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Why is it vital to touch my puppy?

Updated: Feb 14

Over more than 50 years of Dog Training in Brisbane Australia, Japan, China, USA by Val Bonney, Peter Bonney and the team at Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School are very clear on the positive benefits there are when we touch our puppies. Since 1973 Bonnies are the number one in dog training in Australia and Brisbane. Following, are some questions that people often ask about the importance of touching their puppy, along with the answers to those questions: There is much more information on our "Mastering Puppy Grooming"written by Peter Bonney.

Touching a puppy.
Touching Puppies calmly is perfect.

So Why is it vital to touch my puppy?

Q: When is touching NOT appropriate?

A: I start with this question as it is very important to understand there are times where touching a puppy or dog is not as appropriate as other times. I have found that over many years clients touch their puppies when they are trying to get them to Stop Barking, or touching while they are needing to correct the dog, or to stop them from a behaviour they want to stop. Biting, nipping, jumping, barking and others.

Remember that when a puppy is young they may see this touching as you giving them the authority to keep going with the poor behaviour. "Good boy/girl keep going"! This is normal for many humans to do. Many feel that a touch on the back, or closing their puppies mouth, muzzle, to stop barking is what will work. It has, in most cases, an opposite effect. It may in fact encourage the puppy to keep going, with the poor behaviour.

We explain that touching is necessary, appropriate and comforting for both the puppy and the humans in their lives. It is however, NOT always appropriate.

Q: Why is it important to touch my puppy?

A: Touch is an essential part of a puppy's development. It helps them to:

  • Learn not to fear the Human touch

  • Learn about the world around them

  • Bond with their owners

  • Feel secure

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

  • Promote relaxation and bonding

  • Improve cognitive development

  • Boost the immune system

  • Reduce pain and inflammation. This is an area where I am often asked about in Puppy Magic classes around Brisbane, as it often does not make a lot of sense with our clients at first glance. Touch can reduce pain and inflammation in puppies in the same way that it can in humans. It can release endorphins, reduce stress, improve circulation, and reduce muscle tension.

Here are some specific ways to use touch to "reduce pain and inflammation" in your puppy: If your puppy reacts with a clear pain reaction then stop. If your puppy has any soreness at all please don't continue until you have spoken to your vet.

  • Gently massage their affected area. This will help to increase blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

  • Apply a warm compress to the affected area. This will also help to increase blood flow and reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Give your puppy a belly rub. This can help to relax them and reduce stress.

  • Cuddle with your puppy. This can help to release endorphins and reduce stress.

  • Play with your puppy. This can help to improve circulation and reduce muscle tension.

It is important to be gentle when touching your puppy, especially if they are in pain. You should also avoid touching any areas that are swollen or bruised.

If you are unsure about how to use touch to reduce pain and inflammation in your puppy, talk to your veterinarian.

Q: What are some ways to touch my puppy?

A: There are many different ways to touch your puppy, such as:

  • Patting

  • Stroking

  • Brushing

  • Massaging

  • Cuddling

  • Playing

Q: How often should I touch my puppy?

A: You should touch your puppy as often as possible, especially during the first few months of their life. However, it is important to be respectful of their body language and to stop if they seem uncomfortable. We suggest that you touch the puppies feet, ears, legs etc every single day. Remember that this has a positive and ongoing effect for the puppy, particularly when going to the Vets or the Groomers so the puppy is comfortable and self assured.

Q: What are some signs that my puppy is uncomfortable with being touched?

A: Some signs that your puppy is uncomfortable with being touched include:

  • Growling

  • Snapping

  • Yelping

  • Avoiding touch

  • Cowering

  • Turning their head away from you

Q: What should I do if my puppy is afraid of being touched?

A: Why is it vital to touch my puppy? If your puppy is afraid of being touched, it is important to be patient and gentle. Start by patting them in areas that they are comfortable with, such as their head or chest. Please don't use their head like a drum. Tapping the top of the puppies head is simply not cool and not great for the puppy.

As they become more comfortable, you can gradually start to pet them in other areas too. You can also use positive reinforcement to help your puppy associate touch with positive experiences. For example, you can give them a treat or praise them when they allow you to touch them. In my other articles I talk about this a lot. Check the articles but often it is about Pitch and Tone. Yes (High Pitch) good boy/girl.

If you are struggling to socialise your puppy or help them overcome their fear of touch, you may want to give us a call. Be patient and calm. All will be well. Taking your time works in almost all things puppies.

Here are some additional questions that people often ask:

Q: How long does it take for a puppy to get used to being touched?

A: Every puppy is different, but most puppies will get used to being touched within a few weeks. It is important to be patient and consistent with your puppy at all times. This patience needs an equal measure of calmness and positive body language.

Q: Is it okay to touch my puppy's stomach?

A: Yes, it is okay to touch your puppy's stomach. However, it's important to be gentle and to avoid pressing on their belly button and it is a great practice as this helps the dog to understand when it lies on its back that its not from fear of another dog, rather than knowing they are safe with you.

Q: Is it okay to pick up my puppy?

A: Yes, it is okay to pick up your puppy. However, it is important to support their body weight and to avoid picking them up by their tail or legs. This is particularly so with a puppy with long bodies such as Whippets, Greyhounds, Daschunds and others. This is a great question to ask your Vet and your Breeder when you pick up your puppy.


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