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Why Does My Dog Want Me To Pick Him Up – 7 Reasons!

Your dog jumps around, wagging and barking. He sticks his paws on your knees and stares up at you imploringly. Does he want me to pick him up? You wonder. To test it out, you gather him in your arms, pet him, and kiss him. When he begins to squirm, you set him back down. Convinced by your experience, you begin wondering; why does my dog want me to pick him up?

Dogs want you to pick them up to gain your attention, earn treats, and feel affection. Separation anxiety, fear, and discomfort may also be reasons dogs like to be picked up. While most dogs will tolerate being picked, few enjoy the interaction.

In this article, we will help you understand whether your dog enjoys being picked up or tolerates it, why most dogs dislike being held.

Reasons Your Dog Does Not Want To Be Picked Up

While some dogs want to be picked up, chances are that’s not the case. In fact, there are more reasons why a dog would not want to be picked up that you should consider.

It Makes Him Nervous

Think about it: if a being many times your size decided to lift you (far, far away from the floor), wouldn’t you feel nervous? In many ways, it’s natural that a dog feels anxious when being picked up because it’s a situation wholly foreign to him and one that can seem dangerous.

If your dog is nervous about being picked up, avoid picking him up.

You Are Holding Your Dog Wrong

Almost every dog owner picks up their dog incorrectly. Either they hold their dog by a limb, or by the scruff, or around his belly. All of these methods of holding your dog are incorrect and can hurt your dog under certain circumstances.

Proper technique is critical. A small dog will be most comfortable when you support his rear with your dominant hand and hold his chest with your non-dominant hand.

It also helps if you hold him close to your body, which provides extra support. A large dog requires arms around the rear and the chest, with his legs dangling in between. Remember to lift with your legs, not your back. You can hurt yourself by lifting your dog improperly as well. 

Your Dog Is In Pain

When a dog has tolerated being held until recently and expresses immediate pain upon being held, he may have suffered an injury or some exacerbated illness when held.

Dogs will often cry out or avoid you if they are in pain. They may also lick the affected area excessively. If you suspect your dog is in pain, you should take him to the vent immediately.

Your Dog Had A Traumatic Experience Relating To Being Picked Up

Usually, when a human looks like they’re trying to pick up a dog, it means that the dog will go through something unpleasant. When do people most often pick up their dogs?

It’s often for a negative reason, like a trip to the vet, an ever ominous bath, or simply removing a stressful situation. Over time, a dog will come to associate the negative experience with the act of being picked up or even, at times, the simple approach of a person.

Avoid picking him up, but when you do, remember to reinforce positive aspects of being picked up. Offer him treats, pets, and reassuring words. If possible, set him down once he begins to whine, growl, or squirm, because these are all signs that he wants to be released.

You Pick Him Up By the Scruff

Dogs don’t like being held by the scruff. Yes, dog mothers hold their babies by their scruffs but stop soon after the dog can move independently. After that, they only hoist their dog by the scruff in emergencies.

No matter how small your dog is, it isn’t a good idea to hold the dog by his scruff because it can seriously injure him and plant distrust. 

He Sees The Action As An Expression Of Dominance

The act of picking up your dog can come off as aggressive, and so you’re inadvertently scaring your dog. By picking him up (and especially when you resist letting him go when he begins to struggle), you are saying, I have complete control over you, and that makes a dog very anxious. This can start or exacerbate anxiety issues.

Your Dog Simply Doesn’t Like To Be Held

You might do everything right; you hold your dog perfectly, you make sure to reward his good behavior, you put him down once he starts growling, and still, your dog might not like being held.

Think of it like this. Some dogs like scratches behind the ears, and others like belly rubs. Some like to go on runs, while others only walk. Some prefer ropes; others prefer tennis balls. Every dog is an individual, so you may have a dog that doesn’t like to be held.

Most dogs detest being held since they see it as a sign of dominance, so don’t worry; you’re one of the pack of many. It’s important to respect your dog’s wishes. While there are instances where it may be necessary to pick up your dog, you should avoid it if you can’t tell whether he enjoys it or not. 

Is It Bad To Pick Up A Dog

It’s not bad to pick up a dog. Sometimes, dogs need to be picked up. When they grow old or injure themselves, some dogs have trouble climbing stairs and will need assistance.

Other dogs need to be physically removed from a situation or placed into a crate. And some dogs resist getting into the car by themselves because they know it’ll take them to the vet. 

However, if you’re picking your dog up because you enjoy it, it’s possible that you’re not doing the right thing. Most dogs do not enjoy being held because they see it as a sign of dominance.

They’ll squirm, whine, growl, or even nip at your fingers for release. If your dog displays any of these signs, you should not pick up your dog unless it’s necessary.

There are those rare dogs that enjoy being picked up. You can determine whether your dog enjoys being picked up through his body language: if he wags as you hold him and licks your face, he likes it! 

Do Dogs Like Being Held

Some dogs like to be held.

Like people, dogs are individuals. Some like to be held, and some don’t, but in this case, most don’t. Dogs that want to be held will show it through their body language: they’ll leap up on their hind legs, wagging, and wait. When you pick them up, they won’t wiggle, growl, or attempt to escape. Instead, they’ll kiss your face and wag.

Some dogs like to be held because it gets them closer to you. They like the affection of being held closely and petted. Other dogs like to be held because, in the past, that meant free treats. 

Although a minority of dogs like to be held, that leaves the majority: those that tolerate being held and those that downright despise it.

These dogs will make their emotions clear; they will wiggle, cry, growl, or shake as you hold them. Unless you are confident that your dog likes to be held, you should avoid holding your dog until necessary. When you do hold your dog, do it properly and put him down if it seems like he wants to be released.

Can You Hurt Your Dog By Picking Them Up

Yes, you can hurt your dog by picking them up. With the wrong technique, owners can and do unintentionally hurt their dogs. Unless necessary, you should never pick your dog up by his limbs or his scruff because this is uncomfortable at best, painful at worst.

Some dogs won’t express pain until an injury has already been inflicted, so you must carry your dog correctly.

If he’s a light dog, support his bottom with your dominant hand and hold his chest with your non-dominant hand. If he’s a heavy dog, circle your arms around his chest and rear and lift with your legs, not your back.

How To Pick Up A Dog Correctly

The proper technique depends on how heavy your dog is. If you have a lightweight dog, you should support his rear with your dominant hand and use your non-dominant hand to balance his chest.

Hold your dog close to your body for extra support. If you have a heavy dog, circle your arms around his chest and rear, right behind his legs. Lift with your legs to protect your back.

These techniques will minimize the discomfort your day may feel at being held since they distribute the dog’s weight over multiple points and support their rear (when a dog’s butt is left hanging in the air, it makes them very anxious). 

Remember: you should never pick up your dog by the scruff, by a limb, or by its tail. Holding your dog around the belly can be uncomfortable for the dog, so try to avoid that.

Other Factors

A patient went to his doctor and said, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this!” and then turned his head until he looked down his spine. The doctor said, “Then don’t do that.” The patient went home with no complaints.

What’s the lesson here? Avoid picking up your dog if he doesn’t enjoy it–and many dogs don’t enjoy it. You have to accept that as a good dog owner. If your dog wiggles, growls, nips, whines, or shakes when you pick him up, then he doesn’t like it.

That’s no insult to you, either; by nature, most dogs don’t like being held. If your dog runs around, jumps on your legs, and then wags and licks your face when you hold him, then he may be that elusive dog that enjoys being held. That’s great news!

There are instances in which you need to pick up your dog, so it is essential to know the proper technique if you run into one of these situations. For small dogs, support his rear with your dominant hand and place your non-dominant hand on his chest.

Hold him close to your body for extra support. For larger dogs, circle one arm around his rear and the other around his chest. Make sure to lift with your legs, not your back. These techniques will minimize your dog’s discomfort at being held.

If you live a life in which your dog is often being picked up and set down, you can train your dog to get used to being picked up. Keep in mind that it’s easiest to acclimate your dog to unnatural or uncomfortable procedures when he is a puppy.

Reward your dog with treats and pets when you have to pick him up, and set him down when he begins to wiggle. Over time, he will tolerate more extended amounts of holding.

How Do I Show My Dog Proper Affection

Dogs are wonderfully simple creatures, and they don’t need grand displays of affection to understand that you love them.

You already know how to be nice to your dog: rub his ears, give him belly rubs, play with toys if your dog likes that. You can also give your dog a special T-R-E-A-T or take him on an extra-long walk with exciting smells. Maybe there’s something that your dog in particular likes, such as a visit to a dog park, or a large body of water, or a firm brushing. 

People often pick up their dogs because they enjoy holding them closely, but it’s essential to understand that a dog is an individual creature with its desires and dislikes. Respect is essential for any relationship, especially one that crosses species.

You don’t need to pick up your dog to tell him you love him; you already have practical affection tools in your kit, so use them!


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