Teaching Your Puppy to Like Being Handled

Teaching your puppy to allow humans to touch, pet and/or groom her are extremely important lessons she needs to learn to be a happy and beloved member of the household. Getting her accustomed to these early life lessons will help lower the chances of her developing reactive or fear aggression problems in the future. Proper puppy handling will help build a calmness and confidence, which will allow her to be a very well-mannered and behaved dog.

The goal with all of the following puppy handling exercises is for your dog to think it’s pretty cool when people touch her. This will go a long way in helping your dog calm down on trips to the groomers, on walks, trips to the vet or just at home when company comes over. The important thing to remember when doing these exercises is that you do not want to overwhelm her.

You want her to like being petted, touched, etc… If you proceed too quickly or too roughly, she may, instead, want no part of the puppy handling exercises. Go slowly!

“Give her lots of praise and rewards, and she’ll love being handled as much as you like handling her.”

Perform puppy handling exercises daily. Always start slow at first. Touch each area for a second, give lots of praise and a reward. As you see that she is calm with you touching each area, try to hold these areas for progressively longer periods before you reward. If you notice that she is struggling with any of these, back off and try something a little less stressful.

Puppy Handling Checklist

Check her eyes Rear Left Leg and Paw Touch her neck
Left ear – Inside and Outside Rear Right Leg and Paw Touch her throat
Right ear – Inside and Outside Check her nails, in-between the toes and her pads Touch her collar
Lift her lips Roll her on each side and practice rubbing and massaging all over her body Practice Taking Collar Off and Putting Back On
Check her teeth Practice Grooming – One pass with the brush equals one reward Have other people touch your dog
Tail Open her mouth and touch her teeth and gums Practice grabbing, patting, and hugging her. Start slowly!!
Front Left Leg and Paw Open her mouth and place a small treat in Tug on her tail or an ear. Do things a young child might do
Front Right Leg and Paw Open her mouth and touch her tongue Practice picking her up (Lift within your means). Practice lifting her in car


Again, start very slowly and progress into longer, harder or more intense exercises. Try to build her tolerance of these things by making her wait longer and longer for each reward. By doing so, you’ll be on your way to a relaxed and well-mannered, happy dog.

Food Bowl Exercises

Food bowl guarding can be a serious problem, especially in houses with small children. Some dogs are incredibly sensitive when it comes to people being around their food while they are eating. Reduce the possibilities of your dog developing this problem behavior by teaching her, early on, that nothing bad will happen when people are around her bowl.

Start practicing the following exercises as soon as you bring your new puppy home:

  • Stand or sit near your puppy as she is eating
  • Talk to her, pet her and put your hand in the bowl as she is eating
  • Take some food out of the bowl and let her take it from your hand
  • Practice taking it away from time to time and adding a nice goody in it like a special dog treat or some really cool boiled chicken or maybe even some canned dog food
  • Walk up to her periodically while she is eating and drop a nice treat or two in her bowl and give her a pet and some nice praise
  • Have friends and family try the same exercises

The goal here is to teach her, by you approaching the bowl, or even removing it, she still gets to keep her food and even sometimes she is given something special.

Note: This guide is meant for puppies and younger dogs or adult dogs that do not have a history of food bowl or resource guarding.


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