Handle Me Gently

Teaching your BC to be still, calm, and patient while he is being handled is a very important step in your relationship. When you master this one, it will make life easier for both of you when at home, and at the groomer or vet. Handling also helps when there is unwanted or accidental touching and especially when dealing with small children who love to handle dogs in all sorts of unusual and not so regular ways. This one will take patience and a few tricks to get started. Remember, that it is important to begin handling your new puppy immediately after you find each other and are living together.

The sooner your puppy accepts your touches and manipulations the easier life will be for the both of you. Handling is needed for grooming, bathing, lifting, and affection, medical procedures, inspecting for ticks, fleas, and caring for injuries.

Recognize that muzzles are not bad and do not hurt dogs. They can be an effective device and a great safety feature when your dog is learning to be handled. Easy cheese or peanut butter spread on the floor or on the refrigerator door can keep your puppy in place while he learns to be handled. If your puppy does not like to be handled, he will slowly learn to accept it.

You must practice this with your puppy for at least one to three minutes each day so that he becomes comfortable with being touched. All dogs are unique and therefore some will accept this easier and quicker than others will. Handling training will be a life-long process.

With all of the following exercises, follow these steps:

– Begin with short, non-intrusive gentle touching. If your puppy is calm and he is not trying to squirm away, use a word such as “good,” “nice,” or “yes,” and give your pup a treat.

– If your puppy squirms, keep touching him but do not fight his movements, keeping your hand lightly on him while moving your hand with his squirms. Use your hand as though it were a suction cup and stuck to the place that you are touching. When he settles, treat him and remove your hand.

– Work from one second to ten seconds or more, gradually working your way up to touching for longer durations, such as 2,4,6,8 to 10 seconds.

– Do not go forward to another step until your puppy adapts, and enjoys the current step.

Do not work these exercises more than a couple of minutes at a time. Overstimulation can cause your puppy stress. Continue slowly at your puppy’s comfortable speed.

Handling the Body


It is a fact that most puppies do not like to have their paws touched. Proceed slowly with this exercise. The eventual goal is for your puppy to adore his paws being fondled. In the following exercises, any time your puppy does not squirm and try to get away, click and treat your pup. If he does squirm, stay with him using gentle contact, when your pup ceases wiggling, then click and treat, and release when he calms down. Each one of these steps will take a few days to complete and will require at least a dozen repetitions.

Confirm that you successfully complete each step and your puppy is at least tolerant of the contact before you go on to the next one.

Do each step with all four paws, and remember to pause a minute between paws, allowing your pup to regain his composure.

– Pick up your puppy’s paw and immediately click and treat. Repeat this five times and then continue forward by adding an additional one second each time you pick up his paw until ten seconds is reached.

Hold the paw for ten to twelve seconds with no struggling from your dog. Begin with two seconds then in different sessions work your way to twelve.

During holding the paw, begin adding the following.

– Hold the paw and move it around.

– Massage the paw.

– Pretend to trim the nails.

Side Note: Do not trim your dog’s nails unless you are positively sure you know what you are doing. It is not easy and if you are not properly trained can cause extreme pain to your dog.

The Collar

Find a quiet, low distraction place to practice, grab treats, and put your puppy’s collar on him.

– While gently restrained, touch your dog’s collar underneath his chin, and then release him right away simultaneously clicking and treating him. Do this about ten times or until your puppy seems comfortable and relaxed with the process.

– Grab and hold the collar where it is under his chin and hold it for about 2 seconds, C/T, and repeat. Increase the amount of time until you have achieved about ten seconds of holding and your puppy remains calm. Click and treat after each elapsed amount of time. By increasing the hold time by 2 seconds, gradually work your way up to ten seconds of holding. This may take several days and sessions.

– Hold the collar under his chin and now give it a little tug. If he accepts this and does not resist, click and treat, and repeat. If he squirms, keep a gentle hold on the collar until he calms down, and then C/T and release him. Repeat this step until he is content with the procedure.

Now, switch to the top of the collar and repeat the whole progression again. Remember slowly increase the time held and the intensity of the tug.

You can pull or tug, but do not jerk your puppy’s neck or head because this can cause injury and interfere with your outcome objectives of the training exercise. You can practice touching the collar while you are treating during training other tricks. Gently hold the bottom or top of the collar when you are giving your dog a treat reward for successfully completing a commanded behavior.


– Gently touch your puppy’s mouth, click and treat, and repeat ten times.

– Touch the side of your puppy’s mouth and lift a lip to expose a tooth, click and treat, then release only after he stops resisting.

– Gently and slowly, lift the lip to expose more and more teeth on both sides of the mouth, and then open the mouth. Then release when he does not resist, click and treat. Be cautious with this one.

– Touch a tooth with a toothbrush, then work up to brushing your puppy’s teeth for one to ten-seconds, and then later increase the time. Brushing your puppy’s teeth is something you will be doing a few times weekly for the lifetime of your dog.


– Reach around the side of your puppy’s head, and then briefly and gently touch his ear. Click and treat, repeat ten times.

– When your puppy is comfortable with this, continue and practice holding the ear for one-second. If he is calm, click and treat. If he squirms, stay with him until he is calm. When your puppy calms down, click and treat, then release the ear. Do this until ten seconds is completed with no wiggling.

– Maneuver your pup’s ear and pretend that you are cleaning it. Do this gently and slowly so that your puppy learns to enjoy it. It will take a few days of practice until your puppy is calm enough for the real ear cleaning. If your puppy is already sensitive about his ears being touched, it will take longer. See ear cleaning in the Basic Care section.

Proceed slowly at your puppy’s comfortable pace. There is no rush just the end goal of your pup enjoying being handled in all sorts of ways that are beneficial to him.


Many puppies are sensitive about having their tails handled, and rightly so. Think about if someone grabs you by the arm and you are not fully ready. That is similar to the reaction a puppy feels when grabbed, especially when their tails are handled.

– Start by briefly touching his tail. When moving to touch your puppy’s tail move slowly and let your hand be seen moving towards his tail. This keeps your puppy from being startled. Repeat this ten times with clicking and treating, until you notice your puppy is comfortable with his tail being touched.

– Increase the duration of time you hold his tail until you achieve the ten-second mark.

– Tenderly and cautiously, pull the tail up, brush the tail, and then tenderly pull on it until your dog allows you to do this without reacting by jerking, wiggling, or whimpering.

– Your Dog needs to be comfortable being touched on paws, ears, tail, mouth, entire body, and this should be practiced daily.


You must prepare your poor puppy to deal with the strange, unwelcome touching that is often exacted on them by children. Alternatively, you could just put a sign around his neck that says; “You must be at least 16 to touch this puppy.” However, it is very likely that your puppy will encounter children that are touchy, grabby, or pokey.

– Prepare your puppy for the strange touches that children may perpetrate by practicing while clicking and treating him for accepting these odd bits of contact such as ear tugs, tail tugs, and perhaps a little harder than usual head pats, kisses, and hugs. Keep in mind, as previously mentioned, puppies and kids are not a natural pairing, but cheese and wine are. Even a puppy that is good with kids can be pushed to a breaking point and then things can get ugly, and nobody wants that.

Always supervise children around your dog. ALWAYS! – It is a dog ownership law.

Lifting Dogs

An emergency may arise that requires you to pick up your dog. As you do these maneuvers, move and proceed slowly and cautiously. First, briefly put your arms around your dog and then give him a click and treat if he stays still. Increase the time duration with successive repetitions. Your dog should be comfortable for ten to fifteen seconds with your arms around him. Next, slowly proceed lifting your dog off the ground just a few inches or centimeters, and then back down. Each time he does not wriggle, click and treat. Increase the time and the distance that you lift him from the ground and then move your dog from one place to another. Calculate the time it might take to lift and carry your dog from the house and place him into your vehicle. This is a good time goal to set for carrying your dog.

Eventually, by lifting your dog up and placing him on a table, you will be able to prepare your dog for trips to the groomer, open spaces, or the vet. If you own an extra-large dog, or dog that is too heavy for you to lift, solicit help for this training from family or a friend. Gigantor may take two to lift safely and properly, or use one of the methods below.

Once up on the table you can practice handling in ways a groomer or veterinarian might handle your dog. This is good preparation for a day at the dog spa or veterinary procedures.

How to lift a dog

To lift a large dog properly, always start by approaching the dog from the side. Place one of your hands upon the dog’s rear end with the tail in the down position, unless it is a curly tailed spitz type dog that will not enjoy having its tail forced down. This protects the dog’s tail from being forced painfully upwards should your arm slip.

You should be holding your dog directly underneath the dog’s rear hips. Your other hand should be in the front of the dog around his front legs with your arm across his chest. Now your arms should be on your dog’s chest and butt area. Then gently press your arms together as in a cradling position and lift using your legs. The human’s body position should be that of having bent legs and crouching down so that the power in the legs is used to lift you and your dog upright. To prevent injury to yourself, keep your back as straight as possible.

Small dogs are simpler to lift and require much less effort, but still take great care not to inadvertently injure them. Place your hand in between the back and front legs underneath the dog’s underbelly. Supporting the rear with your forearm, additionally placing a hand on the dog’s chest is a good idea for safety in the event that your dog squirms when being lifted.

For extra-large or dogs that are too heavy for you to lift, purchase and utilize a ramp so that your dog can walk itself into your vehicle. This saves you and your dog from possible or inevitable injury. It is always best to use caution instead of risking a painful, costly, or permanent injury. Of course, you can also teach your dog to jump into the vehicle. Later when your dog becomes aged, you can then utilize the ramp.

Some large dogs can be taught to put their front paws up onto the vehicle floorboard or tailgate, thus allowing you to help push them from their buttocks and assist them jumping in your vehicle.

Never grab, pull, or lift a dog by its fore or rear legs. This can cause serious pain and injury to a dog.


– Get your puppy’s brush and lightly touch him with it all over his body. If he remains unmoving, give him a click and treat, then repeat. Repeat this until you can brush every part of his body without him moving.

Your puppy will become comfortable with all varieties of touching and handling if you work slowly, patiently, and with plenty of good treats. Handling training is a very important step in your dog’s socialization.

~ Paws On – Paws Off ~