From Nina Bonderenko:
We have a "Pass the Peaceful Puppy" session in the first puppy class, so that all puppies can learn the correct way to behave when handled. One reason why some dogs become really pushy and even growly when handled is that, when they are puppies, people put them down if they struggle when held. This is an automatic response by people to a wriggling, struggling puppy which wants to get back to its littermates or to play. However, it simply shows the puppy that â€˜Resistance is fertile'(!), or in other words, it is productive to resist something you don't want or like. You are teaching the puppy to complain and argue with you. The puppy gets what it wants.
When it is a little older, people are less tolerant of it struggling, because they need to put collars on, or check ears or brush the puppy or ask it to walk nicely on the lead. The puppy finds that just struggling is not enough to get its own way, so it goes up a level of resistance. For dogs, that usually means growling. The puppy growls and waits to see if you are going to allow this. Many people do not know what to do in this situation. Some hit the puppy, some "scruff" the puppy, and some back away, whilst some try soothing and stroking the puppy.
Our Pass the Peaceful Puppy session involves lying the puppies on their backs in each person's lap and gently restraining it from getting away. At the first sign of reduced resistance (even if the puppy is just drawing breath to shout and struggle some more) you click and reward. This may be the first introduction a puppy owner has to the process of clicking, and is a positive way for people to see a response to the procedure. Repeat this process until the puppy is lying back in a more relaxed way, then pass the peaceful puppy on to the next person.
As you can imagine, many puppies start struggling all over again at being moved and then held by someone new. But the persistence pays off and the puppy is soon being clicked and rewarded for quiet moments, however brief or fleeting. Again the puppy is passed once it settles slightly. We have found that, even with the most aggressive puppies, this routine starts to make sense to the puppy and they begin to relax and offer that response which earns a reward. We stop at the third or fourth pass, depending upon the puppy. Some are so relaxed to begin with that this is not the most important lesson. Others are totally committed to doing everything as and when they choose, without asking permission first!
We find that many related behaviours, such as growling, mouthing, destructive chewing or chewing the retrieve item, are greatly reduced by teaching this lesson early. It also gives the person more confidence in restraining a boisterous puppy, and teaches the puppy an appropriate response—to settle down. Puppies learn to accept that they are obliged to settle down sometimes and not get what they want, when they want it.