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Becoming Your Puppy’s Pack Leader


3. Changing Position and Full Body Massage


This exercise is designed to train your puppy to tolerate an examination of his whole body. This will also allow you to move him, should he ever be injured or need to be moved for other purposes. You will need for the dog to be tolerant if and when he should have his nails clipped and temperature taken. And the earlier he becomes accustomed to being moved or handled, the better. You wouldn’t your sweet puppy responding aggressively or biting an innocent groomer or veterinarian.


Begin the exercise in the relaxed position from exercise one. Make the puppy lie down by grabbing his front legs and placing his body on the floor. Continue to praise him as you hold him in place by massaging his back and neck. Once he is totally relaxed and not struggling, kneel down and roll the puppy over so that he is lying on his side. If he struggles, press down on his shoulders and say “No, stay!” Continue to massage him, including his feet and tail. Always maintain eye contact to show your praise or displeasure to your puppy.


While the puppy is calm, grab all four paws and slowly roll him over. Massage him while you roll him from side to side while at the same time giving him praises for cooperating in the exercise. At this point, you want to make it clear that you are not being playful. If the puppy tries to play, stop and hold him still until he calms down again. Lastly, move him around on the floor the same way you would if you needed to move him.


This exercise is very helpful for helping the puppy to trust and follow your directions. It also makes it easier for you to hold, groom and examine your dog whenever you need to.




All of these exercises are the foundation for the proper training of your puppy and are best begun as soon as you bring your puppy into your home. Plan a time of day when you are unrushed and relaxed, so that the experience can be pleasant for both you and the puppy. Done properly and consistently, and without fear tactics or violence (even mild), these exercises will help you to create a bond based on trust and leadership, making it easier for your puppy to adapt and learn more complex obedience training skills later on.


These exercises are normally very easy on the majority of puppies. However, there are some puppies that are not capable of doing them. If your puppy tends to become aggressive and is not responding well to the exercises outlined above, it is best to consult a professional for more specialized exercises and training – before the puppy develops bad habits. 


Image: Ian Phillips / via Flickr