Puppies: Introducing Body Handling
Handling is one of the most important things to work on with your new puppy while he is still in his critical socialization window. By teaching your puppy to be comfortable with handling when he is young, you can help prevent issues that may arise when he is older. Always keep in mind that touching your puppy should be something he really enjoys. The goal isn’t for your puppy to tolerate handling, the goal is for him 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 he is young, you will help set him up for a variety of life experiences that otherwise might be challenging or scary for him.
How To Do It
Sit on the floor and begin with 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! His only job at this point is simply to eat the treats, so it is best to not ask him to do anything. Once your puppy is lingering near you for more snacks, begin your handling.
Use high-value treats (cheese, meat, chicken) to help condition your puppy to LOVE having his body handled; it’s important that the handling come first and then is immediately followed by a delicious treat.
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. To get your puppy to like having his ears handled, start with touches to the side of his head. You’ll touch the side of his head, wait a second, then give him some treats with your other hand. You’ll want to keep your touching hand on his ear until you’re done giving him treats, 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 his ear over. Try and accomplish each step 4-5 times before moving on to a harder step. We really want our 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.
Always be sure to allow your puppy to leave if he is 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.
Handling Techniques in Action
Want even more? Check out the Community Animal Training Team's YouTube playlist on Body Handling for Grooming & Medical Husbandry.
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 dog 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 email@example.com 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 7 days, but responses may take up to 2 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, it will also strengthen the bond you share.
Our website includes a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961.
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