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How to Safely Hold Your Dog

Maybe your pup loves to be picked up and cradled like a baby. Maybe your dog likes to keep their distance and have all four legs on the ground. Either way, there will be times when you must carry your dog; up the stairs, in the car, to the vet, and more. Picking up and carrying your dog is usually a simple and intuitive task that does not require much learning. However, it’s not uncommon that dog owners would accidentally hurt their dogs in the process of picking them up. 

To prevent your precious furbaby from getting into dangerous situations, you might feel the need to just pick them up and remove them from threats. For example, some small dog owners would pick their dog up whenever they approach a large or aggressive dog on a walk. 

However, very few people get it right when it comes to picking up their pups. There are many ways that you might be accidentally hurting your precious furbaby. 

Alert your dog the upcoming situation 

Imagine if someone comes up to you and just lifts you up by your legs then hoists you high in the air without any warning. Does that not sound a bit scary? Your dog may get surprised or feel scared when you randomly pick them up from the ground. So before you even learn about how to safely pick up your dog, you must alert your dog before picking them up. This can be done through training with a verbal cue so your dog will be more aware of the situation before getting picked up. 

How to safely pick up your dog 

Picking up a small dog (eg. puppies, Toy Poodle, Maltese, Chihuahua) 

It is not too difficult to pick up your dog if you have a puppy or a small dog breed like a chihuahua. Simply slide your arm under the chest of your pup to support the front part of their body. Then as you lift your dog, hoist up the feet and backside of your pup and hold them close to your body for some extra support. You can also hold your dog by placing your entire arm underneath the front legs and then support the feet with your other arm.  

Picking up a large dog (eg. Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Husky, Samoyed) 

Generally, large dogs do not like getting picked up because it’s awkward and uncomfortable. If you have to pick up your dog to help them get into the car or up the stairs, then here’s how you do it. Bend at the knees and hook your arm underneath the front legs and in front of the chest of your pup to support their upper body. Then, use your other arm to gently support the butt and legs. If your dog is too big, overweight, injured, or suffers from arthritis, then it’s best to use a dog stretcher or harness instead of picking them up directly to prevent further injuries. 

How NOT to pick up your dog 

By the front legs or armpits

Many owners like to pick up their dog by its two front legs without knowing that it may cause serious injury to their pup. Normally dogs would evenly distribute their weight across all four legs; however, they cannot do so when being held up. Lifting a dog through its front legs puts unnatural pressure on the dog’s elbows, shoulders, spine, and front toes. This position not only strains the muscles of your pup but can also dislocate your pup’s shoulder. Since this position is so uncomfortable, your pup may struggle and potentially fall from your grip. Another way people tend to lift their dog is through the armpits, like holding a human baby. However, dogs usually evenly distribute their weight across all four legs; therefore, you should never hold or pull up your dog with just the two front legs. 


By the scruffs 

The scruff is the circle of loose skin at the nape of your dog’s neck. Sometimes the mother dog would pick up her puppies by the scruffs when they are young, which is perfectly safe and painless. However, most people do not know the correct way to hold a dog by its scruff, which can be extremely dangerous for the dog. Dogs that are no longer puppies should not be carried by the scruffs because their neck would not be able to support their weight. You could seriously injure your dog by carrying them by the scruffs, which is why this method should never be used. 

By the collar 

Nowadays, lots of dog pawrents use a harness instead of a collar to prevent pulling and straining the neck of their pup. Pulling a dog up by the collar can not only cause choking but also more serious damage to the throat and neck. Your furbaby is not a toy and is more fragile than you think. Do not pull, hold, or attempt to pick up your dog by the collar to keep your dog safe, healthy, and happy. 

Signs that your dog doesn't like to get held or picked up 

  • Leaning away 

  • Shaking 

  • Cowering 

  • Whining 

  • Nipping at your hands

  • Squirming around 


While it’s completely fine to pick a dog up, dog owners should be extra careful when doing so to prevent any injuries. If your dog is displaying any signs such as whining and cowering, that means you might be scaring or hurting your pup. The next time you try to pick up your furbaby, make sure that he is aware, prepared, and comfortable in your arms.

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