Prevention is Better Than Cure
~ Desiderius Erasmus
Handling your pup at a young age can make a difference between a puppy that nips at the hand for the sake of keeping others off it’s body VS enjoying being handled by their owners and by strangers, due to early positive associations.
This can be a life saver in the future, whether it’s at the vet during an emergency or just enjoying the daily routine of being cleaned and brushed at home. Everyone would definitely like to own a co-operative dog who doesn’t mind having his body touched.
Using small steps to introduce touch in a gradual method, always at the dog’s pace.
Creating positive associations with various types of touch, ensuring that the dog looks forward to it because it often leads to happy memories.
If your dog is one that would need regular grooming, it is advisable to find a groomer that you are comfortable with, early in your dog’s life. A simple puppy cut and bath would be a good way to have a short introduction to being handled by a stranger in a different environment. This builds up the experience in a positive manner, as the puppy has the opportunity to get to know the groomer without having the full blown regalia of a full groom. It always helps to stack up the positive experiences that the dog would have at the groomers.
Here are some things that you could start with your pup.
Paws, ears, eyes, brushing, lifting (body parts or the entire dog), having a leash and collar on or even just being rewarded for being held at the collar.
You can start out by simply reaching for your dog and saying "yes" and rewarding your dog. It typically takes several repetitions until your dog is relaxed and comfortable with handling.
If you have a shy or fearful dog, you can initiate this exercise by feeding and petting the dog simultaneously. This would avoid the dog from being surprised from your hand reaching out to touch it. Definitely a bonus when it comes to a mouthy puppy! For the first few repetitions, simply touch the puppy as the puppy is eating the treat to get rid of the puppy’s habit of opening its mouth.
If you start to notice that during the exercise that your dog is fixated on your hand that is holding treats and not paying attention to being touched, you can hold the hand of treats behind your back so that your puppy finds the handling the predictor of the reward, rather than just fixating on the treat.
Keep in mind, if the puppy is really intolerant to touch - always check in with your vet to ensure that there are no underlying health issues that may be causing discomfort to your pup. It is always good to clear
Ensure that your pup is calm and getting enough rest before starting these handling exercises. Puppies, like kids, can be cranky and nippy when they lack sleep. If you attempt the handling exercise when the dog is riled up, you are likely going to end up with a tons of scratches from an irritable pup.
Most importantly, always end these exercises on a positive note, to encourage your pup to continue wanting the touch rather than resisting it in the future.