Teaching calming and settling behaviours allows for safe handling and grooming so your puppy enjoys being pet and loved.

For this video, we’ve teamed up with Dr Serena Dean from Greencross Vets to show you how we settle a puppy called Moose! Dr Serena will take you through the techniques used to teach your puppy how to calm down and be comfortable with being handled.



Calming your puppy

Calming your puppy down and get them used to being touched is vital for their health and wellbeing. Settling your puppy is important for things like visits to the vet, grooming appointments and more. It’s really important when you’re trying to do a calming behaviour with a puppy that they are not already excited. So if you’re trying to calm your puppy down after a big play session, you have a very, very small chance of that happening.

Instead, what you want to do is get your puppy used to being handled and touched everywhere when they’re already sleeping or when they are very, very close to it.

When you start to calm your puppy down, one of the most important things is to make sure you do not raise your voice. We need to make sure we have a nice soothing voice for our puppy.

Long, 5 second pats

The next thing we’re going to do is a nice long five second pat from head to tail. I want you to think about this like a massage for yourself. If you went into a massage parlour, you wouldn’t want to have somebody with their arms really quickly brushing all over your back. Instead you want really nice slow movements.

Handling their feet

When our puppy is calm and nice and relaxed, and we’ve done our nice, long five second pats, we can start to move to other areas of their body. It’s very, very important that our dogs get used to being handled on their feet. And we will need to cut their nails from time to time, so if your dog is happy for you to touch their feet all the time, when you do need to cut their nails, it won’t be a problem for you or the puppy.

Collar and neck area

The next thing that’s really important for you to touch is your puppy’s collar and neck area. It’s important to be able to touch these areas of your puppy so you can easily put the lead and collar on your dog.

Ears and face

Another area that’s really important to touch with your puppy is their ears and face. Puppies generally don’t like their ears and face being touched and the reason for this is because they think you’re playing with them and instead they would like to bite your hands.

What we need to do when we’re calming is to get them used to having their ears touched and if possible, just bringing back all of that hair so you can actually see inside the ear. Now why this is important is because if your puppy or your dog does on the off chance need to have their ears cleaned out, or if they get an ear infection, we will need to put ointment and ear cleaner down that ear canal. If your puppy is happy for you to do this when their ears are healthy and pain-free, you have a much better chance of doing it when there is an infection and there is a bit of pain in there as well.

Eyes and muzzle

The next step is to touch near their eyes and near their muzzle. So whilst we’re starting to slowly move our way down their face towards their eyes, another great thing to do is to start to touch just up over the bridge of their nose. If we start very slowly touching up over that bridge of their nose, your puppy gets used to being touched around the muzzle area and then you can slowly begin to bring your hands down towards the mouth.


Once you’re down near that mouth area, you can actually lift their lip up and have a look at their teeth. So little Moose here is only 16 weeks old so he’s still got all of his baby teeth there. Why that’s important is that if on the off chance that your puppy gets something in his mouth that he’s not supposed to get, you can very easily lift up that lip of his mouth and just get whatever you need to out. The other reason is if your puppy is sick and you may need to check his gum colour, you can just lift that lip up and have a look to see whether he’s got nice pink gums. The other thing is to check their teeth. Dogs can get dental disease just like people can, so it’s important to check that their teeth and gums are healthy.

Back feet

Finally, the other place to touch your puppy is down to the back and near their back feet. So if you just slowly rub your hands all the way down to those back feet, once again it’s an area where you will need to cut the nails of your puppy.

Calming when awake

Once your puppy begins to get used to being touched everywhere, we can start to introduce this calming behaviour and this handling behaviour when our puppy is awake. Once again, we don’t want to do it when they’re incredibly excited, we just want to do it when they’re a little bit pacified – so just when they’re possibly about to go to sleep or when they’re waking up from a sleep. (After we’ve done our toilet training obviously!) We just need to make sure our puppies get used to being handled at all times.

So that’s how we calm our puppies and how we get them used to being handled. I’m Serena Dean for Greencross Vets.

Puppy school

Learn and practice how to calm down your puppy and more at puppy school. Petbarn has developed our Puppy School program alongside Serena Dean and Greencross Vets. Our fun and interactive course aims to give you positive training tools so you can develop a strong relationship with your puppy, allowing them to become a real part of your family.

About Serena Dean

Serena Dean has over 10 years’ experience within the Veterinary industry in both emergency and general practice. She is the national training and education coordinator at Australia’s largest Veterinary group, Greencross Vets. Serena has trained numerous nurses in animal behaviour and implemented a national animal behaviour program that provides puppy school, juvenile obedience, one-on-one training and client education programs.

Serena holds a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Veterinary Technology & Management and Wildlife Biology, Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing, Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment and is a professional member of the Society of Veterinary Behaviour Technicians.

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