Tips to Pick Up Your Puppy Safely
So you’ve brought home a new puppy but are not sure how to best handle him. This may seem like a simple task, but it’s a critical one to get right to avoid accidents and make sure your puppy is comfortable.
Here’s our quick guide on how to safely approach, pick up, and hold your puppy, and how to recognize and deal with signs of discomfort.
Before Picking Up Your Puppy
Here are some tips to keep in mind before picking up and handling your puppy.
Understand That Puppies Are Fragile
Puppies are delicate creatures and should be handled with care. Especially in their early weeks, puppies are still developing bones and their growth plates haven’t yet fully set in. This means that a fall can be particularly dangerous.
Puppies also have thinner skin than adult dogs and their abdomens can be especially sensitive. This means that they’re more likely to feel discomfort or to feel the pressure of holding them than adult dogs.
Read the Body Language
Before picking up your puppy, you want to make sure that he or she is feeling comfortable and not showing signs of distress.
Tail wagging and forward pointing ears are signs that your puppy is happy, curious, and excited to engage with you.
On the other hand, if your pup avoids eye contact, is crouched, has her tail between her legs, or physically backs away from you, she might be scared -- and it’s probably best to wait a bit before picking her up.
Let Your Puppy Come to You
Rather than grabbing your puppy, it’s best to let the puppy choose to come to you. This makes them feel extra comfortable and makes the handling safer.
The process is simple: hold out your hand and let your puppy become familiarized with your smell. Encourage your puppy by saying rewarding statements ("good girl!") or even offering a treat.
If your puppy doesn’t want to come closer, don’t force the interaction; instead give them some time, respect their space, and come back a bit later.
Picking Up Your Puppy
Support the Chest
You always want to have one arm under the puppy’s chest. The chest is the center of the puppy’s weight and providing support there makes them feel extra safe. This holding position also helps avoid an accidental fall.
Lift With Your Legs
Though puppies are generally light, you want to avoid placing unnecessary strain on your back. So when lifting a puppy, exercise safe lifting procedures.
This means bending your knee, not your back, when picking up the puppy. It also means raising the puppy using the strength of your legs, and not putting undue pressure on your back.
Hold Close to Your Chest
Once your puppy is up, the best place to keep them is close to your chest. Your chest is where your puppy is least likely to wobble, making them feel safe and secure.
Also, the chest is a secure spot where the puppy is less likely to accidentally fall. Finally, embraced in your arms, your puppy might hear your heartbeat and feel your body's warmth, helping them calm down.
Once your puppy is lifted, focus on keeping them secure and moving slowly and deliberately. This helps avoid your puppy getting scared or startled and making jerk movements.
If you need to walk while holding your puppy, move slowly and steadily while keeping your puppy secure close to your chest.
Holding Techniques by Puppy Size
Some picking and holding techniques are best for certain sized puppies. Here’s the best approach based on your puppy’s size:
Focus on using your hands. Place one hand under the chest and the other under the backside. Then lift the puppy directly and cradle him or her against your chest.
Compared to small breeds, you need more leverage from your arms with medium sized breeds. Place one hand under the chest and the other under the backside. Let the puppy sit on your forearm.
Once you lift the puppy, keep him close to your chest. You can even let her rest her paws over your shoulder while leaning her weight on your chest.
You want to leverage your arms for larger breeds. Start by standing next to the puppy and using one arm to support the chest and the other arm to support the backside. Then lift the puppy vertically.
Once the puppy is lifted, adjust your arms to have one arm holding your puppy's rear from below, and the other holding her body close to your chest. This way, you can distribute the weight of the puppy across your torso, making your puppy easier to carry.
Signs of Discomfort and What to Do About Them
Signs of Discomfort
As you handle your puppy, look out for the following signs of discomfort:
- Whining, yelping, or growling
- Panting or heavy breathing
- Excessive licking
- Shivering or trembling
These are signs that your puppy is in fear, discomfort, or distress, and that you should act to restore a safe space for your puppy.
What to Do About Discomfort
If you notice one of the discomfort signs described above, you should act quickly to make your puppy comfortable, particularly to avoid an accident.
The best course of action is to calmly assess the situation to make sure you understand why your puppy is feeling uncomfortable. If you can pinpoint the root cause, then removing it can help your pup feel at ease.
Also, staying calm makes your puppy pick up on your emotion and feel calmer as well.
If the discomfort persists, then place the puppy back down and give him some space. You should reassess your handling techniques to see if an adjustment is required: for instance, were you applying too much pressure which hurt the puppy? Was your movement too quick and distressing?
Make sure your puppy has a designated safe space, like a crate, where she can retreat if feeling overwhelmed.
Congratulations, you're now a pro at handling your new puppy!
To recap, the main ideas are to:
- Let your puppy approach you
- Hold your puppy's chest when lifting her
- Use more of your arms when lifting larger breeds
- Avoid fast or jerky motions once your pup is lifted
- Look out for signs of distress: whelping, shivering, panting
- If in distress, put your pup back down and give her safe space
Practice caution when handling your puppy! Being careful avoids accidents that can be dangerous and costly to resolve.
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