Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yay! Celebrating Puppy Progress

It's the little things, isn't it? The things that make us happiest are such insignificant little things by some standards, but when measured with the heart, they are huge. Little things like realizing your puppy is thriving, and feeling safe with you mean so much.

For a long time, I've worried about Bristol's happiness. My handsome, silver puppy had always seemed so serious, almost austere, until recently. We've been seeing subtle changes. Even Chuck, who once said Bristol looked inscrutable, commented that he seems pretty happy now. Bristol wags his tail during play, and when waiting for us to feed him. He runs to me when I call him, and leaps up on the couch to sit by me. Bristol snuggles close when we're sitting, and he's my shadow when we're in the kitchen, lying at my feet while I prepare meals. One thing I love is that he sometimes looks like he's smiling.

Never mind that it's usually after he and Sami have been playing hard, and his tongue is hanging out, panting like crazy. (This phenomena is probably similar to mothers of newborns who say their baby is smiling, and their visitors are thinking, "It's just gas.") Is he happy, or just exhausted? I'm the puppy mama; I'm going with happy. 

Bristol's biggest fear is nail clippers. The first time he had his nails clipped was at the vet's office. Bristol SCREAMED, and every time after that, if he saw me with the clippers, he would scamper away. 

One time, Chuck held him for me, while I barely managed to get the trimmer in place, but neither of us could stand listening to his crying, and seeing how much he struggled to get free; he seemed traumatized. We needed to get creative.

Frustrated, I tried trimming just one nail at a time while he slept, but he always woke up, and I think he began having trust issues with me. He seemed to sleep lightly, and any time I made an attempt to use the trimmers, he would curl up in a ball, and turn away from me.  

Finally, I decided we needed professional help. No, I didn't consult with a puppy psychiatrist; I took Bristol to "Clean as a Whisker" in town. The technicians are so good at what they do. The ladies made a big fuss over him, and when it was time to trim his nails, Bristol stood on the grooming table, clipped to a short leash, while I let him lick a Kong filled with his favorite yummy liverwurst. He slowly licked his treat, and whined softly a few times, but they clipped his nails, and filed them, in less than five minutes. Who would have thought a successful nail trimming would be such a big deal? I was so impressed. 

You can bet we celebrated after our visit to the dog salon. Bristol got a hug and a treat while I told him what a good boy he was. I was so happy that he didn't seem traumatized by the experience. He didn't like it, but he didn't hate it. We celebrated his baby steps of progress.

Celebrations at our house can be as simple as "Good puppy," but usually it's a combination of praise, pats on the back, and a kibble or two. I may or may not have done my happy dance on special occasions. 

Celebrating good behavior has rewarded Chuck and me with peaceful dinner times, better-behaved puppies, and loving little companions who seem to like to spend time with us. We try to notice the good things they do because you know what they say; you get more of what you notice. I'm paying attention to the good stuff because I want more of that!

Sami is our good girl.


  1. They are so cute.

    Last week, we took our Laydee to get her nails trimmed. My husband came back,from paying for it, and the tech said,Laydee nipped her. So we are banned from this place, we have taken her to, since she was 8mos old. Bummer.

    1. Oh, that is so sad! I hope you find a technician Laydee likes soon.


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