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Do Dogs Like Being Picked Up or Held? Is There a Good Way to Hold a Dog?

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

woman carrying an adorable dog

If you’re still in the early stages of getting to know your dog, you may feel the urge to pick them up and cuddle them but aren’t sure whether or not they’d take it well. In regard to the question “do dogs like being picked up?”, there’s no straight yes or no answer. It really depends on your dog’s personality.

Some dogs love being held and some hate it. Size is another factor you’ll want to consider—some dogs are so large that it’s simply not practical to keep picking them up (though a large dog that loves being picked up is likely one of the most adorable things you’ll ever see!).

In this post, we’ll share how to safely pick up a dog and how to identify whether or not your dog enjoys being held.

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Which Breeds Like Being Picked Up?

There’s no way to answer this without knowing the individual dog. Some breeds are reputed to enjoy physical interaction with their humans, whereas others are known for being more independent. For example, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are often super affectionate and don’t mind cuddles (good luck picking them up, though—they’re pretty big!), whereas Chow Chows and Shar Peis are considered more self-sufficient.

These are only generalizations, though, and they certainly don’t apply to every case. It’s possible to have a Chow Chow that can’t get enough of clambering up on your lap, just as it’s possible to have a Golden Retriever that’s a little more distant. Every dog is unique!

Happy family stroking Golden Retriever
Image Credit: wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock

Does My Dog Like Being Picked Up?

If you’re unsure, there are ways to tell if your dog enjoys being picked up or held. If your dog jumps up on you when greeting you, this is sometimes a signal that they want you to pick them up. Also, if they seem relaxed and content in your arms and don’t struggle, this is a clear sign that they don’t mind being held.

Puppies are easier to get used to being held. If you’re picking them up and cuddling with them from a young age, they grow accustomed to it and are less likely to fear it as they get older.

If you want to find out if your dog likes being picked up, try inviting them onto your lap while sitting on the couch to gauge how they feel about physical contact. If they seem happy on your lap, check out the steps below to find out how to safely pick up a dog. Another good idea is to rub their chest and abdomen regularly (if they enjoy this) to get them used to the feelings involved in being picked up.

Signs that a dog is uncomfortable being picked up include struggling, yelping, or going rigid. Some may even growl—stop trying at once and leave them be if this happens.

Why Doesn’t My Dog Like Being Held?

There could be any number of reasons why your dog isn’t a fan of being held. Some dogs simply don’t like it—it’s just not their thing! In some cases, if your dog is a rescue and has a troubled past, this could also contribute to them not wanting to be held as they associate the action with the past trauma. Just like humans, the emotional scars of neglect and abuse can stay with dogs for a very long time.

Another reason a dog wouldn’t want to be picked up is if they’re in some kind of pain or discomfort. If your dog used to like being held but has started to growl or yelp when you try to pick them up, this signals that something isn’t right and you should have a vet look them over.

woman carrying her puppy outside
Image Credit: ShotRAV, Pixabay

How to Safely Pick Up a Dog

Depending on your dog’s size, there are safe ways to pick them up.

If you have a small dog:
  • Let your dog know that you’re going to pick them up(nobody likes surprises.) This could mean giving a verbal cue or rubbing them on the chest or belly.
  • Put one hand under the dog’s chest, behind the front legs.
  • Put your other hand on the backside or under your dog’s butt and hold them close to you.
If you have a larger dog:
  • Let your dog know that you’re going to pick them up.
  • Bend your knees.
  • Place one arm around their chest in front of the front legs and the other under their butt. Both your arms should be around your dog rather than under the belly or chest.
  • Still bending at the knees, gently lift the dog upwards.

Bending your knees is important if you have a large dog as it helps prevent injury to your back and gives you more control. If you need to take your large dog somewhere but don’t think you can lift them into the car yourself—don’t risk it. Recruit a friend or neighbor to help you.

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Final Thoughts

Every dog has a different personality and preferences, just like us! While some may love nothing more than a cuddle on the couch or using their human’s arms as a hammock, others are more like “Nah, I’m good over here, thanks!.” If your dog isn’t keen on being held, don’t try to force it. Though there are gradual steps you can take to get your dog more used to physical contact, forcing your dog into a position they’re uncomfortable with can damage the trust between you.


Featured Image Credit: Artem Beliaikin, Pexels

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