Working on handling with your dog is important. You want your puppy to cheerfully accept being touched by many different people (children, friendly strangers, the groomer, the vet, etc.) in many different situations.

How to Practice:

  • Work slowly. Do several short sessions every day.
  • Repeat each step many times.
  • You may find some areas where your dog is more sensitive to your touch than others.
  • Only move to the next step when your dog is comfortable with the current step. Look for a relaxed body, enthusiastic tail wags, no mouthing of your hand. Your dog should not try to avoid your hand but be eagerly awaiting a treat.

Tip! If at any point your dog pulls away, stiffens or growls, STOP what you are doing. Give your dog a break. When your resume your practice, start with a different area of the body and slowly work back to the sensitive spots, stopping just before she gets uncomfortable.

Handling Exercises:

Tail. Tails are magnetic to children; they simply have to grab those waggy things and pull. Vets need to lift tails for temperature checks.

  1. Run your hand down the tail. Treat.
  2. Run your hand down the tail, and then hold the tail for a second. Treat.
  3. Run your hand down the tail, and then gently lift the tail for one or two seconds. Treat.
  4. Imitate a child by gently pulling on the tail a little more firmly for two to three seconds. Treat.

Paws. Children like to pick up dogs’ paws to ‘shake hands.’ You have to be able to clip your dog’s nails, dry her feet when she comes inside after playing, and check for burrs. Do each step with all four paws.

  1. Touch a paw. Treat.
  2. Gently hold or cup the paw. Treat.
  3. Hold the paw for three seconds. Treat.
  4. Hold the paw and gently press as you would for nail trimming. Treat.
  5. Hold the paw and gently probe between the toes. Treat.

Neck. You and your family need to be able to grab your dog’s collar without startling her before she dashes into trouble.

  1. Reach out and stroke the neck. Treat.
  2. Reach out and touch the collar. Treat.
  3. Reach out and hold the collar. Treat.
  4. Reach out, hold the collar, and move your dog a step or two. Treat.

Head. Most dogs don’t like being petted on top of their head, particularly by strangers. Unfortunately, people are going to pet your dog’s head, sometimes without asking permission, so start practicing at home to make this experience more pleasurable for your pup!

  1. Reach out and lightly touch the head. Treat.
  2. Reach out and pat the head. Treat.
  3. Reach out and stroke from the top of the head down along the neck. Treat.

Ears. Ears dangle or stick up—either way, children find them irresistible. You have to be able to clean your dog’s ears, and a groomer might have to trim around them. Do each step with both ears.

  1. Touch an ear. Treat.
  2. Lift the ear. Treat.
  3. Lift the ear and rub it with light pressure. Treat.
  4. Lift the ear and rub it with a little more pressure. Treat.

Mouth. You’ll want to be able to check your dog’s gums and teeth, maybe even brush them, and the vet needs to be able to examine them thoroughly.

  1. Lift the upper lips. Treat.
  2. Lower the bottom lips. Treat.
  3. Fully open your dog’s mouth as if you were going to give her a pill. Treat.

Do this same sort of methodical practice over your dog’s entire body, noting areas where she is more sensitive to your touch. Remember to talk to your dog and praise her as you’re working together. Keep each session short and end on a positive note, leaving your dog wanting more cuddles and cookies!