeat as necessary until I get a pair that’s sharp.
- Persevere with the non-clipping parts of the counterconditioning, even though they don’t seem to be adding up to real change.
- Make him a scratch board and see if I can train him to “file” his own nails.
- Think about my actual clipping mechanics and match them better with the counterconditioning sessions.
- Focus on clipping the tiniest possible amount, rather than actually getting them to a tolerable level.