Happy Puppy Care

By Vidhyalakshmi Karthikeyan

Teaching your puppy to enjoy being handled is so important for their welfare.

Puppies will have hundreds of daily interactions with us throughout their lifetime; like having their collar and harness clipped on and off, having their nails done, being brushed, and having small wounds cleaned up and cared for. They are also bound to need to see the vet or receive some medical care at some point.

It is entirely within our ability to make all those experiences wonderful so that our puppies look forward to their everyday maintenance and care for the rest of their lives. Think about never having to worry about giving them a pill or cleaning their ears! Imagine if your adult dog asked to have their nails done instead of hiding when you brought out the clippers! Fear of handling is a thing of the past. The vet and the groomer do not have to be scary places at all.

All of that is possible through carefully structured, highly positive experiences. Every time you clip the collar on, give them a treat. Teach your pup to walk into their harness, rather than you having to push it over them. Leave the clippers out or the ear cleaning solution open as you do other training or just go about your day to allow them to get used to the sights and smells of grooming equipment. Teach your pup that every single time you pick up the clippers, squeezy cheese rains from the tube directly into their mouth. It won’t take long before they become excited when they spot you bringing out your nail care equipment!

Ask a friend who visits you to help you teach your pup about handling. Ask them to touch your pup in the places where they already enjoy, usually starting with the shoulders or the chest, and feed your pup as they do so. Ask them to then touch your pup along the back, on the legs or peep into their ears for a second while you continue to associate each of those movements with great treats. Toss some treats away from the two of you for your pup to search and find. Wait for your pup to come back to you for more handling training. Keep it short. Quit while you’re ahead.

If your pup hesitates to be touched, he might show it as follows:

  • Walking or backing away
  • Having ears back
  • Showing the whites of his eyes
  • Shifting weight back
  • Excessive panting
  • Pushing your hand away with his muzzle
  • Growling or snapping

If any of these behaviours happen, stop, and think why. Take things even slower and teach your pup that your hand simply lifting towards him predicts treats or play.

Also consider how you can break up whatever happened immediately beforehand into much smaller steps and turn that hesitation into optimism, usually by associating those increments with something totally amazing like squeezy cheese or a game of tug.


Husbandry training is vital for a dog. Having a pup is like having a clean slate. The more proactive you can be about teaching them that handling beyond everyday petting is fun and something to look forward to, not just something to be endured until it’s over, the better quality of life they will enjoy as adults.