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Does your dog like being picked up ?

We've all done it ..

wanted to pick up our puppy, little dog or even our big dog !

But should we ?

Let's have a look at the reasons why we pick our dogs up ...


To cuddle them and give them affection

To remove them from harm/lift them to safety

If they are tired

To remove them from doing something (chewing the table leg)


Some dogs will tolerate being picked up , but is that enough ?


Of course, sometimes it's a useful to pick our dogs up (to cross a busy road quickly for example) , but, as with everything, be aware of how often you are picking them up, this is especially pertinent with puppies and small dogs, and are they comfortable with being picked up.


If your dog is growling or showing signs they are uncomfortable then consider these points ...


1. Fear and Anxiety

One of the primary reasons dogs growl when picked up is fear or anxiety. Being lifted off the ground can be a scary experience for some dogs, making them feel insecure or trapped. Positive reinforcement can help alleviate this fear. Gradually desensitise your dog to being picked up by rewarding calm behavior and using treats to create positive associations with the action.


2. Pain or Discomfort

If your dog growls when being picked up, it could be due to physical pain or discomfort. This is particularly common in older dogs or those with medical issues. If you suspect this might be the case, consult your vet to rule out any underlying health problems. Training with positive reinforcement can help by gently handling your dog and rewarding them for tolerating brief, gentle contact.


3. Lack of Trust

Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized or have had negative experiences may lack trust in humans, making them more likely to growl when picked up. Building trust is crucial. Use positive reinforcement to reward your dog for small, trust-building behaviors, like approaching you or allowing brief touches, and gradually work up to picking them up.


4. Past Trauma

Dogs with a history of abuse or neglect may have traumatic associations with being picked up, leading to growling as a defense mechanism. Positive reinforcement can help rebuild their confidence. Start by rewarding your dog for any calm behavior around you and gradually increase their comfort level with being handled.


5. Feeling Overwhelmed

Some dogs simply feel overwhelmed by the sensation of being lifted. Positive reinforcement training can help your dog feel more comfortable. Break the process into small steps, rewarding your dog for each successful step, such as standing still when you approach, allowing brief touch, and finally being lifted slightly off the ground.


6. Consent and Communication

Just like humans, dogs appreciate having their boundaries respected. Asking for your dog's consent before picking them up is essential. You can do this by observing their body language and looking for signs of comfort or discomfort. Here's how to ask for consent:

  1. Approach Calmly: Approach your dog in a calm and non-threatening manner.

  2. Observe Body Language: Look for signs of relaxation, such as a wagging tail, relaxed ears, and a soft gaze. If your dog shows signs of stress, like a stiff body, tucked tail, or avoiding eye contact, it’s best to give them more space.

  3. Offer a Cue: Use a consistent verbal cue, like “up” or “lift,” to let your dog know what you intend to do.

  4. Wait for a Positive Response: Wait for your dog to show positive body language, like leaning towards you or wagging their tail, before proceeding.

  5. Reward Consent: If your dog allows you to pick them up without showing signs of discomfort, reward them with treats and praise.


Implementing Positive Reinforcement Training


To address growling through positive reinforcement, follow these steps:

  1. Start Slowly: Begin by getting your dog used to being touched and handled. Reward calm behavior with treats and praise.

  2. Use Treats Wisely: Associate being picked up with something positive. Offer treats as you approach, touch, and eventually lift your dog.

  3. Build Trust: Spend quality time with your dog to build trust. Engage in activities they enjoy and ensure your interactions are positive.

  4. Observe Body Language: Pay attention to signs of discomfort or stress. If your dog shows signs of fear or anxiety, take a step back and proceed more slowly.

  5. Be Patient: Training takes time, especially if your dog has had negative experiences. Be patient and consistent with your positive reinforcement.

  6. Ask for Consent: Ensure your dog is comfortable and willing to be picked up by observing their body language and asking for their consent.


By understanding the reasons behind your dog’s growling and using positive reinforcement training, you can help your dog feel more comfortable and secure when being picked up. This approach not only addresses the immediate behavior but also strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend.


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