Skip to main content
San Diego Humane Society

Puppies: Introducing Body Handling

Handling is one of the most important things to work on with your new puppy while they are still in their critical socialization window (between 8 weeks and 16 weeks of age). By teaching your puppy to be comfortable with handling when they are young, you can help prevent issues that may arise when they are older. Always keep in mind that touching your puppy should be something they really enjoy. The goal isn’t for your puppy to tolerate handling, the goal is for them to love handling.

Five-minute sessions just a couple of times a day is all that it should take. By putting in the time with your puppy while they are young, you will help set them up for a variety of life experiences that otherwise might be challenging or scary for them.

How To Do It Edit section

Sit on the floor and begin dropping a few treats near you so your puppy can find them. This will convince your puppy that being near you is a great thing! Their only job at this point is simply to eat the treats, so it is best to not ask them to do anything. Once your puppy is lingering near you for more snacks, begin your handling.

Use high-value treats (cheese, hot dogs, chicken) to help condition your puppy to love having their body handled; your puppy should have the choice to participate in training or not. We want them to truly enjoy the experience and not be forced to participate.

Identify a part of the body to work on first. It is always best to start with something easy and gradually make things more challenging. For example, to get your puppy to like having their ears handled, start with touches to the side of their head. You’ll present a treat, and once they begin eating, touch their ear. You’ll want to keep your touching hand on their ear until they’ve finished the treat, then you can take both hands away.

As your puppy gets the hang of the game, you can make the steps more difficult. For instance, after an ear touch, you might try flipping their ear over (if they’re floppy enough to do so). Repeat each step 4-5 times before moving on to a harder step. You want your puppy to feel comfortable and happy before making things harder. If your puppy seems scared or upset at any time, simply go back a step and do more repetitions before making things more difficult. Keep sessions very short (5 minutes) so each session ends on a good note.

Always allow your puppy to leave if they are feeling uncomfortable with any of this training. If your puppy seems to be getting more sensitive or growls, snaps or cries at any time, stop what you’re doing and reach out to a trainer/behavior consultant.

Handling Techniques in Action

Want even more? Check out the Community Animal Training Team's YouTube playlist on Body Handling for Grooming & Medical Husbandry

Additional Training Edit section

Did you know that we offer training classes that focus specifically on these skills? Our 6-week Cooperative Care & Handling class is offered over Zoom and is appropriate for dogs and cats of all ages. In addition, our foundation classes for dogs and cats of all ages introduce the basics of body handling and some limited basic husbandry skills.


Behavior Helpline: Contact Our Behavior Team

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within seven days, but responses may take up to two weeks. Thank you for your patience!

Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, but it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Please visit our website for a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961. 

View Training Classes   Gift a Training Class


Resource Center Our Programs and Services Educational Resources


  • Was this article helpful?