Handling

General husbandry treatments including checking their coat, ears, eyes, bottoms which can get matted if they have a thick coat, paws for general mats or foreign bodies, taking their scruff for vaccinations, lifting tails. Later you can include equipment such as brushes, tick removers, syringes, toothbrush, towels, harnesses, muzzles, medical collars etc

WHAT DO YOU WANT PUPPY TO DO?

To be accepting and relaxed about being handled over its whole body

WHY

You must invest time in this as too many dogs suffer fear issues due to a lack of focus in this area and certainly should be of higher importance than some of the other areas you will be worrying about. You need to invest time and effort in building confidence in this area and it should continue as your puppy is maturing and going through different stages of adolescence.

HOW TO TEACH

Start this very gently using classical conditioning which is forming a positive association with handling by pairing it with something good, in this case food.

Prepare some nice food either in a Kong or use a squeezy tube of paste designed for dogs.

  • Lure the puppy into a good position which enables you to access all areas of their body

  • Start by placing your hand gently on puppy and allowing them to begin licking at the

    food

  • Run your hands gently over their bodies, collect information as you go

    If puppy stops licking then you may have found an area, they are not so happy for you to touch. Stop what you are doing and give the puppy a few seconds to return to the food source. Check that the food source is providing them with food, and they haven’t just stopped as you forgot to squeeze the tube, or the food is too tough to get out of the Kong. You are collecting data from your puppy which gives you all the information you need about how to progress the training and at what speed you can progress.

  • Restart in an area they are happy with and slowly build up to the area where they stopped licking. You can shorten the duration you stay in this area which will make it easier for the puppy

  • Incorporate some of the things a groomer or a veterinarian might have to do with puppy. Lifting tails, lifting lips, holding paws and locating a claw ready to be clipped, checking the coat thoroughly for foreign material

I would encourage you to do this daily and as puppy is getting used to the handling increase the pressure you use in your hands. Remember there could be groomers and veterinarians who are heavier handed than you, so puppy needs to get used to this.

This is a technique I use for early veterinary visits and the groomers. I take puppy hungry and arrive 10 minutes prior to the visit so I can ensure puppy is calm and relaxed in the waiting room and over any stress from the journey before entering the examination room. I am armed with a meal’s worth of high value healthy treats ready to ensure I can make the visit as positive as possible, using distraction mainly in early visits. I am not keen for my puppy to run around and explore on the floor prior to being fully vaccinated as this is obviously a place for sick dogs as well as those having routine treatments.