The internet is full of cute pictures and videos of people holding and cuddling their dogs. Looking at these pictures and videos you will get the impression that holding on to your dog is something that not just we as humans look forward to, but our dogs also look forward to these sessions.

The truth is that not all dogs look forward to this, in fact, most dogs don’t look forward to being held by humans. Not the way we naturally do it. Dragging them by their paws, forcefully pulling them along, holding them in wrong, delicate parts of their body make the experience of being held a dreadful one for most dogs. They experience pain and also there is the problem of limited motion when they are held.

This begs the question “How do dogs like to be held?”

The first thing to do before holding any dog is to let the dog know that you are about to do something. Imagine someone just picking you up suddenly without you expecting it. You would not only be surprised, but most of us would also get offended, especially if the pick-up was roughly done.

Now the same sentiment applies to your dog, letting your dog know you want to do something before engaging in it is not only polite but it makes your dog more receptive to whatever action you want to take.

The best way to alert your dog that you are about to hold him or her, is with a verbal command. You may need to train your dog a bit to recognize the command when you use it. Some people use the “Come” command, others use the “Here boy” or “Here girl” command. Train your dog according to what suits you. The main thing here is to alert or inform your dog before holding him or her.

The next thing is to actually hold your dog properly. Now when it comes to holding your dog, size and their current situation matter.

We are going to work you through how to hold dogs of various sizes and in various situations. This is broken down to Holding a puppy up, holding smaller dogs up, holding medium-sized dogs up, holding large dogs up, holding pregnant dogs up, holding a dog with a spine problem up, and holding a dog with a hip problem up.

1.Holding a puppy up.

You hold a puppy up by placing your hands under his or her chest and lifting them gently, simultaneously you should move your hand to their rear to support their weight and bring them close to your chest.

Some puppies don’t like being carried and would resist this action, only if it is necessary that you need to raise him or her up then gently holding them up by the scruff of their neck and backside is recommended.

It is worth noting that this is the only time it is advisable to hold a puppy by its scruff. In fact, holding older dogs by their scruff is not recommended in any situation.

2. Holding smaller dogs up.

You hold a smaller dog up in the exact same way you hold a puppy up, the main difference here is that smaller dogs are a bit older so they are not supposed to be held by their scruff. Some dogs that fit into this description are Chihuahuas, Brussels Griffons, Pomeranians, Affenpinschers, Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Fox Terriers, Russian Toys, Japanese Chin, etc.

3. Holding medium-sized dogs up.

Holding up a medium-sized dog looks like the reverse of holding up a small dog. You start first by putting your stronger or more dominant hand behind their back legs for maximum support, then you use the other hand to lift them from the chest area.

It’s always good to keep in mind that placing them on your chest away from your face is the safest area for both you and your dog.

3. Holding large dogs up.

Usually, large dogs require at least two people to hold them up. You may first look at the possibility of holding them up in the same way you did a medium-sized dog. In the situation where this does not work out. Then get a partner and follow this process.

Put both hands under the chest area of your dog, let your partner lift the dog from behind the rear leg, move your dog to the new location, and gently set him or her down there. It’s important not to lift large and heavy dogs for long as they may start experiencing some pain.

A word of caution, avoid having your face directly facing the dog if he or she is experiencing some pain. In fact, you can take extra precaution and use a nuzzle for the period of the lifting as the pain the dog is experiencing can make him or her act out and unintended accidents can happen.

4. Holding pregnant dogs up.

Usually, holding up or lifting a pregnant dog is something that should be avoided, In the worst-case scenario, lift them as you would a large dog, taking extra precaution to avoid the stomach area.

A better option would be to fashion a makeshift stretcher. You can do this with a large towel or sheets. Get the pregnant dog to lie down on the towel or sheet, bundle the end (with the assistance of your friend or partner) and lift the pregnant dog to the new position.

5. Holding a dog with a spine problem up.

As with pregnant dogs, only hold up dogs with spine problems when absolutely necessary, follow the same process as when lifting large dogs and take the same precautions. You can also use the makeshift stretcher option.

6. Holding a dog with a hip problem up.

Unfortunately for dogs having hip problems or Hip Dysplasia, they need to be lifted from time to time. Whether you have to get them into the car for that vet hospital schedule, getting up into your bed if you allow that, or climbing stairs, they would need assistance.

As much as you can avoid putting pressure on the dog’s back legs, support the dog from the backside and lift him from the chest area, using your chest to support their body during the movement period.


1. Dog limbs are more fragile than you can imagine.

Naturally, dog limbs are designed to help their speed and agility. They are not built to be left hanging in the air when being lifted up or held up. Their joints too are fragile. We as humans naturally lift our babies from the arm region, doing this with dogs is a recipe for catastrophe. You will find both untrained kids and adults trying to lift up a dog in this manner. This is very wrong.

When dogs are held up especially from the front leg, it puts a large amount of pressure on their shoulders, elbows, and spine. This strain on the bones and muscles can lead to the tearing of some ligaments and dislocation of some bones. Worse still, it can lead to broken bones and torn cartilages if the dog falls down or drops accidentally. This compounds their health problems especially as the dog gets older.

2. It’s painful when held up wrongly.

A big misconception that people have is that if their dogs are not yelping or barking back, the dog is not feeling any pain even when they are wrongly being lifted up. This is far from being true. You need to understand that just like humans, dogs have their own threshold of pain. Some would yelp at the smallest feeling of pain and some would hold on and endure for longer. When combined with their desire to please us, enduring a small amount of pain may be worth it for them if they are getting some attention from it.

Having said that, look out for the above, if your dog avoids your gaze, shows signs of struggling, shows the white of his eyes, licks his or her lips repeatedly, yawns incessantly, etc, these are all pointers that your dog is not enjoying being held up.

3. Scruffing is not acceptable.

People may argue that dog mums carry their puppies by scruffing them. This is true, for one thing, they need to carry their dog by scruffing them as the use of their mouth is the only thing they can use to do this. But the people that argue from this viewpoint have not considered what happens as the dog grows older. There is no scruffing at that stage.

Simply put, you may scruff your dog as a puppy, but as they grow scruffing them is simply not acceptable. As puppies, they can be scruffed easily as their joints are not well-formed but as they grow, their bones and joints start to take their proper form which only makes scruffing them at this point painful.

4. Your dog may bite if it’s too painful.

In the United States, not less than four million dog bites occur every year. In that record, a majority of them occur at home with dogs that are already close to people there. In that statistics, kids between five to nine years of age are recorded to be bitten more.

What this data says is really simple, dogs don’t bite at random. There is always a reason for them to bite, that you did not pick up the signs earlier cannot be blamed on your dog.

So coming back to holding up or carrying your dog. He or she may bite you if this is not done correctly.

5. Dogs are grateful when held the right way.

Like we wrote earlier, it is not only polite to alert your dog before holding them up or carrying them the right way, it is easier and safer for everyone involved. It puts your dog’s mind at ease and makes him or her more willing to follow through with whatever you have in mind.

This is even more important for kids who would be around dogs, teaching them the proper way to interact with dogs in the house is important for their safety.

This brings us to the next cause of concern.


i.) Never grab or pull a dog by the tail.

Dog tails are not just their for beautification, they are used for communicating and assist in giving your dog stability while standing.

Pulling a dog by the tail can lead to spinal issues, damage of connecting muscles and nerve endings, and loss of stability of movement. There is also the danger of your dog reacting on reflex and biting you so better avoid grabbing or pulling this area.

ii.) Avoid pulling up your dog from its front leg.

Some people do this with the intent of just being playful with their dogs, but as we mentioned earlier, this is not a natural position for any dog, apart from putting a strain on the joints and muscles, it also puts their whole anatomy in an unnatural position. Compare it to having someone hang you upside down for the fun of it, it is not much fun.

iii.)Avoid holding your dog up by their scruff.

We have explained this earlier but it’s worth mentioning again. Only do this in their first few weeks as puppies after that stage all you will get from doing this is a dog that is always in pain and avoids you.

iv.) Avoid holding your dog up by their collar.

Doing this cuts off the air supply to your dog’s lungs, albeit temporarily. Doing this for a long time can lead to irreversible damage to your dog’s trachea, this is a major health issue.


It is not all dogs that love being held up, normally leaving a dog to his or her whims would be the best approach to this. Only hold them up if necessary, but if you are the type that loves holding onto dogs and hugging them you can first option purchase a dog that is predisposed to hugging, or the second option start training your dog to be receptive to being held using positive reinforcement techniques and treats.

As always our dogs are always receptive to bonding experiences and would adapt to what we want as far as they receive attention from us.