Even The Best Of Us Might Be Hurting Our Dogs By Picking Them Up Wrongly: See How To Do It Properly
There are hundreds of reasons why you might have to pick up a dog, but the question is, how to pick a dog up properly? Well, that depends on the dog…
The easiest way to pick up a dog is to cradle it in your arms, but what if the dog in question weighs more than you do? Or if it’s injured, or pregnant? Read on for different ways to pick up dogs, and how to carry them too.
- HOW TO PICK UP A PUPPY OR TINY DOG
- HOW TO CARRY SMALL DOGS AND PUPPIES
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A MEDIUM DOG?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A LARGE OR HEAVY DOG?
- VIDEOS: HOW TO PICK UP A DOG
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP AN OLDER DOG?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH PHYSICAL HEALTH PROBLEMS LIKE ARTHRITIS?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH HIP DISPLASIA?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH BACK PROBLEMS?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A PREGNANT DOG?
- IS IT BAD TO PICK UP YOUR DOG?
- THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO WHEN PICKING UP A DOG
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG THAT BITES?
- HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG AFTER SPAYING?
- FAQ: HOW TO PICK UP A DOG PROPERLY
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HOW TO PICK UP A PUPPY OR TINY DOG
Let’s start with the smallest, and the easiest: puppies and teacup (tiny) dogs.
To pick up a puppy or very small dog, simply put one hand under her chest and pass either your hand – or in the case of very small dogs, a couple of fingers – through her front legs. Your hand or fingers will be supporting the front of the chest and neck. The palm of your hand or your wrist will be supporting her underside.
Then, bring her in toward you so she is nestled against your chest, tucking her bottom in at the same time between your arm and body. That way her whole body is supported.
HOW TO CARRY SMALL DOGS AND PUPPIES
If you often take your small dog out with you, you might want an alternative to picking her up and carrying her in your arms. The same goes for puppies, before their vaccinations are complete.
There are some fantastic bags and backpacks available nowadays for carrying small dogs and puppies.
I highly recommend this dog carrier sling.
By carrying your dog on your front, you can easily keep an eye on her. This particular dog carrier sling features:
This allows you to have your pooch with you, with no risk of her suddenly jumping out of your arms. You won’t get tired carrying her, and you’ll have your hands free to do other things.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A MEDIUM DOG?
To pick up a medium dog, there are a couple of options.
With your dog standing, put one arm under your dog’s chest, just behind her front legs. Use your other arm to wrap around her rear end. Lift her up and in towards your body.
With your dog standing, put one arm around her chest and your other arm behind her back legs, just under her bottom. Bring your arms in to cradle her.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A LARGE OR HEAVY DOG?
Some large dogs can be picked up with the second option outlined above in medium dogs.
Take my smaller doberman, for instance. She’s on the light side for a dobermann and weighs just 27kg (60 pound). I can pick her up by simply putting one arm under her chest, just behind her front legs, and the other arm I thread through from the other side, under her tummy, just in front of her back legs. I then lift up and pull her in towards my body.
This weight is about the maximum I can manage though, and thankfully she does not wriggle. If your dog is likely to object to being lifted, this makes it much more complicated and you might end up dropping her unintentionally.
Lifting a large dog is like lifting a heavy box – you need to bend your knees as you lift!
For my other dobermann, who weighs over 85 pounds (40kg), it just isn’t possible for me to pick him up unaided. So, how do you pick up a 70+ pound dog? When a dog is too large or heavy for one person to lift, you need a second person.
If you’re just lifting a dog for a short duration or distance, have one person support the dog’s front end, just under her shoulders/chest. The other person can support her rear end, just in front of her rear legs.
For longer distances you might find it easier – and safer – to lift your dog onto a blanket made into a stretcher. Lay the blanket on the floor next to your dog, then between 2 people, follow the technique above and lift her onto the blanket.
Make sure you have a very firm hold on either end of the blanket/stretcher and gently lift her up. Note that with nervous dogs who don’t like the sense of movement, there is a risk that the dog will try to jump off.
VIDEOS: HOW TO PICK UP A DOG
You can see an example of how to pick up different sized dogs in the following short video by Mercola Pets:
This next video is a little longer, with several more examples.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP AN OLDER DOG?
Picking up an older dog depends on its size. Often, an older dog can be picked up like any other dog of the same size, but with some extra considerations.
Many older dogs suffer from arthritis and so they don’t necessarily have the same range of movement in their joints. They’re also likely to feel aches and pains in their joints. It may be that being picked up under the hips is a little painful, if not done carefully.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH PHYSICAL HEALTH PROBLEMS LIKE ARTHRITIS?
One common difficulty with older dogs that have severe arthritis, or some other physical mobility restriction, is that they struggle to get up by themselves from a lying position.
My older boy falls into this category, though his mobility problem is due to a neurological illness (Wobblers), not arthritis.
In his case, he is gradually losing control of his rear legs. He often can’t get up without help, which makes makes basic moving around and toileting pretty difficult if I don’t assist.
Lifting a dog up from a lying position is very different to picking up a standing dog. Since I am usually on my own with him, I use a couple of essential tools to help me get him standing.
One of them is a strap, which I pass under his tummy, just in front of his rear legs. Sometimes it can be difficult to get the strap under his body and I have to slightly lift up his rear end to get the strap into position.
If you don’t have a harness, you might find that you can make a makeshift strap from a scarf.
This simple tool is often enough, but as his disability has progressed, I’ve needed to add another tool. When he’s having a bad day and is very unstable, I now use an orthopaedic harness.
AN ORTHOPAEDIC HARNESS
This bit of kit has made life SOOOO much easier for us both. When he has the harness on I can lift him up from a lying position – on my own, no other person required – and without the risk of pulling any muscles (in me) or harming him.
Unless your vet advises you against it because of any particular physical issues your dog has, an orthopaedic harness is a gamechanger. I can’t recommend it enough.
Instead of lifting my boy into a vehicle, I can now help him walk up the ramp by holding him up in the harness. He keeps his dignity, and a sense of freedom, and I avoid sessions at the chiropractor for a slipped disc – it’s a win-win!
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH HIP DISPLASIA?
Many pet parents use an orthopaedic harness, such as the one I use, to help them lift their dogs with hip dysplasia. Just like my boy, a dog with hip dysplasia often needs to be lifted or helped up.
If you do need to pick up a dog suffering from hip dysplasia, put one arm under her chest, just behind her front legs, and the other arm under her tummy, just in front of her back legs.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG WITH BACK PROBLEMS?
An orthopaedic harness like the one I use for my boy may well be an ideal tool to for a dog with back problems, but it really depends on the specific problem your dog has.
For many back problems, keeping the spine straight is key, supporting both front and back. However, your vet will advise you of the kinds of movements that you need to avoid. It may well be that you need to prevent his back from ‘bowing’, in which case a 2 part front and back harness might not be the best for your dog.
To lift a dog while keeping his back straight, put one arm between his front legs, and pass your other arm in between his rear legs, from the back end, passing your arm along the length of his belly. Your 2 arms should be under his belly, supporting the length of his body.
Again, if your dog has a back problem, consult your vet for methods that are right for the particular difficulty that your dog faces.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A PREGNANT DOG?
If at all possible, avoid lifting a pregnant dog. If it is unavoidable, make sure you don’t support her by putting your hands or arm under her stomach – you need to avoid putting pressure on her abdomen.
Put one arm directly behind her front legs and the other arm behind her rear legs, tucked in under her rear.
IS IT BAD TO PICK UP YOUR DOG?
Something to consider here, is how being picked up feels from your dog’s point of view. Many dogs love to be picked up and cuddled.
However, we tend to think that our dogs will be happy to just accept whatever we want to do, but some dogs really dislike being lifted up and / or cuddled. Is it necessary to lift your dog up? Do you lift her up for you, or because she wants or needs to be lifted?
THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO WHEN PICKING UP A DOG
Sometimes even the most well-meaning pet parents among us discover that we are ‘doing it wrong’. The following are NOT ways to pick up a dog.
DON’T PICK UP A DOG BY THE SCRUFF OF HER NECK
People often think that puppies can be picked up as their mother would pick them up – by the scruff of the neck. However, mother dogs only use this technique when the puppies are still very small. It’s not a method that we humans should use. It can be painful and potentially damaging for the pup.
DON’T PICK UP A DOG BY HER TAIL
Most pet parents wouldn’t dream of doing this to their fur baby.
A dog’s tail is in fact an extension of its backbone. It contains nerves, muscle, and bones, all of which can be damaged by being pulled.
DON’T PICK UP A DOG LIKE SHE’S A RAG DOLL
I’ve seen so many little kids pick up their small family pets as if they were dolls, with the pet dangling from its legs or being suspended from its underarms. Unfortunately, it has the potential to leave your dog injured and in pain. It’s a great idea to teach younger kids how to properly pick up their small pets, maybe even using a toy dog as a practice prop.
DON’T PICK UP A DOG BY HER COLLAR
Picking a dog up by her collar is likely to injure her neck, temporarily choking her and possibly doing more permanent damage.
Years ago, like so many others, I used to walk my dogs with the lead attached to a collar. After having seen so much research as to why collars can be dangerous for dogs, I no longer clip the lead to a collar, I use harnesses instead. Dogs’ necks can be easily injured, just as our necks can.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG THAT BITES?
Lots of dogs dislike being picked up and some might react aggressively when lifted. If you know that this is true for your dog, it is worthwhile teaching him to wear a muzzle when needed. It will be useful not only for when you need to lift him up, but also perhaps for vet visits or other treatment sessions.
You can teach this is a game, so that the muzzle becomes something your dog enjoys and looks forward to. This is a great video showing how to teach your dog to enjoy a muzzle.
As well as training him to wear a muzzle, you might want to do some training to help him accept being touched. Here is an article with easy-to-follow training instructions.
HOW DO YOU PICK UP A DOG AFTER SPAYING?
Your dog shouldn’t be doing any jumping up or making abrupt moves in the 2 weeks after her operation. After 2 weeks, her incision should be healed.
However, for the 2 weeks following surgery, try to avoid carrying or lifting her. The operation involves cutting through her abdominal wall muscles, which leaves her entire abdomen very sensitive and sore. If you pick her up, you risk hurting her and pulling out the stitches.
Instead, try to assist her with her balance when she leaves the vet. Support her into your vehicle with a ramp if possible, so she doesn’t need to climb in.
Once she’s home, make sure that she’s given space and not cuddled by concerned family members: I speak from experience, having been bitten by my gentle childhood dog when she was in post-op recovery.
FAQ: HOW TO PICK UP A DOG PROPERLY
That depends on the dog. Some do and some don’t. Try to look out for your dog pulling away or looking away when you go to pick her up: she may be signalling that she doesn’t want it.
Put one hand under her chest, with one or 2 fingers between her front paws. Support her rear with your other hand.
If a dog is too large for one person, you will need someone else to help. One person supports the dog’s front end, just under her shoulders/chest. The other person supports her rear end, just in front of her rear legs.
Try to avoid picking up pregnant dogs. If it is unavoidable, make sure not to put any pressure on her abdomen when you lift. Put one arm directly behind her front legs and the other arm behind her rear legs, tucked in under her rear.
Put one arm under her chest, just behind her front legs, and the other arm under her tummy, just in front of her back legs.
Avoid picking her up as this may reopen her incision and cause her pain. Instead, try to support her as she walks.
Put one hand under her chest and pass a couple of fingers through her front legs. Your fingers will be supporting the front of the chest and neck. The palm of your hand or your wrist will be supporting her underside.
Then, bring her in toward your body and tuck her bottom in between your arm and body.