Wiggling and not letting me touch certain areas of his/her body.
- Use high-value rewards or treats rather than using low value such as kibbles during handling exercises.
- Work as a team and have a partner such as a family member or friend to help you. The friend will feed the dog while you touch the dog.
- Use hollow bones, Kongs, or chew toys and fill tasteful high-value treats to keep your dog busy while you are handling if you do not have a partner to help you.
- If your dog is very energetic, try to be calm and soothing, do not excite the dog with your voice or movements.
Most common mistakes
Petting or handling the head and paws first
The head and feet are sensitive areas to most dogs, so it is better to leave that last. Start with sides and back.
Moving too fast
You may be handling and touching your dog in sensitive areas. Slowly work on handling and gentling those specific weak areas of the body first before moving to other parts of the body.
Signs to look out for that you are moving too fast:
- Your dog is avoiding eye contact with you
- Tries to pull away
- Squirms or backs away
- Yawns or licks lips excessively
Putting your dog down on the ground whenever he/she is squirming
Your dog will start to learn that at any point when they can bark, whine, or squirm in your arms, they can get what they want which is to be put back down on the ground. If you continue to let them down when they demand to be put down, you are accidentally rewarding them and they will continue to practice this behavior each time to get what they want. Always teach your dog that calm behavior will bring the reward such as being put back down on the ground.
Rewarding at the exact moment that your dog backs away
Wait a few seconds until your dog is calm and reward the quiet behavior.
1) Pick up, hug, or hold your dog in your lap, and gently pet. If your dog decides to whine, bark, or squirm to get out of your arms, then do not put your dog down. Even if it takes a few more seconds to wait till your dog calms and settles down, be patient and wait it out. If your dog shows calm behavior even for a single second, immediately mark the behavior, give a high-value treat, and reward by putting your dog down.
2) If you have a family member or friend to help you, it will help you work as a team. One person can be handling, petting, hugging, or holding your dog up, while the other person is feeding high-value delicious treats to your dog. This is called classical conditioning; your dog is putting the connection together that human hands are a positive association because he/she is enjoying being pet while eating tasteful treats. If you do not have a partner, you can fill high value treats inside a hollow bone, Kong, or a chew toy and have it between your knees to keep control of it. Get down to your dog's level and gently handle and pet at the same time that your dog gets to eat out of the chew toy. If your dog is calm and happy to be handled while eating the treats simultaneously, you can verbally praise while handling. Work on touching less sensitive areas first, such as the back, before touching paws or head. Don’t rush handling exercises and go slow.
3) Practice handling your dog daily and always make sure your dog gets every opportunity to have family, friends, children, and other strangers handle him/her so your dog can feel confident around humans and so you can prepare vet and grooming visits to go smoothly. As your dog gets confident with the handling exercise, practice handling for longer durations.