Even if your dog loves to be pet and cuddled, they might still get nervous and hide when the time comes for an activity that requires handling. It takes one bad handling experience for your dog to develop body sensitivity and shy away from being touched, but it’s crucial that they are comfortable with handling. This will make grooming a much easier and positive experience for them, as well as let you brush their teeth, comb their hair, and inspect their bodies for ticks or cuts. All these activities are necessary to keep your dog healthy, so make sure you prevent body sensitivity from developing early on by teaching them how to enjoy being touched through handling exercises. 

It’s never too early to start handling exercises, and it’s best to start with your puppy as soon as they come home. Start by giving your puppy a body massage and as you do this, give them a lot of verbal praise and treat them with high value treats. If they begin nipping, treat them with one hand while massaging with the other so they get used to being handled without reacting with nipping.

During this time:

  • Place an emphasis on their paws. Stroke and squeeze their paws, inspect the bottom of their pads, look between their toes, and ensure you handle their nails to prepare them for nail trimming. 
  • Touch your puppy's tail and lift it. This will help prepare them for tail grooming and brushing. 
  • Stroke their body and inspect it as if you were looking for fleas and ticks. 
  • Touch their ears and mouth as well to prepare them for future ear cleanings and brushing their teeth. 

Do this several times a week and continue to treat your puppy each time with high value treats. Over time, your puppy will begin to learn that handling is a positive experience and not something to be nervous about. Once they are more comfortable with it, begin to brush their hair, clean their teeth and trim their nails. Start small and always give praise to make sure your puppy builds positive associations. Lastly, introduce your puppy to being handled by other people. They will be handled by strangers throughout the course of their life, so it’s important that they are not just comfortable with you handling them.

Paws tend to be the hardest place on the dog's body to get them used to handling, which as you can imagine makes it really difficult to cut their nails and take care of their paw pads. We love this video from Smart Dog University in handling your dog's paws. Trust us, paw handling is worth the time investment.