One thing about raising puppies to be service dogs: the surprises keep coming. We got one Thursday night, when we settled in to watch one of the few remaining episodes of Season Four of Game of Thrones. (We’re racing to get caught up before Season Five starts next month.) Steve and I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the TV set, but whenever we do, he seizes the opportunity to do some dog grooming. He brushes teeth, cleans ears, files nails. He started introducing Kyndall to this routine within days after we brought her home from Oceanside. She was doing fine until Thursday night.
Among Kyndall’s 5 predecessors that we’ve raised for CCI, we’ve seen some pretty terrible behavior: plant murder, rug destruction, poop eating, serial vomiting, and more. But all 5 pups learned to be angelic while being groomed. Some may have been a tad nervous initially, but all eventually acted as if having their molars scrubbed or their nails trimmed was as relaxing as getting a deep-tissue massage.
Kyndall seemed to be trotting down that same path, tail wagging. But Thursday night we sensed something was amiss when she shrank from accompanying us into the TV room. When Steve was ready to minister to her, she cringed; we had to haul her bodily into the cradle position. She didn’t seem to mind having her ears swabbed. But as soon as he reached for the toothbrush, it looked a bit like this:
She seemed terror-stricken. But why?
I have a half-baked theory: Behavior experts say that dogs tend to be more susceptible to fear at certain times during the first year and a half of their lives. The first such fear period is supposedly around the 2-month mark, and then another comes when they’re 4- to 6-months old. During these periods, the pup can get scared of “items, situations or people with whom they formerly felt safe,” one website advises. “They may start barking at people entering a house or become fearful and startle at benign items like trash cans, drainpipes or even yard gnomes….” Kyndall is smack in the middle of that 4- to 6-month segment, so maybe her little brain has become convinced that the toothbrush and dremel (nail file) are evil — likely to hurt her.
The experts advise being patient and trying not to make a big deal of the fearful object. So Steve backed off the brushing. I’m thinking of putting some peanut butter on it next time, to see if she’ll relax and lick it off. Steve didn’t even turn the dremel on; he merely touched it to her nails. Still… it seems so weird.
Frankly, I’m feeling desperate for her to get some major work done on those nails. She’s inadvertently scratched me several times in the last few days. Once again, I look like I’M the one being tortured.