Caring injured paw/reactive dog
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Thread: Caring injured paw/reactive dog

  1. #1
    Member mandasannie's Avatar
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    Caring injured paw/reactive dog

    Hi everyone. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here but I knew if anyone would have advice for me it would be this group.

    Today my dog Ellie (half Australian cattle dog, half ?) was on our cement patio and she ripped her nail off her front paw. I was out there but didn’t see it happen, I am assuming it got stuck in a crack. Her nails are due for a trim but they aren’t terrible. Anyway the poor girl has her entire quick exposed. Took her to the vet and they cleaned and bandaged it. She has pain meds and antibiotics.

    Ellie is very reactive when it comes to her paws and always has been. I’ve tried counter conditioning for years with minimal success. So now with it injured she will bite at us when we have to care for it. Our yard is soaked with rain and snow so it has to get bagged when she goes out. We will also need to change the bandage daily. Any suggestions on how to keep her dry? Quickly tape a bag, big boot? Again she is extremely reactive. I think we will have to muzzle her to change the bandage. It just makes me sick at the pain and stress she is going through. 😞 She needs a bandage for at least a week and it will take around 6 weeks for the nail to grow back.

    Thanks for reading and any advice you have for us.

    Ellie - DOB 7/28/14

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: Caring injured paw/reactive dog

    Not a vet. But I'm wondering if the vet can just sedate her once, trim the quick off (so it's more of a stump than an exposed pulp), and have the entire thing grow back slowly but in a less sensitive way? I don't even know if that's a possibility. I've just heard of some nail injuries where the vet takes more off, and some injuries that are left to heal.

    Also ask the vet if there is a care approach that doesn't require bandaging. Maybe if you can leave it exposed but keep Ellie on very limited exercise (which could be facilitated with medication for the short term too) for a few days, you can get through with less handling.

    The other train of thought is the "less is more" approach. What if a helper fed her a stream of treats, or had her lick peanut butter or canned food off a plate while you quickly did her bandages? I had to get a bandage off a shelter dog the other day. My colleague who's a dog trainer thought the dog would bite and we had no qualms about muzzling but decided to try a force free approach first. I opened a can of cat food and let the dog lick out of it. My colleague pulled the bandage off the dog, and that was that. I worked with a cat today who is so fractious that she's behind locked doors; she's broken skin through handling and somehow I had to get her into the crate. I was reaching for the falcon gloves and towels, then remembered it wouldn't hurt to try a hands-off method first. I opened a can of cat food and put it in the back of the crate. After some hesitation, the cat went in and that was that. I'm not saying luring will work. But it's worth trying. And if you try, use GOOD stuff. Not just plain training treats, but like... ground beef, canned cat food, etc.

    Goes without saying, I'd recommend starting her on desensitization and counter conditioning asap so that in the future things will be easier. Best of luck!
    Soro - 4.22.06 - retriever/X
    Braeburn - 1.29.17 - Dutch shepherd

  4. #3
    Member mandasannie's Avatar
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    Thank you. The vet did mention trimming back the whole quick, but said that would also be very painful. They seemed to think it would be less painful for her to let it heal this way.

    I will call tomorrow and inquire about handeling her care without the frequent bandage changes. That is a helpful idea. She is very good about down time during the day and I have some old treat puzzles I plan on getting out and have ordered new for some low impact stimulation.

    She has allowed my husband to bag her foot, but I know her and I’m sure she can’t tolerate much more. Maybe we can try the really special food to get the bandage off and work in steps. I suppose it doesn’t need to be a quick change. Give her rest without it on before putting the new one on.

    Do you have any resources or suggestions for counter conditioning? I am at a loss of how we will ever get past it now with this injury. I soo want to help her.

    Ellie - DOB 7/28/14

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  6. #4
    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: Caring injured paw/reactive dog

    The basic premise of counter conditioning and desensitization (DS/CC) is:
    1. The trigger/stimulus (your movement/touch towards her paw) is small enough that your dog does not find it aversive. (desensitization)
    2. The trigger/stimulus is immediately followed by a reward. It doesn't work if the reward comes before the stimulus. (counter conditioning)
    3. You gradually repeat, increasing the intensity or duration of the stimulus but always following rules 1 and 2.

    Where a lot of people fail is they don't truly do DS. Here's a random video as an example. Disclaimer, I have no idea who this person is, through a very quick browse I think she has some cool stuff (and this vid is almost a decade old). But for the sake of pointing out subtlety this is a great video. Overall, I think the person does a pretty good job with HER dogs, and the emphasis is what works for one dog is not what works for another:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5Kvv8Wxp-A

    Look at the dog's body language during the following paw touches:
    :22 - dog leans body slightly away
    :33 - lip lick
    :42 - dog leans away, paw lift, lip lick
    1:15 - slight paw lift
    1:19 - slight paw lift
    1:43 - major paw lift. The trainer actually did the right thing, which is see that the dog is stressed and move back a few steps.

    I'm not saying any of this is bad. Some dogs can tolerate slight levels of stress but still make progress because the motivation for food is greater than aversion to slight handling, especially if it's built up like this over time. But it depends on a dog and most people will do something like grab a dog's paw even as the dog is showing clear stress or avoidance behaviors, feed the dog a treat, and claim they are doing DS/CC just because the dog took the treat. It's not as simple as that.

    Around 3:14 the person writes that she avoided the problem (paw handling sensitivity) entirely by just doing it a lot with her other dog. It's awesome that it worked for her dog and truly the second dog in the video shows great tolerance and comfort to handling. That's wonderful. But 'just do it when they're puppies' is also not DS/CC. I know plenty of dogs who have had (harnesses put on, paws touched, nails trimmed, etc.) since they were tiny puppies and they still have severe fear or aversion to those actions.

    My favorite DS/CC protocol is to teach the dog a 'start' and 'stop' behavior. Kind of like a dentist saying to a human patient, "Just press this button when it's too much and I'll stop." Someone I know taught her dog to put his chin on the ground, so the dog is calmly lying on his side with his head down. She will dremel his nails but if he slightly lifts his head, she will stop doing it. This way the dog controls the training session, which is just a fancy way of saying: keeping the dog below threshold. The hard thing with traditional DS/CC without the start/stop is even when DS/CC is done correctly, the dog may still be accumulating stress (ex. doing great for 4 minutes and then not tolerating it anymore, suddenly failing after doing so well, etc.). The other thing is with traditional DS/CC, you are moving at the snail's pace (like in the video), and you are kind of just hoping that repetition after repetition, you are pushing enough to make progress but not too much to stress the dog out. By adding the start/stop behavior, you can actually make a huge leap of progress if the dog is feeling it that day, because the dog will tell you. There is also the idea that when given a choice (ex. the dentist example) the patient will hold out longer. This is different then just deciding it's time for a DS/CC session and just doing it. Makes sense logically, but think there is a scientific study on this; I'll need to check. The dog I am mentioning is a remarkable success story. He has a bite history from his handling issues, and had a traumatic experience, needing to be muzzled for nail trims at the vet. The fact that I was sent a video of this dog chilling on his side with his nails being dremeled after the fact is just a testament to how well the owner is doing with him.

    I jumped off the deep end into training theory land. So I hope some of this makes sense and is helpful.

    TLDR: DS/CC is easy to understand and hard to implement.
    Soro - 4.22.06 - retriever/X
    Braeburn - 1.29.17 - Dutch shepherd

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    Member mandasannie's Avatar
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    Thank you for taking the time to explain it thoroughly and find a video. Ellie is doing way better than expected with letting us bag her foot before potty breaks. Our biggest challenge now that her bandage is off is keeping her from licking it. She does everything she can to rip off e collars. Monitoring her tonight with nothing on.

    Ellie - DOB 7/28/14

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