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Do Dogs Like Being Carried?

All dogs start their life getting carried by their scruff as a pup by their mother. As dogs age out of puppyhood, it’s no longer part of their daily life. They aren’t familiar with the concept of habitually being carried, but with time some have adapted well.

We see some dogs literally trying to jump into their owner’s arms while others run for the hills. Other dogs live to be in their owner’s backpack while hiking or in a bag running around town. 

So, the question stands, do dogs like being carried? How can we tell? 

It all depends on the dog itself, and in this article, we’ll talk specifics of those that do and don’t. Hopefully, the tools provided help you handle either avenue. 

Why do some dogs like to be carried?

Why do some dogs like to be carried

Prior experience

Some dogs love it when their owners carry them because they’ve experienced it since puppyhood. 

Others may associate it with a prior experience when a human rescued them from some traumatic situation. 

Dogs learn to adapt and change as they feel an environment is safe. A reactive dog can learn to trust a new owner and realize they love getting picked up.

Beyond that, some breeds are apt to be affectionate with their owners. Genetically, they are up for anything a supportive owner may want to do.

Domestication over time

The domesticizing of dogs throughout history lends to some dogs enjoying the experience. 

Believe it or not, their DNA has developed with time to be more receptive to affectionate acts, like being carried. 

Even more, some breeds tend to be bred specifically for this reason. These animals are social creatures and dogs that love it.

Dogs that enjoy someone carrying them have learned this habit. They’ve learned it’s beneficial to their life and can provide an array of uses. 

The benefits can be anything from general affection to protection. Dogs adapt and are learning to help their survival.

Remember, any dog is still an animal that descends from the gray wolf. Be aware that dogs can still be reactive even if they enjoy being in someone’s arms. 

Even if your dog is comfortable with this activity, we recommend you check out the next section. 

If you own a dog or work with dogs, it’s necessary to recognize reasons another dog may take issue.

Why do some dogs dislike it?

Why do some dogs dislike it

Past traumas

Their aversion to being carried may be from; a past owner, the vet, or something specific. 

Traumas and triggers are delicate parts of an animal and can be deeply rooted in your dog. Being carried can make them feel powerless, which can to feel anxious or aggressive. 

Your dog may have past experiences while carried, and it shows presently. Signs of this may have surfaced if you’ve tried to pick up your pup before. 

It’s okay if they feel that way. What they will need moving forward is respect for this boundary. You can also help them move past the feeling, if safe. 

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Always be aware of how your dog feels when healing triggers. Also, make sure that you check in to see if there are positive or negative signs as you progress.

No prior experiences 

Past puppyhood, dogs aren’t regularly picked up by each other. As mentioned above, dogs are descendants of wolves, as we all know, and the concept of being carried or held is very foreign to their genetic makeup. 

While current-day dogs are farther from their wild ancestors’ makeup, it still seems to be two camps on the matter. 

Your dog may be in a camp that has never had any memorable experience of being carried at all. They are probably confused if you’ve tried to lift them in the past. 

Again, this isn’t a bad thing. Your job, if you have this type of dog, is to introduce them to be picked up and carried.

Should you try and carry your dog? 

Should you try and carry your dog

Proper handling techniques 

Firstly, to answer this question, safety needs to be addressed. Understanding and knowing how to read your dog is of the utmost importance. 

If you neglect these signs, this could cause harm to you, your dog, or anyone else caring for your pup. 

If you are comfortable carrying your dog, there are two recommended ways to holding. Using these techniques yields a safer experience for the two of you:

Larger dogs:

  • Squatting down to your dog’s level (always lift from this position)
  • Wrapping one arm across the breast bone (between the top of the legs and below the neck)
  • Another arm across the back of its hind legs (dominate arm recommended)
  • Lift gently to your feet

Smaller dogs:

  • Same as a large dog–squat down to the dog’s level
  • Place one arm in between the front legs, supporting the chest & belly
  • Another arm across the back of its hind legs 
  • Lift gently to your feet

Comfortable signs

As always, be conscious of your dog’s demeanor in these scenarios for everyone’s betterment. 

If you know already your dog is comfortable with getting carried, you’ll recognize these signs. If you don’t recognize these in your dog, re-evaluate now.

  • The body relaxes 
  • Affectionate (tail wagging or licking)
  • Leaning into your body
  • Floppy ears (not pinned or high alert, a relaxed state)

Even though your pup may be comfortable with you carrying them, they may feel a little nervous when others pick them up. 

Make sure to share with anyone in contact with your dog the proper ways of safely picking them up, ensuring everyone involved is safe.

Uncomfortable signs

If your dog exhibits any of the following, or you know they do, take some time and determine what might be the cause.

Again, it cannot be stressed enough, for everyone’s safety, know how to read your dog. 

If they are not comfortable, do not pick them up. It is possible to help work your dog past its trigger. This situation is something to discuss with a therapist or vet.

Regardless of how your dog may react to being carried, there are endless reasons for either feeling. 

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In this next section, we’ll discuss a few ways how a dog may come to these reasons. 

What if your dog doesn’t like it?

Using alternatives

The first thing you may want to try, depending on the size of your dog, is using something to carry them. 

If it seems possible, try a bag or backpack, depending on your lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to bigger dogs or if you aren’t comfortable sustaining the weight of any sized dog.

If they are too big to fit into a carrying article, you may just want to skip to the desensitizing part of this section! 

If you aren’t comfortable with the literal weight of the dog, only pick them up in an emergency (if liftable at all).

Now, if you are comfortable toting your pup around, and they seem happier, there may be some reasons. 

The apparatus you choose may give them the feeling of more freedom even though they’re still restricted. 

Similarly, the pressure of the material may be soothing or calming (like a thunder shirt or weighted blanket). 

Or, it may just be a personal reason specific to your dog! Just remember to gauge how they feel while up there.

Desensitizing tricks

If your dog isn’t into being carried in any regard, just take your time with them. Your dog probably has some negative association with getting carried around, so proceed cautiously. 

The best thing to do for them is to very slowly desensitize the trigger and only continue to proceed if your pup is comfortable. 

If you’d like to help your dog to become more comfortable while carrying, the safest recommendation is to talk to a local behavioral therapist. 

Having a trained professional help with this process is the best bet in moving forward.

If you’re trying an alternative carrier, try laying it out somewhere in the house. Let your dog investigate in their own time.

If that goes well, start hiding treats inside the vessel for a reward. 

Continue in this fashion as they get more comfortable until they are secure and comfortable in the carrier. As previously mentioned, continue to read body language.

Talk to a vet

If there is any aversion to being carried, it’s always good to talk to a vet. Your veterinarian can lead you in the right direction, always. 

In some cases, there may be potential health issues going on with your dog, and it should get checked out right away. 

Final Thoughts

Each dog is unique, with its own genes, humans they’ve lived with, and experiences. Some are simply just more open to the idea of being carried.  

Regardless of how the dog feels, there are two key takeaways to keep with you the next time you try picking up a pup.

First, learning how to read a dog’s body language is essential. Without knowing how to do this, you are potentially setting the dog and yourself up for trouble. 

Trying to pick up a dog uncomfortable with being carried can cause injury to either party.

Finally, learning how to pick up a dog safely is the other pillar of this article. Properly handling animals will help them trust you in this action and strengthen your relationship.