Your dog yelping when you pick him or her up can make you have feelings of distress and sometimes even annoy you. Basically, yelping can be defined as the sudden sound your dog makes if they are picked up in the wrong way. There are so many reasons why your dog would yelp when you pick him up. You may need to be watchful of your dog and observe him or her closely to decipher the cause of them yelping. But in summary, here are the answers to the question Why is my dog yelping when I pick him up?

1. Their fear of being dropped
2. Breathing Problems
3. Ligament Problems
4. Arthritis
5. Spinal/Back Problems
6. Intestinal Problems/Gall bladder diseases

Let’s explain each reason in more details

1. Their fear of being dropped.

If your “dog yelps when picked up and shakes“, then there is a big possibility that your dog has fallen down before or was mistakenly dropped by someone who carried him or her in the past. This fear is more pronounced in smaller dogs. e.g Chihuahuas and Affenpinschers.

A dog with such a bad experience will express fear on being picked up and will immediately start yelping.

As dog parents, there are ways of picking up your dog without inducing fear in them. Basically, if you have been loving and caring with your dog, he or she would be more relaxed around you and would have developed a level of confidence in whatever you want to do with them.

Start by approaching your dog from the side. It’s not advisable to approach your dog from the rear, even if you have built a strong bond with them, approaching them from the rear can startle and surprise them, spoiling the chances of you picking up your dog in the proper way. So, approach your dog from the side and speak gently to him. The aim of doing this is to alert your dog that you are coming around and that you want to do something with him. This will make your dog more relaxed and receptive to whatever you want to do.

The next step is to begin the process of picking up your dog. For smaller dogs and puppies, you can start by gently scooping them up from the stomach area. You place one arm under his legs from the front, holding his stomach gently and lifting him or her up in this manner.

For larger dogs, you should start by placing your palm on the back and placing the other hand under their chest and stomach, them lifting them up gently with the palm on the back balancing his weight.

A quick note, it is always nice for the dog if you start this process not just from their side but also by sitting close beside them. In a way, it’s like letting your dog know that you are coming down to his or her level and that what you are about to do is going to help you two bond better.


2. Breathing Problems

If your “dog yelps when picked up under chest” then it is likely that your dog is having breathing problems, respiratory issues, or issues with their lungs. In this situation, we would not be able to pick up our dog the way we did above. Lung and breathing problems in a dog can be caused by bacterial infections, tumors, or injuries. All these can affect any part of their respiratory system.

As we have already mentioned above, you can easily confirm if your dog has a lung or breathing problem by trying to pick them up from the chest region. Your dog will not be able to hide the pain they will experience from this action.

Let’s put things in perspective. The average dog breaths in and out from between twenty to thirty-four times per minute. Most normal dogs fall into this range. Now if your dog is engaged in exercise, gets excited at the prospect of something, or is trying to cool down from an exceedingly high temperature. This can cause your dog’s breathing to increase more than thirty-four times in a minute not to mention the increase in their heart rate.

At this stage, there is nothing much to worry about, but if this excessive breathing is accompanied with excessive drolling, rigid stance, change in color of their tongue, an over-concentration of their gazing, rib cage shown forcefully while breathing, etc. Then your dog has a breathing problem.

It is worth noting that breathing problems can be very serious problems for your dog and even life-threatening, you should contact your vet doctor and deal with the problem asap before thinking of picking up your dog again.

3. Ligament Problems

If your dog yelps when picked up under front legs he or she might be experiencing ligament problems.

What is a ligament?

A ligament is the portion of the dog’s bone that connects the bones above the knee to the bones beneath the knee. Also known as the cranial cruciate ligament or CCL. Any damage, fracture, or injury in that region is regarded as a ligament problem.

A dog with a ligament problem would be unable to hide the pain they are experiencing especially if you are picking them up. Some dog breeds are more predisposed to ligament problems than others examples of these dog breeds are German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, etc. Also, conditions like obesity, strenuous exercises, and aging can contribute to ligament problems.

If your dog keeps yelping in pain randomly or “dog yelps when picked up and shakes” then contact your vet doctor for the next course of action. There might be a need for X-Rays to be taken and in some cases surgery or if you are lucky enough, medication and supplements might be all your dog needs.


4. Arthritis

A dog in pain when picked up can also be caused by arthritis.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis can simply be defined as the inflammation of the joints. It does not matter if the inflammation is on human bones or dog bones, the effect remains the same. Arthritis generally is a disease that affects dogs as they get older. This does not rule out the possibility of it happening to a younger dog, but that possibility is usually on the low side.

A dog suffering from arthritis would definitely try to resist you when you try to pick them up. Obviously, this dog is already in pain. You picking him or her up would only add to the pain being felt. Even when they trust you enough to pick them up despite the fact, your dog would yelp and shake or tremble a bit to ease the pain being experienced.

If the state of the arthritis is getting worse, your dog would start resisting any attempt to pick him up and might even get aggressive.

In situations like this, the best thing to do is to get professional help. First, contact your vet doctor to get medication and advice on how to manage arthritis. Another thing you may consider in this situation is to reduce the necessity for your dog to jump onto things. Purchasing ramps and placing them in strategic positions around the house would help solve this problem. Whether it is your dog getting into your bed or climbing into a sofa. Ramps would do the trick here.

Supplements are also important for your dog at this stage. Lots of antioxidants, omega-3 and 6 oils, and more to keep the cartilages lubricated and functional. A balanced diet for total body functionality and probably an activity schedule change to suit your dog’s current situation.

There is also the option of acquiring the services of Certified canine massage therapists. They can give your dog top-quality massages and help in the healing processes of the bone structures.


5. Spinal or Back Problems

Older dogs are prone to back and spinal problems. The older they get, the more likely they will suffer from this problem or something related to it. Old age is not so kind to most dogs, especially when they don’t have someone taking of them.

If your dog yelps when picked up and shakes or dog yelps when picked up under chest he or she may be having Spinal or Back Problems. The older a dog gets, the weaker they become, some even develop problems with their posture. Some causes of Spinal or Back Problems include but are not limited to obesity, bone fracture, injury to the spine area, bacteria infection, etc.

A dog with all or some of these signs would definitely find it painful to be picked up even if you are doing it properly.

Lifestyle changes, medication, diet changes, provision of comfort, etc. as some of the things that can help your dog in this situation. In extreme cases, surgery or a set of surgeries may be required to correct a spinal problem. Liaising with your vet doctor and following their instructions would be the best way to proceed in this situation.


6. Intestinal Problems/Gall bladder diseases.

If your dog yelps when picked up from the stomach area he or she may have intestinal problems/gall bladder disease.

What is a gall bladder?

This is a small organ located around the abdominal region of a dog. Its main function is to hold important concentrates and secretion liquids that are used during the digestion process. Located very close to the liver, it also absorbs some concentrate from the liver and passes them to the intestine to aid the digestive process. At the excretion stage in the digestive process, the gall bladder releases the appropriate secretions to also aid that process.

So as you can see, the gall bladder doesn’t just have its own functions, it also aids other internal parts of the body, mainly the digestive system to do its work. Needless to say, any interruption to this digestive process means the consumed food will not be properly processed for digestion which in turn can be very bad for your dog’s body.

One of the signs of a gall bladder problem is an over-bloated belly. Just touching their stomach at this stage is just unbearable for any dog. A quick call to the vet doctor so as to begin treatment is imperative at this stage.

So there you have it. We have answered the question Why is my dog yelping when I pick him up?. But there are situations where you will need to pick up or hold your dog, maybe to change their position, or take them to the hospital. So how can you achieve this? We have summarized the ways to pick or hold up your dog depending on their size, breed, and situation.


i. A puppy: The way you pick up a puppy is by placing your hands under their chest and gently lifting them up. At the same time use the free hand to support their rear weight if necessary and bring them close to your chest.

For puppies that are resistant to being picked up, you can scruff them. Scruffing is the act of picking up a puppy using the foreskin on the backside especially those around the spine area. Please note that scruffing is only acceptable for young puppies, you should never scruff an older dog as it only leads to pain for them and yelping.

ii. Small Dogs: You pick up a small dog in exactly the same way you pick up a puppy. Hands under the chest and lifting them all gently. Just to add to it, a small dog is not a puppy and should not be scruffed.

iii. Medium-sized Dogs: Picking up a medium-sized dog in a way is the reverse of picking up a small dog. You first start by supporting the rear end with your stronger arm and using the other arm to lift up the dog from the chest region.

iv. Large Dogs: Picking up a large dog is usually a two-man job. Depending on their size if it seems possible to pick them up just like you would a medium-sized dog then go ahead. But to be on the safe side, get a partner, put your hand under your dog’s chest and let your partner lift the dog from behind the legs. Move to the position your want to take your dog to and gently place them down there.

v.  Pregnant Dogs: The best way to pick up a pregnant dog is by using a makeshift stretcher, either fashioned from a sheet or a towel. Make the pregnant dog to lie down in the sheet or towel and then with the help of someone else, pick them up and set them down gently where you want them to be.

If you find yourself in a situation where you cant get help, you may consider picking them up the way you would a large dog.

vi. Dogs with spine problems: Pick dogs with spine problems up in the same way you would pick up a pregnant dog.

vii. Dogs with the hip problem: A stretcher is always a good investment at this stage, if you can’t access a stretcher, then picking them up the way you would a large dog would be the next best option.

You can learn more about picking up or holding up a dog by reading the full article HOW DO DOGS LIKE TO BE HELD