How to Pick Up and Carry a Dog Properly

Filed in Dog Health by on September 20, 2021

How to Pick Up and Carry Dog Properly

There is a wide range of dog shapes and sizes, and picking them up isn’t always easy.

While it may seem like a straightforward task, there is a correct way to lift and carry a dog. Different techniques are used based on your dog’s size.

This article will explain why these techniques are important and teach you how to pick up and carry a dog properly.

The Importance of Technique

Proper technique when picking up or carrying a dog is essential to keep both you and your pet safe.

Many people find lifting heavy dogs quite tricky and may even experience back pain when doing so. Like lifting any object, proper technique is critical to prevent back injury.

The most concerning issue when picking up or carrying dogs is failing to ensure they are secure and adequately supported. When this happens, dogs are more likely to struggle and try to get away.

This wiggling can put excess stress on your back and increase the risk of you getting scratched by flailing paws. It also puts your dog at a greater risk of getting hurt.

Small dogs and senior dogs are particularly fragile. A fall can lead to broken bones or other serious injuries.

Mobility products like dog ramps can also prevent senior dogs from getting injured within your home or while traveling.

How to Pick Up a Dog

The proper technique for picking up a dog will vary based on the dog’s size.

Small Pups

woman carrying her dog outdoor

To pick up a small dog, start by placing your dominant hand under your dog’s chest.

With that same hand just behind your dog’s elbow, slide your index and middle fingers between your dog’s front legs. This finger placement should give you a better grip on your dog’s small frame and provide some stability.

Some dogs may be small enough to pick up with one hand. However, it’s essential to make sure your dog is secure.

Once you pick up your dog, keep them close to your body. Keeping them close will provide more security and prevent your dog from wiggling away.

For a firmer hold, you can place your other hand on your dog’s back near their tail. This can help steady a wiggly pup. You can also set your hand under their hind end to provide some extra support.

Here is a good video from a vet showing different size dogs get picked up, including a small dog:

Medium Sized Pups

There are two recommended ways to pick up a medium-sized dog. The first is very similar to the technique used to pick up a small dog.

Start by placing one hand under your dog’s chest. Unlike the small dog, where you only need a few fingers between their legs, slide your entire hand between the front legs.

Next, reach your other arm over your dog’s hind end. Place this hand on your dog’s belly just in front of their hind legs.

When you feel your dog is secure, lift with both hands and bring your dog up against your chest. You can use the arm over your dog’s back to help secure them to your body.

The other option when picking up a medium-sized dog is a little like hugging your pet. Place one arm under your pet’s chest just behind their front legs.

Unlike the previous techniques, your arm will wrap under the chest to the other side of the body.

From there, use your other arm to wrap around your dog’s hind end, just below their tail. Pull your dog into your chest and lift with your knees.

The arm under the chest will help secure your dog against your body, while the arm under their butt will support most of the weight.

Large Pups

Large dogs can be tricky to pick up, but it can be done safely with the proper technique.

Note: A single person probably shouldn’t lift a dog by themselves if a dog weighs more than 50 to 60 lbs. For most vet hospitals, vet staff should be able to lift a dog weighing 40 to 50 lbs. However, I wouldn’t expect an owner to go beyond that unless it was a real emergency.

If your dog is safe to lift, start by looping one arm under your pet’s neck.

Grab the shoulder on the side opposite you to secure your grip. Then wrap your other arm around your dog’s hind end, just below their tail.

In some cases, picking up a large dog may be a two-person job. Having two people to pick up a large dog can reduce the risk of injury to your dog and those doing the lifting.

When performing a two-person lift, make sure both people are on the same side of the dog.

One person will focus on the dog’s front end and will wrap one arm under the pet’s neck, just like the one-person lift. This person’s other arm will be placed under the chest, just behind the front legs.

The second person will support the dog’s hind end. This person will wrap one arm under the dog’s belly, just in front of the dog’s hind legs. The other arm will loop around the dog’s back legs just under the tail.

A countdown is usually helpful to make sure both people lift at the same time. Remember to lift with your knees to avoid putting excess strain on your back.

How to Carry a Dog

Once you have successfully picked up your dog, there are a few options for how to carry them. If you have followed the above tips, your grip doesn’t have to change.

The most important thing when carrying your dog is to make sure they are secure. The closer you can hold your dog to your body, the more control you have.

For smaller dogs, you may be able to carry your dog with one arm. To do this, place your dominant arm over your dog’s back and get a firm grip under their chest.

Use your forearm and elbow to secure the dog against your body. This position is often referred to as the football hold because it resembles how a football player secures a football.

Mistakes to Avoid

• Don’t lift your pup by their scruff

Although dogs often pick up puppies by their scruff, this is not an appropriate way for you to pick up a dog of any age or size.

Avoid letting the hind end dangle

When picking up and carrying your dog, always make sure their hind end is supported. When the rear end is left to dangle, it can be very uncomfortable.

• Don’t lift your pup like a small child

carrying dog like a small child

DO NOT pick up a dog like in the photo

Another common mistake when picking up dogs is to grab them underneath their front arms. This technique is similar to how most children are picked up and is a more common issue with small dogs.

Not only can this be uncomfortable for your pet, but it can also cause injury to your dog’s shoulders.

• Be careful with certain pups

You should be careful with fractious, nervous, or aggressive dogs. In other words, don’t pick up a dog who doesn’t want to be picked up, or this may result in the dog and/or the person getting seriously injured.


Many pet owners pick up their dogs without thinking much about it. However, there is a correct way to pick up and carry your dog.

Proper techniques are essential to keeping both you and your pet safe. It can also reduce the risk of you getting hurt in the process.

I hope you will use the tips in this article to help improve your lifting technique and dog handling skills.

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