When you get a puppy everything seems so overwhelming! Today, I present to you a pretty simple exercise you can start doing with your new puppy immediately. Our tiny little squirmy canines need to learn that being touched (sometimes not so gently) is fun. Trust me when I tell you that your groomer, your veterinarian, and children your dog will eventually come into contact with are going to thank you. A lot of puppies can get really mouthy when they feel a foreign hand reach out to them for a stroke. Sometimes the human instinct is to mush them in the head while cooing and ahhing when really that’s the equivalent of old Aunt Bertha coming towards you with outstretched hands trying to pinch your cheek as you brace for impact. Though you may sit tight as you get pinched, some puppies have learned that a good way to get rid of such an annoyance is to use their teeth. To prevent that from happening, it’s smart to start playing the “Gotcha” game as early on as possible.
The “Gotcha” game is a way of conditioning our puppies to enjoy physical handling. Everyday, spend about five to ten minutes on the floor with your dog. With a gentle hand, touch all parts of Fido’s body while feeding him treats. I like to make it fun by touching an ear and saying “Gotcha Ear” and then delivering a tiny morsel. I then might move on to touching the top of his paw and saying, “Gotcha Paw” and quickly holding a treat to my dog’s nose. The idea here is for you to help your pup make a positive association with something that may not be all too pleasant. If repeated enough and done in a way that is gentle at first, your dog will grow to love being poked and prodded.
I especially suggest this exercise for owners with children around the house. Bless their hearts, kids love dogs so much, but they can sometimes be rough with them. Now wouldn’t it be nice if your dog’s reaction to a child accidentally tripping on them was one of “where’s my cookie?” rather than wanting to nip the offender?
I think this is a pretty simple exercise that both you and your dog can handle!