On this page I will share my tips and tricks to handling a hedgehog.
Confidence: Don't be afraid of your hedgehog, that fear will translate to them, handle with care and confidence. They pop when scared which makes you pop too and that takes time to learn to ignore. Always use gentle but firm pressure, not only does it feel better for them, it will be less ouchy for you.
Scoop: Start off trying to pick up your hedgehog with a scooping motion with both hands flat on either side of the hedgie. Keep their feet feeling secure on your flat hands.
Back Holds: As cute as it is to see a relaxed balled hedgie, don't flip them on their backs to make them ball up in the beginning. Let your hedgie settle in and get comfortable with you before you start doing this. They may go into a fully tightened ball and that's going to hurt. They will feel entirely safer with you if you support their feet in an upright position.
Tip: Butt Hold: When you feel you are both ready to try a back hold, put your palm on the lower back of your hedgie and then pull/move your hand down a little to the butt. This will ensure all the quills are laying flat and if your hedgie decides they don't like it, you will be less likely to get pricked by a tightened ball. Most hedgies are also more comfortable in this "sitting" ball than fully on their backs. Some hedgies don't want to be on their backs at all and will flail their legs and squirm to turn over, do not fight this, just let them do what they will do, you can keep attempting this hold and they may eventually let you hold them this way.
Hissy Fits: Never put your hedgehog down if they are balled up and acting grumpy, getting them to unball and behave themselves before releasing will teach them that being nice will get them what they want, which is usually put down. I play a "pick up, put down" game with my grumps, use the scoop method, remain close to the floor, wait for them to unball, then when all the theatrics are over, let them walk off your hands and onto the floor. I do this a handful of times in a row, then give them a break and usually a treat, and if it's going well do it a handful more.
Tip: Wheelbarrow and Bounce: If your hedgie will not unball to be put down, tip your hands slightly forward (not too much or they will roll off), you can even bounce your hands slightly, this will usually put them in what is called the "wheelbarrow" position where their front legs will come out to touch the ground and you can then let them walk off your hands.
Tip: Tickle Spots: So far, every hedgehog in my small herd has a tickle spot, I am convinced they all have one, you just have to find it. Try rubbing the quills in a localized circle until you find a spot that makes them flatten out, squirm, or involuntarily bring their head out of their ball. Do not abuse this magic! You can use this spot for when they are being the most stubborn to get them to unball, it is especially helpful for nail trims, bath times, and taking medicine.
Scruffing: If your hedgehog has relaxed quills and is comfortable with you touching their back, they can be scruffed. The proper way to do this is to put your thumb and fingers on either side of the hedgies back at the shoulders and gently but firmly squeeze and pull up the excess skin. You are not aiming to have the two sides of skin touch each other (like scruffing a cat), there is too much fat and muscle in the way. DO NOT scruff at the neck (like you would a cat).
Petting Quills: I find that the easiest way to get a hedgehog to let you pet down the quills is by taking baby steps. I start at the butt and get them use to the sensation, sometimes I stroke down and sometimes I just gently pat like burping a baby. When I feel we're ready, I move up the back and start from there, then move up again at the shoulders and start from there. I tend to stroke the sides with my thumb while holding a sleeping hedgie, especially if they are side sleepers. I save trying to touch visor quills for last. Some hedgies don't make it past shoulders and that's ok, head pats are not for everyone.
Petting Faces: You should be able to pet your hedgie's chin without much fuss, especially if you hand feed treats. You should attempt to pet the rest of the face after your hedgehog has stopped throwing hissy fits at you when you pick them up. Always use 1 finger to pet the face, start at the nose and gently rub up the nose bridge between the eyes to the forhead and up the visor quills. This may cause visor quills to lower and/or cross. If the visor remains lowered, you can do the same motion and gently push the visor upwards. Never try to touch the face approaching from above the visor, this is just going to cause them to hiss and pop. Once you have that mastered, you can try to touch other areas of the face, ears, cheeks, chins.
Belly Rubs: Start by holding your hedgie and when you put them down, raise your fingertips and let them rub against the belly as your hedgie walks off your hands. Do this everytime you put them down to get them used to the sensation. Once your hedgie doesn't run off your hands like they're on fire, you can try to flip them onto their backs and touch the belly this way. Not all hedgehogs will allow you to touch or rub their bellies, some of them just don't like it.
The Purse String: The orbicularis panniculi is the muscle that allows a hedgehog to roll into a ball, it's like tightening a purse string. It is located at the edge of the quill line where the hair starts. Touching this will typically cause a hedgehog to ball up. After your hedgehog is comfortable with you and allowing you to pet them, you should start training this touch. Every time you put your hedgie down, raise your fingertips slightly so that they brush against this muscle as your hedgehog walks off your hands. Be mindful, this might cause your fingers to get trapped in a ball, which will probably cause them to get pricked. Gently but quickly pull your fingers out, your hedgehog will probably try to tighten up further with this action and you can feel how tightly they can squeeze that muscle ring. Don't be surprised if your hedgehog never lets you touch this area.