Do Dogs Like Being Picked Up?

Dogs that are constantly picked up as puppies typically enjoy being picked up as adults. However, being picked up is not natural for dogs (this would never happen in the wild), so dogs who were rarely picked up as puppies likely won’t enjoy being picked up as an adult. 

Dogs (especially small dogs and puppies) often find themselves being picked up by humans. Part of how humans express their affection is through touch. We give each other hugs, and small children often are picked up and carried around. 

Our furry companions are part of the family, and we want to shower them with love too. Many dog owners will try to show their affection by holding and cuddling with their dogs. 

Not to mention the “cuteness factor” of a dog might leave you with an overwhelming feeling of wanting to scoop them up for a hug! 

There are also times when a dog needs to be picked up for their safety, or perhaps to transport them. But do dogs actually like being picked up?

Reading a Dog’s Signals

Dogs are constantly communicating with people. By paying attention to a dog’s cues, we can see how they feel about being picked up. 

Your Dog Doesn’t Like Being Picked Up If…

A dog that does not enjoy being held might attempt to run away when it notices a human attempting to lift them. 

A scared dog may express itself with a whimper or cowering. They may even give warning signs such as a growl or nip. 

If a person successfully lifts them from the ground, the dog may violently squirm and attempt to wriggle free. 

Your Dog Like Being Picked Up If…

On the other hand, some dogs thoroughly enjoy being picked up. These dogs will also give signals to let their feelings be known. 

A dog who enjoys being held close will let its desires be known by moving near its humans. They may rub against a person or paw to get recognition. 

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Some will also exhibit vocal communication, such as whining. Once in your arms, dogs that enjoy this affection will not immediately squirm to jump back down. 

Your Dog Tolerates Being Picked Up If…

Dogs that simply tolerate being held but don’t necessarily enjoy the act will likely not shy away from being picked up. 

These dogs can be held without causing them to become nervous. By the same token, they will also not seek you out to pick them up. 

How NOT to Pick Up Your Dog 

Most people have good intentions when they pick up their dogs. However, for a dog, being held can be an uncomfortable experience. 

When a dog is picked up, not only are they being lifted into the air, but they also find their movement constricted. This lack of control can cause the dog to become anxious. What someone intended to be an expression of affection can quickly turn into an unpleasant experience. 

The first thing to address is to make sure you are picking up your dog safely. Pain caused by being lifted improperly can cause a dog to have a negative association with being held. 

Some people want to lift their dogs, puppies in particular, by the scruff of their neck. This can be quite uncomfortable. While a mother may do this to her young pups, it is not a suitable method for a human.

Lifting a dog by its collar can cause injury and restrict the airway. Do not lift a dog by its legs. Doing so can be painful and can cause strain on muscles. 

Not lifting a dog properly can be a contributing factor to a dog’s fear of being held. Failure to properly lift the dog can cause unnecessarily discomfort or even injury. 

How to Properly Pick up a Dog

Size Matters

The size of a dog helps determine how a dog should be picked up. 

Small dogs and puppies can be easily lifted by using one hand to stabilize the dog under its chest and behind its front legs. Place the other hand under the rump of the dog. The size of small dogs makes them easy to lift. 

For a small to medium-sized dog, one hand should be placed under the chest while the other is slid under the belly. The dog should then be brought close to your body. 

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For a larger dog, one arm should be slid under the rump while the other arm is brought in front of the chest. As the dog is lifted, keep them tight against your body. This helps to keep a stable hold on the dog. 

Confidence and a proper hold can help dogs ease their anxiety about being lifted. 

Training a Dog To Tolerate Being Picked Up

Dogs who do not enjoy being picked up can be trained to at least tolerate the action. Some may even grow to enjoy it. 

There may be a time when picking up your dog is important. Ensuring that the dog will not attempt to fight being held is helpful. 

This process can take time, and it’s important to be consistent in training. It’s critical to turn being picked up into a positive experience. 

When you are training your dog to be picked up, keep your training sessions brief. Hold the dog for a few seconds, and put them down. Then repeat the process. 

You would ideally place the dog back down when they are calm. If you put them down when they are fighting, this can encourage the behavior. However, if the dog is putting up a strong fight, do not make them stay in your arms. 

For a dog who does not enjoy being picked up, forcing them to be in your arms for a long time will only elevate their stress levels. 

The experience should be positive! Use high-value treats and give praise. 

Use Cues

Another way to help a dog feel comfortable being picked up is to give them a verbal cue. A simple word such as “up” will work. A clicker can also be helpful. The dog will eventually associate the cue with the action of being lifted. 

It might seem counterproductive to alert your dog to your intentions when they’re known to bolt. However, this creates a routine, and the dog knows what to expect. 

Immediately after giving the cue, be sure to give the dog a high-value treat! Food is a wonderful motivator for dogs, and there are even small-sized treats specifically designed for training. 

Know When to Get Professional Help

If your dog continuously exhibits aggressive behaviors (such as biting) when you are trying to pick it up, you may want to consider hiring a dog trainer. 

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This behavior is not something to overlook. This issue must be addressed for the safety of both the dog and the owner. 

A professional dog trainer can help determine what is causing the aggression and how to change the behavior. 

Rising to the Challenge

Whether or not dogs like to be held boils down to the individual dog. Many dogs hate being held, others beg to be picked up, and some dogs will merely tolerate the action. 

Whatever their opinion, dogs will attempt to show their humans how they feel about being picked up. 

By training the dog yourself, or with the help of a professional trainer, a dog who doesn’t like to be picked up can learn to tolerate or even enjoy being held. It’s important for dog owners to know they can confidently pick up their dogs. 

Consistent training in small intervals is key. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time for a dog to get comfortable being picked up. 

Using positive reinforcement to train a dog to be picked up increases the bond between the dog and owner. The goal is to make getting held in your arms something wonderful! 

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