Puppy training that might save your dog’s life.

There are many reasons to include teaching your pup to tolerate handling in your early puppy training lessons. 

Dogs that allow the feet, mouth, and ears to be manipulated are easier to groom and examine. Having worked as a vet tech years ago, I can attest to how appreciative the vet and the staff are if they do not have to wrestle a dog for a routine examination. 

Of course, not only is it easier on the staff, it is considerably less stressful for the dog as well. Most dogs will be in a state of heightened alert when they enter a veterinary hospital. 

In some cases, it is so anxiety-producing that the dog may need to be medicated just to undergo a routine exam. And why give a dog pharmaceuticals if training can solve the problem?

But there is another reason that is equally, if not more, important for including this skill in your puppy training.

Routinely handling your dog to look them over, nose to tail, keeps you aware of any changes that might be occurring. Early awareness gives you an opportunity for early intervention if something needs to be addressed. 

This fact was driven home to me with the recent addition of a new puppy.

I work hard at teaching my dogs to tolerate exams and physical manipulation. I practice daily from the time I bring them home. So it was high on my to-do list when a new member joined the household.

Meet Gimli, my new Malinois pup. 🥰

The day after I got Gimli home, I noticed his breath was foul-smelling. It wasn’t the normal puppy breath. So, I tried to peek inside his mouth. He wasn’t keen on that!

I needed to practice having him tolerate me holding his muzzle and opening his mouth.

In the early sessions, I couldn’t get a clear look as he wiggled and fought the attempts to hold him still. It appeared there might be a wound or something behind the last molar on the lower, left jaw.

To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. I figured he bit into something and assumed it would heal. My plan was just to keep an eye on it. 

After a week of practice, I got several seconds of calm compliance and could clearly see there was a growth behind the last molar on the left lower jaw.  

Not something  I expected to see in a 9-week-old puppy. 😳

We kept an eye on the growth for a few weeks to see if it was a foreign object that would work its way out. When that didn’t happen it was time for a biopsy and radiographs. Fortunately, it turned out to be a benign growth (Fibromatous Epulis) that had not invaded the bone. 🤗

Fast forward to his second surgery at 17 weeks old to debulk what remained and hopefully, it will not be back. In the course of this experience, the DVM complimented me several times for catching this so early. 🤓

If you’re noticing all the emojis in this post, it is because the range of emotions over the last eight weeks have been riding the roller-coaster. No one expects this sort of thing right after picking up their new pup. But things don’t always go as planned. So, while I wish my boy would not have had these surgeries, it reinforced that it pays off to practice what I preach.

Raise your dogs to tolerate being looked over head to toe. 

Then get into the routine of doing it weekly. 

Need help understanding how to teach your puppy to tolerate handling? Check out my online puppy training class and get started!


  • I am so blessed to have found Robin and so are my dogs!! She has instilled in me such a sense of confidence that I was able to just take off and train my English Setter the agility course. Robin has been a continual trusted source of information for us. I was and am determined to have at least one well behaved dog before I die. Robin has provided me with those skills. I just feel guilty for the many dogs I had before I met Robin. “When you know better you do better!!” Thank you Robin!!

    • Thank you Diane. It has been a pleasure to work with you. It is a magical thing when we develop this kind of relationship with our dog! 🙂

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