Desensitizing your puppy to touch is the most essential exercise to do with your puppy and you should do this four times per day for the next week, then every day for the next 4 weeks, then every week for the next 4 weeks and then every month. Put it on your calendar!
This exercise is to desensitize your puppy to touch. This is so that if a child (or anyone else for that matter) ever surprises your puppy by grabbing or touching, the puppy will have a calm response and won’t turn and nip at the annoyance.
You may think to yourself that this isn’t necessary, but it’s essential, so please do it anyway. You may have been told to touch you puppy all over to get him used to being touched. This is NOT enough. Just touching the puppy, tugging his tail and ears etc, may result in him tolerating this from you, but it doesn’t teach him to enjoy it. You want your puppy to love to be touched and to have a good reaction if he’s touched by surprise.
This will give your dog a happier life since he’ll be less stressed by the inevitable touching that will happen to him. He’ll also be less likely event to bite if he’s touched by surprise.
How to Do it
Here’s how to do it: Touch your puppy and at the same time give him a treat. This could even be his regular food if he loves his dinner. Pet him all over, touch his ears, tail and feet while you or someone else gives him treats (or hand feeds his dinner). Let him lick something yummy out of a Kong or other soft food dispenser while you increase the pressure of the touch. If the puppy turns to nip, back off immediately and try again another time using something even yummier. Please refrain from saying “no” or otherwise punishing the puppy for trying to nip, since this will just make him defensive and more likely to bite if someone other than you touches him this way.
The idea is to associate touch and even tugs on his tail and ears and grasping his paws with the good feelings that come with eating something yummy. What you want is for the puppy to think to himself “where’s my yummy treat” instead of “I must bite that”, if someday a toddler grabs him by the tail, or the vet grabs his feet to trim his nails.
The best time to do this for the first few times is when the puppy is tired and not when the puppy is all fired up and full of beans. The more distracted the puppy is, the higher value of food treats you’ll need to use. If your puppy is all go all the time, then do this in the bathroom or other area with low distraction and not much other fun to be had.
Pro tip: Use spreadable garlic cream cheese in a Kong or squeeze tube
If your puppy is small and/or placid and your kids are old enough to follow instructions, then they can do these exercises too. Here are some kids to show you how:
If you have any questions or comments, please write them in the comment section below.