How to Pick up your Puppy

The fact that young puppies are small enough to easily be picked up is a big benefit. When you’re out on an adventure with your pup, and you see something potentially scary about to approach, you can happily scoop up your pup and avoid the pup becoming frightened by something. Getting frightened while young is the recipe for a whole host of behavior problems.
BUT, its important that your pup does not consider being picked up either uncomfortable or scary. Many pups don’t like being picked up. Think about it from the pup’s point of view, you’re strolling along when suddenly this creature who is 15x bigger than you unceremoniously grabs you and lifts you high into the air. Wow! It’s no wonder we see problems in this area. Here are some tips for helping your pup feel comfortable with being picked up and carried.
#1 – Give your pup a clear warning that you’re about to pick him up. Having something that you consistently say BEFORE you pick him up will be really helpful. “Up”, “Lift” or “Upsy Daisy” (my fave) are good options. People have a tendency to say the word AS they are lifting. But, that’s not really giving a warning. Be sure to say it BEFORE you lift.
#2 – Be sure you’re lifting correctly. If you aren’t using good form, there’s a good chance it’s uncomfortable for your pup. Watch this video for the good options for picking up and carrying your pup. Also, be sure that you are gently and carefully returning him to the ground.
#3 – Give your pup a reason to like being picked up. Giving a treat immediately after picking him up will create a positive association. It is also helpful to break down the action. Start with just putting your hand under his ribcage (as if you’re going to lift him), then give him a treat and take your hand away. Next you can lift him just an inch off the ground, treat, then gently set him back down. If your pup growls when you lift him, shies away or hides, you’d benefit from a private lesson with a qualified trainer to work through creating a new behavior using counter conditioning and desensitization.
#4 – This is a big one, don’t allow young children (generally under 10) to pick up your puppy. I can’t tell you the number of small adult dogs who I’ve had privates with for being aggressive when they are picked up. In nearly EVERY one of those cases, a child was allowed to pick up the dog when he was a puppy. A kid isn’t going to be careful enough. Even the most well meaning kid is going to squeeze too hard, put a thumb in a rib or poke an eye. So much better for a child to sit on the floor and encourage the pup on to their lap for cuddle time.