Teach Your Puppy to Love Being Handled | Sirius Dog Training

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Teach Your Puppy to Love Being Handled

Teaching a puppy to enjoy being held and handled is SO easy and enjoyable. All you have to do is trade touches for treats and your pup will form a positive association with being handled.

They'll grow into an adult dog who is totally comfortable being touched by people, which will make grooming and medical exams and procedures much easier and more enjoyable. It can also be useful for keeping your dog safe and secure in emergencies or dangerous situations.

If you don't proactively teach your pup to enjoy being handled, there's a good chance that they will become fearful and hand-shy, especially around unfamiliar people. This will make trips to the groomer or the veterinary clinic much more stressful and scary, for you, your dog, and anyone who needs to handle your dog.

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The Basics

Simply trade touches for treats. Touch part of your pup's body, then give them a piece of food. Your pup will learn to associate handling with being fed, which will make them feel comfortable and happy about being handled.

Start Now

The sooner you start this process, the better. Puppies get progressively more fearful of new and unfamiliar things and experiences as they get older. If your pup seems completely comfortable being handled, that's wonderful, but you shouldn't take it for granted. If you do proactive handling with your pup, they will stay that way, but if you neglect these exercises, they will probably grow less comfortable with handling over time. 

Start at Home

It's essential that your up is totally comfortable being held and handled by you and everyone in your home, so that's where you should start. Everyone in your home should practice handling and hand-feeding your pup. You shouldn't stop there though. Next, you'll want to get your pup comfortable being handled by friends and family. The more people your pup is comfortable being held and handled by, the lower the chance that your pup will be anxious about being handled by a new, unfamiliar person, like a groomer or veterinarian. 

Use Food

With temperament training, you want to give a LOT of treats, so it's important that you are using a "treat" that is healthy and well-balanced. Use your pup's regular food for the vast majority of the "treats" that you give your pup during handling. You can feed your pup an entire meal this way, and give dozens, if not hundreds of pieces of food. Each one will help your pup feel more comfortable about being handled. This will work best if you avoid feeding your pup from a food bowl. If you let your pup eat freely from a bowl, it devalues their food so it has less of an impact in training.

Slow and Easy

If you ever notice The goal of this sort of training is to help build your pup's confident and ensure that they are comfortable. If your pup seems uncomfortable or fearful about being handled in a particular place, now is the time to address it. These hot spots will only get more sensitive and harder to handle as time goes by, but if you address it now, you can easily desensitize them. Be patient though. Proceed slowly and use lots and lots of food treats. If your pup is sensitive about a particular area, this may be a good time to use a few high-value food treats, in addition to their regular food. Take lots of breaks and give your pup plenty of opportunities to retreat if they are feeling uncomfortable. Don't give up though. If you don't overcome these fears now, they will only get worse.


Many dogs learn to dislike it when people take hold of their collar, and some learn to actually fear it. This can become a trigger for reactivity and aggression so it's very important that you actively teach your pup to LOVE it when people take hold of their collar. Practice taking your pup's collar over and over, and giving your pup a treat every time you do so, so they form a positive association. Make sure you practice with both of your hands and make sure you practice every part of the collar. Dogs are often less comfortable about being taken by the collar behind their head, and are most comfortable being taken by the collar below their chin. 

Eye Contact

Some dogs find eye contact to be threatening, especially when they are close to a person. Teach your pup to "Watch Me" on cue and then reward them with treats when they do so.

Ears (x2)

Practice handling and looking inside their ears. Make sure you handle BOTH ears and give treats when you do.


Most dogs will need to be restrained for a medical exam or procedure at some point in their life, either at the vet, or just at home so you can get a look at an injury or other issue, so it's well worth teaching your pup to be comfortable with this when they are happy, healthy, and relaxed, instead of waiting until they are ill or injured. The difference between a hug and restraint is often just a matter of perspective. Teach your dog to enjoy being held and hugged, and they won't mind when the vet tech needs to "hug" them at the clinic. Of course, it's also nice to be able to cuddle your dog! 


Practice looking inside your pup's mouth and cleaning their teeth. This is essential in case they ever have a dental problem and it's also a great way to help them maintain a gentle mouth. Make sure you give them treats after to help them form a positive association.

Paws (x4)

Some dogs are fine about having their front paws handled, but if you don't remember to handle their back paws they can become sensitive about them. Paw injuries are common and you have to trim your dog's nails so it's important that you teach your dog to enjoy having all four paws, and every last toe touched and handled.

Rear End

The area under the tail and between the legs is a sensitive area that may need medical attention some day, so it's important that your dog isn't anxious about being touched or examined there.  You don't need to touch or examine them extensively, but a gentle pat and a few treats will do a lot to help them feel comfortable if their veterinarian ever needs to examine them.