How to Pick Up a Dog the Right Way So They Love Being Held

Lifting your dog is often easier said than done, but using proper techniques will definitely help.

Published May 16, 2023
Smiling Young Woman Pampering Her Puppy At Home

It can be tricky to pick up your dog safely, especially if you have a larger breed. The most important thing is to support their back legs so their spine doesn't get tweaked. Whether you have a small dog or a giant, it's important to learn the right way to pick them up.

How to Pick Dogs Up the Right Way

The most important thing to remember is that you need to support your dog's whole body. Don't lift them from their legs, from one end only, or by their scruff. Also, you need to keep your posture in mind: even if you lift your dog properly, you could injure yourself if you are in an awkward position.

Picking Up Small Dogs

young woman with laughing corgi puppy

Picking up a small dog is easier than lifting a large dog. Even though they're small, there's still a correct way to pick up small pups:

  1. Position one of your hands: Put your dominant hand palm-up over their body and back under your dog's chest, just behind their front legs. Use your forearm to support the front of their body.
  2. Support the hind legs: With your other hand between their body and your chest, support your dog's bottom or hind legs. You never want to lift a dog by their front legs, as they aren't designed to bear the entire weight of the dog.
  3. Lift them gently: Use both arms to lift your dog up to your chest gently.
  4. Hold firmly: Hold your dog close to your body to make them feel safe and secure. Make sure your grip is firm but not too tight to avoid causing any discomfort.
Quick Tip

Never lift a dog by their collar, tail, or legs. This can cause serious injury.

Picking Up Medium and Large Dogs

Picking up medium or large dogs is easier said than done. But here's how to do it properly:

  • Kneel: Start by kneeling down on one knee next to your dog. Make sure you bend at your knees.
  • Front support: Place one arm below your dog's neck and in front of their legs to support their chest.
  • Rear support: Position your other arm under their rump and behind their back legs to support their rear.
  • Wrap your arms: Make sure your forearms are supporting the side of your dog that's away from you.
  • Lift: When you stand up, use your legs to lift, not your back. This helps prevent injury.
  • Hold securely: Hold your dog securely against your body as you stand.
Quick Tip

Be especially careful lifting medium to large dogs. If you don't cradle their body and support their back, and they twist or squirm, they may harm themselves or you in the process.

How to Hold a Dog Safely

girl holding her Boston Terrier dog

Holding your dog properly is important for your safety and your dog's safety. The appropriate holding method depends on the size of your dog and how comfortable they are with being held. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

For Small Dogs

Small dogs are easier to hold due to their size, but it's still important to use the correct technique to prevent injury to your pup.

  1. Support: Keep your dominant hand under your dog's chest behind the front legs, and the other hand supporting the hindquarters. This balanced support helps keep the dog stable and secure.
  2. Use gentle pressure: Cradle your small dog with your arms, and use some pressure to help them feel secure.
  3. Hold them close: Without squeezing your dog too tightly, keep them close to your body while you hold them.

For Medium and Large Dogs

For medium and large dogs, carrying them may not be practical or safe. However, if you need to hold a larger dog - to weigh them, for example - make sure you are both secure.

  1. Support their legs: With your arms wrapped around your dog's front and back in a donut shape, let your dog's legs hang in front of you.
  2. Squeeze toward your body: Lean back slightly to press their weight into your body, and squeeze them towards you (don't squeeze their chest and rear toward each other).
  3. Use your hips: Don't lift your dog too high, if you can help it - use your hips to bear their weight, as much as possible.
Quick Tip

To set your dog back down, do not bend forward at your hips. Squat down, bending at your knees, until you are close to the ground, and slowly bend forward from your hips until their legs are touching the floor.

Lifting Dogs with Injuries

For dogs with chronic health problems, mobility issues, or who are recovering from surgery, consider using a dog lift harness. These devices wrap around your dog's body and have handles that allow you to lift them without putting pressure on their injuries.

Different designs cater to various needs. Some devices support the hind legs, others support the front legs, and some provide full-body support. Choose the device based on your dog's needs.

Quick Tip

Some dogs will not feel secure being held while they are in a laying position. After you've lifted your dog safely, you can lower their rear with your arm underneath so they're closer to a sitting position.

Do Dogs Like to Be Picked Up and Held?

Different dogs have different personalities and preferences. Some dogs love it when their owners pick them up and hold them, while others are not so keen on the idea.

A dog's reaction to being picked up depends on how they were handled as a puppy. If your dog was picked up and cuddled regularly as a puppy, then chances are they will enjoy being picked up now. However, if they weren't handled much as a puppy, they may prefer to not be picked up or held.

Why Doesn't My Dog Like Being Picked Up?

Some dogs simply don't like being held because they find it stressful, uncomfortable, or even scary. If you try to pick up your dog and they start whining or struggling against you, then you should stop immediately and try again later. Other dogs have had negative experiences with being picked up or held in the past, making this action a trigger.

What Do I Do If My Dog Doesn't Like Being Picked Up?

If your dog doesn't like being picked up, you can face the fact that they aren't a fan. But if you want your dog to get accustomed to being picked up and held, here are some tips:

  • Pick them up when they're calm and relaxed, not when they're excited or stressed out by something else going on in the environment.
  • Dogs respond well to food rewards. So if you give your pup a treat every time they let you hold them, they will positively correlate being held with treats.
  • Start slowly and move forward gradually. Start by only slightly picking them up off the ground and gradually increase the distance.

Pick Your Dog Up Properly

Picking up a dog properly is important for your dog's health and safety. It also helps build a bond with your dog. If you pick up your dog improperly, it could cause injuries to you as well as your pet. Make sure you're protecting yourself as well as your dog with proper posture and form, and always support their body. And don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it; your pup will thank you!

How to Pick Up a Dog the Right Way So They Love Being Held