Handling: Prepare puppy for vet exams and grooming

Once your pup is calmly accepting of brief, gentle touches, it is time to start working on helping them to enjoy handling which more closely resembles a veterinary or grooming exam. Not only will this endear you to the pet professionals who assist you in supporting your pup’s well being but, these daily exercises will make life with your dog safer and more enjoyable for family and friends.

Practice gently manipulating your pup’s paws, ears, and mouth in exchange for their food. List an ear flap, offer a treat. Pick up a paw and gently examine in between the paw pads, offer a treat. Lift up your pup’s lips and offer a treat. Gradually increase the length of time you spend on each body part prior to offering the treat when your pup’s body remains relaxed and their demeanor calm.

Introduce your pup to his brush by letting him sniff it and then offer a treat. Gently touch him on his least sensitive area (usually chest or side flank) and offer another treat. Make a gentle stroke with the brush and treat. Repeat in brief sessions of no more than 3-5 minutes. These mini-grooming sessions set the stage for future calm, safe, and stress free sessions, and also provide vital bonding between you and your dog.

Practice in different areas of your home and consider purchasing a rubber bath mat which can be placed on an elevated surface. Start with a low table and gradually increase the height off the ground while making sure your pup is safely restrained. This will help your pup become comfortable with veterinary and grooming tables. Additionally, be sure to make plenty of visits to both professionals for the sole purpose of giving your pup an opportunity to become familiar with these environments while being rewarded with treats, praise, and play.

Andrea Arden is an animal behavior counselor, rescuer, author, speaker, and a resident pet expert on the Today Show. For more information, check out her website, AndreaArden.com or read all Project Puppy installments.