It is Critical to Handle Your Puppy!

Not everyone is cuddly.

Some people are; some people aren’t.

Some babies are; some aren’t.

Some dogs are; some dogs aren’t.

Some puppies are; and some puppies aren’t.

Just because an adult, baby, dog or puppy isn’t cuddly doesn’t mean something is wrong with them; they aren’t bound to be serial killers.

Sometimes we are just too busy to sit still.

And, some people and critters like their space.

I must admit I am on the “not” side of cuddly.

I like the occasional cuddle with someone or something I love, but I also like my space. I also tend to get arms and legs that go numb after a brief time.

And for whatever reason, it totally creeps me out when someone falls asleep on me and starts to twitch… I don’t understand it either… but it is a thing for me ha ha!

Not All Puppies Like to be Handled

So it is important to note, not all puppies like to be handled.

You may have picked out the “cuddliest puppy” of the litter, only to find that by age 12 weeks your puppy has no desire to sit or lie down anywhere near you!

The good and bad news is that one is not necessarily contingent on the other.

A cuddly puppy doesn’t mean you will have a cuddly adult dog.

And, a cuddly adult dog doesn’t always come from a cuddly puppy.

We are all individuals, and that includes your dog.

We all like different things.

It is fairly normal.

But All Puppies Should Learn to be Handled

But all puppies should learn to be handled.cute puppy

There is a 90-100 % chance that at some point in your dog’s life you will have to handle your dog in a way he won’t like.

He will need a nail trim.

He will need his ears cleaned.

He will need his teeth brushed (yes, you should be brushing those daily!).

He will need a bath.

He will need to be groomed.

He will need to be restrained at the vet.

After all, life is full of things we don’t necessarily like.

I don’t particularly love going to the doctor for an exam either but I am thankfully at an age where I don’t usually need to be restrained.

And, I was taught at a young age not to need restraint then either.

I have a friend who’s 10 year old had to be held down by several nurses as he was given a shot.

If I had been the parent of a child without disabilities I would have been horrified.

I believe the same principles apply to your dog.

We should begin teaching our puppies when they are young to tolerate touch, restraint, being picked up and manipulated in ways they wouldn’t typically enjoy.

Do It While They are Young

I start almost as soon as I bring my puppies home.

I trim nails.

I clean ears.

I restrain them longer than they desire.

I bathe them.

And, when they have puppy fits, I don’t stop.

If you let your puppy go when he screams, growls or threatens to bite then you are teaching him that throwing a fit is what you want.

I often reward AFTER and if I have a skittish puppy I will reward during.  But I don’t want to get into a habit of needing to always reward while I do something.

Because the truth is, my puppy or dog may be hurt at some point and I won’t have a treat on my body.

Instead, my puppies and adult dogs know that after I am done they will be richly rewarded.

And, I Learned

And, I learned “the hard way” about picking my puppies up.

One of my first puppies HATED being picked up!

He hated it so much, he would jump to the second level of crates where I worked.

He would jump up on the table at the vet.

And, he jumped on the xray table at my vet hospital when I worked there.

He always hated being picked up.

But, as with any dog ownership, there were times I needed to lift him.

I wish I had forced him to put up with it when he was a puppy but I didn’t.  He allowed nail trimming, restraint and everything else, but he hated being picked up.

I now make sure that picking up my puppies and adult dogs becomes normal to them, because at some point in their lives, there is a very high likelihood that I will have to do it in the future!

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  1. I found what you said about rewarding AFTER the activity worth trying out. I have a girl who HATES the dremmel. Everyone else in the house is fine with it but her. I often reward DURING the activity but maybe this is rewarding bad behavior? I will try out your suggestion this week and let you know.


  2. Good, if not GREAT instruction. The picking up &
    “handling” applies to kittens so they will become “cuddly”
    Charlie Bogert


  3. Carolyn Robillard says:

    I wish I had known this two years ago! We have two Bullmastiffs, sisters from the same litter, who are on completely opposite poles, one is a trail blazer, one is afraid of everything, she even runs and hides from the cat.

    We just had to bring one to the vet because of a severe infection…thankfully it was the trailblazer…she stood quietly for the obviously painful exam, and impressed the vet, who holds a generally negative view of Bullmastiffs; I don’t know why, because when I researched the breed before we got our first one, everyone agreed that the breed wasn’t known to exhibit aggressive behaviour.

    All that to say, the other dog would have reinforced the vets view, because I let her alone when she exhibited fearful behaviour, instead of training her to deal with it.


  4. Lynda says:

    Excellent article on this subject. Wish my dog had been trained this way. She wasn’t mine as a puppy. She will yelp like we are hurting her if try to do any of the above to her. Yelping will turn into warning biting. Never sure what to do when she escalates this way.


    Minette Reply:

    sign up for aggression coaching course (which should start soon) and it will help you work on this. email dana at and she will get you enrolled.


  5. Pat says:

    Jilly learned to be handled by me and by other people at the vet’s puppy classes and later at training classes. She hated being picked up. She wasn’t cuddly as a puppy but she’s a very cuddly adult dog.


  6. Lynn W. Jackson says:

    Famtastic article! Snickers wasn’t a cuddly puppy, which really broke my heart. But he is SO cuddly as an adult, it’s difficult to get him off of you! He despises nail trims (most pugs do), so I have his nails trimmed at the vet’s office. He is great about ear and teeth cleaning because he learned as a puppy it was part of his daily routine. Thanks for your tips!


  7. Andrea says:

    Great points. As for the children….I’m a nurse. A lot has to do with prepping your child in a level they can understand. When my son was 3, he had to have a small growth removed from his cheek. I completely prepped him on every single atep, including the needle stick and that it would hurt. I told him it was ok to cry but no matter what, he had to be still. They called in all the nurses and aides and had both me and his dad help hold him down. He cried but didn’t budge. They were all amazed, saying they were done in the amount of time it usually took to hold a child down. Obviously, you can’t have a conversation like that with your dog but prepping, training do make a huge difference for your dog and all concerned.


  8. Cuzzy says:

    We have had our dog for 3 years. We got her from a rescue and she is terrified of everything. She is okay with touching her, brushing her, trimming nails, etc. but anything like picking her up, cleaning ears, or bathing is very traumatic for her. So, to be honest, I just don’t do it. For bathing, I just get wet washcloths and “pet” her with them, but that is scary for her too. She gets scared if anybody has anything at all in there hands near her. Any advise?


    Minette Reply:

    at some point you are likely to need to handle her. Don’t avoid it, slowly train for it


  9. Marie says:

    Love, love, love the Cam Newton comparison!!!


    Minette Reply:



  10. Jane says:

    My puppy is 11 months old – feisty little neutered cocker spaniel. Is it too late?


    Minette Reply:

    never too late


  11. joan says:

    I wish the first owner of my 4 year old dog did at least some of those things. Grooming at the groomers is impossible.She gets half a groom and we walk her on sidewalk to get her nails down.


  12. Mary-Ann Ollis says:

    Excellent article as usual. Chiki was well trained when I got her from the breeder. But we still have a bit of a ring around roses when I want to lift her up she is now 14 months.


  13. Vickie Smith says:

    I have a Shtuzi puppy, she is a funny eater. She likes to be groomed but picking her up she doesn’t like it unless she wants it. It’s to late now huh? She is almost 2.


    Minette Reply:

    Never too late!


  14. CHERYL says:

    I have Dobermans and mini Poodles 2 of each. They came to me from a shelter and anyone that knows Dobermans, they are a very nervous, dog. I could not Hug Freddy, The 2 yr old Red Dobi….He was way too nervous and always had to have a paw on top.!! We practiced daily, and at the same time I was teaching him “head down” meaning to put his head down so he would relax all the way…
    During my “Hugging” training I did receive some good bruises and one black eye !!! Freddy is 100 pounds of (Get me out of here) lol..
    Well I am happy to say, that not only can I hug Freddy , we can now CUDDLE <3 !!!!
    Be persistent and you will gain their trust. I know have dogs that not only cuddle with me, and each other but allow the Cat "Birdy" to creep in amongst them to nap too !!
    Thank you for all your tips ! If it wasn't for reading all your tips and videos
    my family would not be so responsive to my commands

    Cheryl .


  15. cori says:

    Getting my dogs as rescues, I find brushing their teeth impossible :-(, our male is just over 100 pounds and does not like me touching his mouth. He use to let me open it if he got something he shouldn’t but lately that has all changed. I would praise/reward him whenever he allowed me. Not sure why that changef.


    Minette Reply:

    Because you were taking things that he wanted out of his mouth. In order to teach a possessive dog to give you an item you usually have to replace it with a better item.

    Imagine I come you your work, and hit you in the face every pay day. You want your check right? So after that you are either going to avoid me, or prepare to war with me.

    This is kind of how the dog feels, but if I gave you 3,000 for your 1,000 check you would be happy to see me take it right?


  16. Talla says:

    I have a one year old, 5 pound Mi Ki. He he is sweet and lovely, totally obedient. but he does not like to be picked up. or stay in my arms. He sleeps with me and every morning that he wakes up, if I touch him he growls at me, and even if I move my hand close to him , he looks very angry and tries to bite me. Some times he lets me to touch him but sometimes he begs me to touch him, but when I put my hand on him, he bites me. How do I fix his problem with rewarding?


    Minette Reply:

    email Dana to enroll in our aggression coaching program


  17. Jean says:

    I have a 4 month old male GSD. How can I correct him from nipping and biting at me every time he gets frustrated with something? He also plays with his toys between my feet and uses that to move into biting/nipping at my ankles. He barks at me when he is biting/nipping at me. I don’t play with his toys with him anymore because he gets hyper and then he is at me again. We are the only two in the house, and I am the only one he does this to. With everyone else he is fine. He is fully housebroken and if it wasn’t for the constant nipping/biting at me, he is perfect. This situation is causing a serious rift in our relationship with each other. Can you offer any guidance or point me in the right direction to get help solving this problem? Thank you so much for any info or help you can provide.


    Minette Reply:

    I think puppies nip when they are bored and need exercise. Also read this


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