This summer, I frequently visit a puppy adoption event. Each week, the volunteers introduce five puppies to the public, most around 3 to 4 months old. They are all rescue animals from an overcrowded shelter in the southeast.
Petting puppies is a great stress reliever and this event is a winner. Most puppies are adopted into their forever homes. People leave the event smiling and feeling the joy of puppy petting.
I also watch how the skilled volunteers handle the puppies. They lift and stabilize the puppies with one arm and hold them close to the chest.
Do you know that there is a right way to hold a puppy or dog?
Let’s talk about the wrong way to hold a dog.
Baby Hold: One thing that dogs don’t like is to be held like a baby. This hold is comfortable for the person, but not for the dog.
Dogs will let you know if they don’t want to be lifted off the ground. Or if they don’t like your holding technique. They will squirm and keep trying to get away.
Here are several wrong ways to lift a dog:
1. The Doll Lift: Never lift a dog by the limbs. Never.
A dog’s limbs give her speed and agility. Don’t lift or pull on her limbs. Why? The doll lift puts the dog’s full weight on the front limbs.
Dogs are not dolls. Young children try to lift dogs by their front limbs, like lifting a doll. WRONG.
2. The Child Lift. Never lift a dog like a child. Never. Why? The child lift puts force on the shoulder, elbows, front toes and the spine of your dog. You can also damage the dog’s bone and cartilage.
Adults tend to lift the dog under the arms, like they would lift a child. WRONG.
And if the dog struggles in a doll or child lift, she can easily drop to the ground. It’s another way to damage her bone and cartilage.
3. Yelping, growling or looking like she’s in pain. Look for signs of discomfort as you lift your dog.
Are there signs of stress, anxiety or resistance to being lifted off the ground? Stress includes averting her gaze, licking her lips, showing the whites of her eyes and yawning.
Best tip: Avoid the doll lift and child lift. Look for signs of distress when you pick up a dog.
About 50% of them happen at home. Kids age 5 to 9 years are at the highest risk.
Why? Many parents don’t teach their children to humanely pick up a dog. Parents don’t look for the signs of stress when dogs are uncomfortable and anxious.
Dog bites are generally provoked by adults and children. Dogs strike out and bite for a reason.
4. Never do scruffing on a dog or cat. Scruffing your pet is grabbing the skin on the back of their neck (called the scruff) and holding it.
The skin is looser in the scruff but it’s not a handle. It’s a myth that you can pick up an adult dog by the nape of the neck, like cat and dog moms pick up kittens and puppies.
Some people wrongfully use the scruff as a handle. Scruffing is no way to hold an adult dog or cat.
Scruffing is painful for any adult dog. Please don’t to it.
And here’s the right way to hold a dog.
Under 25 pounds: Put your dominant arm under the dog’s chest between the front limb, tuck back end between, and hold like a football.
Medium sized adult dog (25 to 40 lbs): Put your dominant arm behind the back legs and your other arm around the front. Hold the dog next to your chest to stabilize as you lift.
Large dogs (40+ lbs): Try to get two people to lift.
Final tips on lifting and holding your dog:
- If your dog is afraid or impaired, don’t put your face or hands near his mouth.
- Injured pets: You might need a muzzle.
- Kid tip: Always ask to pick up a dog.
- Parent tip: Teach children to humanely pick up a dog.
- If the dog is scared or struggling, let him go.
- If the dog looks injured, don’t pick her up.
Thanks for caring properly for your doggy,
Dr. Pet Mom
“There’s just something about dogs that makes you feel good. You come home, they’re thrilled to see you. They’re good for the ego.”