How to Properly Pick Up and Carry a Dog
Lifting your dog isn't always easy, especially if he's a little on the heavier side. But did you know there's a proper way to pick up and carry a dog? From puppies to older dogs with health issues, they all have ways they prefer to be carried and ways that should be avoided.
How to Carry a Large Dog
If you need to pick up a large dog, remember to bend at your knees first rather than at your waist. Wrap one of your arms across his front (supporting his chest in front of his front legs but below his throat.)1 Then put your other arm around his back legs, supporting his rump. Just like with any heavy item, you'll want to lift with your legs and not your back.
This is a good rule of thumb for carrying a dog that weighs 20 pounds or more. If your dog weighs more than 40 pounds, you'll likely want to get a second person to help you lift him, with one person supporting the front of the dog and the other supporting the back.2 But know your limits and enlist a friend's help if you have any doubts.
How to Carry a Small Dog
You'll need to use a different approach for smaller dogs and "long" dogs, like Dachshunds. Start by kneeling or squatting near your dog.3 Slide one hand between her front legs and under her chest to support her upper body. Take your other hand and place it behind her rump. Make sure you have a secure grip and slowly lift up your dog while you stand to your feet. Pull your dog close to your chest as you carry her so she feels secure.
How to Carry a Puppy
For puppies, it's extra important to pick them up correctly from the start. Helping your puppy have positive experiences when picked up will make your dog more amenable to being carried as an adult. Focus on carrying your puppy in the way that's most comfortable.4 This is similar to how you'd carry a small dog: by placing one of your hands between his front legs with one supporting his rear legs and backside.
If your little puppy is so small that he fits in one hand, you can simply place your hand under his chest, with your fingers facing his head and your hand supporting his chest. Carry him close to your chest so he's not scared by how high he is off the ground and to prevent an accidental fall.
How to Carry a Dog with Special Needs
Sometimes you have to pick up a dog because she's injured. In those cases, you might want to put a muzzle on your dog first. Even the nicest dog might accidentally nip when in pain. If your older dog has arthritis or another health condition, you'll typically still want to pick her up using the same methods described for carrying a larger dog. But in some situations, you might need the help of a lifting harness designed for dogs. Check with your veterinarian first since your vet knows your dog's specific situation best.
You may also want to make life easier for your dog by setting up stairs and ramps that help her avoid needing to be carried around the house at all. Instead of picking her up to put her on the bed, for example, set up dog-friendly stairs or a ramp, so she can comfortably come and go as she pleases. Do the same with furniture or even your car. You might also want to use one of the products listed below so you can carry her more easily.
Use a Product Designed to Carry a Dog
Once you've successfully picked up your pup, you may need something to carry your dog in if you're going far.
If you're traveling by bike, you can carry your dog in a Travel Bike Basket attached to a Universal Pet Travel Rear Bike Mount. (The basket itself comes with a front bicycle mount.) The small-sized basket is for dogs up to 10 pounds, and the large-sized basket is for dogs up to 20 pounds. Attach a Travel Bike Basket Hood to protect your pup from the sun and elements.
You might also consider the Travel Bike Backpack for Pet. This includes a front mount to attach to your bicycle. You can also wear the backpack while you're out walking or hiking, taking your pet safely with you wherever you go. The backpack is designed for teacup-sized and small dogs.
If you're not interested in biking, you may prefer the K&H Backpack Pet Carrier instead. It comes with side pockets and a mesh doorway for your dog to watch the world outside. Another option is the K&H Shoulder Sling Pet Carrier, which can be worn on your front rather than the back. Both can be buckled into your car.
Some dogs really like the K&H Lookout Pet Carrier, which comes in small and large sizes and has a bubble window on the side. This has both a handle and a carrying strap for convenience.
How Not to Pick Up a Dog
While there are many tips on the best way to carry your dog, it's important to also keep in mind what you should never do, regardless of your dog's size. First, don't ever lift your dog by his front legs or right under his armpits, like he's a doll. This puts far too much weight on the elbow and shoulders and could injure him. Also, don't lift your dog by the scruff of his neck.
Watch for signs that your dog is uncomfortable with how he's being carried. He might yelp if he's in a lot of pain, but not necessarily.5 Other signs he's uncomfortable include avoiding being held, showing the whites of his eyes, yawning or licking his lips.
You might also want to use a command and treats when picking up your dog so he's not surprised by the action. Over time, he'll learn the command means he's about to be carried, and he'll be prepared for the experience.
Picking up and carrying a dog is actually trickier than you might think. But if you use the right approach, your dog will feel comfortable, secure and won't squirm and wiggle as much the next time you need to carry him somewhere.
1. The Farmer's Dog. "The Right Way to Pick Up a Dog," TheFarmersDog.com, 5 January 2021, https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/right-way-pick-dog/.
2. Williams, Sheri. "How to Pick Up a Dog Properly." WikiHow, 29 March 2019, https://www.wikihow.com/Pick-up-a-Dog-Properly.
3. Marshall-Polimeni, Amanda. "How to Pick Up a Small Adult Dog." WikiHow, 25 March 2021, https://www.wikihow.pet/Pick-Up-a-Small-Adult-Dog.
4. PetMD Editorial. "How to Properly Pick Up a Puppy or Kitten." PetMD.com, 19 January 2018, https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-properly-pick-puppy-or-kitten.
5. Vogelsang, Jessica. "5 Things Your Dog Wishes You Knew About Picking Him Up." Vetstreet, 15 December 2016, http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-things-your-dog-wishes-you-knew-about-picking-him-up.