Sulu is an 11 year old black pug who has a wonderful story to tell about the power of positive reinforcement and low stress handling techniques.
Sulu first visited Riverside on an emergency basis to treat a torn toe nail. Sulu was given some sedation and pain control which allowed us to clip the remaining bit of nail and cauterize any bleeding. A few short months later Sulu had another torn nail that had to be removed under general anesthesia. Even though Sulu’s family regularly got his nails trimmed he still managed tear them and had to undergo two difficult procedures. To add insult to injury Sulu already had a high degree of anxiety over getting his nails trimmed and the nail trauma did little to help him with the stress.
After the torn nails were dealt with, it was still part of his regular “pug maintenance” to have his nails trimmed as often as possible in a continued effort to minimize tears due to long nails. We enlisted the help of one of our Registered Animal Health Technologists specializing in animal behavior (Denise) to look for a way to reduce the stress and counter condition Sulu to be more comfortable with this procedure. Denise comments “Sulu’s owner called with definite trepidation about booking a nail trim due to Sulu’s negative reaction to previous nail trims and recent foot trauma. I decided to employ some very basic low stress handling techniques to see if we could change Sulu’s view of his visits here.” In getting to know Sulu we learned that he really loves food! As demonstrated in the video below we used very minimal manual restraint by his owner and trimmed his nails peacefully and positively while feeding him treats. Using Sulu’s love of food we were able to change his view of nail trims and vet clinics from a “place of stress, pain and fear” to “vet clinics dispense liver treats!” and he now comes in excited to see us.
Click the link below to visit our Youtube channel and watch a recorded nail trimming session with Sulu:
After introducing the “Sulu Protocol”, as we affectionately named it we have had great success trimming Sulu’s nails and apply these low stress handling techniques with many other pets. Denise adds “It is our goal to help our patients enjoy their visits. Using low stress handling techniques we can find smarter alternatives to manual force that involves understanding how animals learn which helps us find ways to change their behavior by changing how they feel.”