Grooming, Handling, and Massage for Puppy
As with teaching any new skill, training your dog to accept and enjoy handling involves starting with small steps, rewarding the behavior that you want and practicing often in varied situations.
Begin by gently touching and stroking all parts of your puppy’s body a couple of times a day. Reward with praise and treats for calm acceptance. When your puppy lets you handle him all over (muzzle, mouth, ears, paws, tail, etc.) ask others, including your children, to do the same thing while you reward your puppy.
If your puppy has difficulty accepting your handling, if he struggles and nips when you try to touch certain parts of his body or when you try to hold him still, you will need to spend extra time on these touching sessions.
When your puppy begins to struggle or pull away be quiet and stop rewarding him. Hold on to him until he settles. Immediately praise, reward with treats and start touching again.
It can be helpful to have one person reward the puppy while another does the handling. The time that you spend now helping your puppy accept handling will pay off greatly in the future.
Grooming and nail clipping can be introduced the same way. Even if your dog does not have a lot of hair, get him used to frequent grooming sessions.
Grooming is more easily done on a table or other raised platform (if the surface is slippery, you can put a rubber bathmat or non-skid rug on top). This will also help your puppy become familiar with the exam table at the vet’s or the grooming table at the groomer’s.
Hold your puppy with one hand over his back and under his tummy and begin brushing. Praise and reward as long as he stands still. If he begins to struggle, be quiet, stop rewarding, and hold him until he settles.
If you are doing this alone, you can put a dab of peanut butter in front of him on a washable surface and let him lick it while you are brushing him.
When your puppy is comfortable having you touch his feet, you can begin to clip his nails, being careful to just take off the very tip. Treat and praise for every nail.
If your puppy is sensitive about his feet, spend more time rewarding him for allowing you to touch and handle them before you start clipping.
Massage can be very relaxing for both you and your puppy. It’s good for the relationship, it’s good for your health, and it keeps you aware of any changes in your dog’s body. Get yourself comfortable and start stroking your puppy with a gentle, circular motion. Keep your touch light and slow.
Start on a part of his body that your puppy likes to have touched and gradually move all over his body. If he is standing when you start, eventually encourage him to lie down. Work slowly until you can massage his belly, chest, legs, feet, ears, face, mouth and every other part of him.
Even very active puppies will soon begin to look forward to these sessions and this will become a part of your day that you will both enjoy.
Return from "Grooming" to "Puppy Training"