We’ve all been there – your puppy growls when picked up. Any pet owner knows how confusing it can be! But you’re not sure what to do about it. Should you be worried? Or is there something you can do to prevent your pup from growling? In this article, we’re going to discuss why a puppy might be growling when it’s picked up, and we’ll share with you some useful ways you can handle the situation. Let’s get started! 

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Why Does My Puppy Growl When I Pick Them Up?

Puppies and dogs are literally the cutest creatures. So, it’s only natural for us to pick up our lovable furbabies when we feel especially cuddly. However, if your usual way of showing affection is met with an angry growl, it could make you wonder. 

So, your puppy growls when picked up, but you’re not quite sure why that might be. Naturally, your main objective would be to get to the bottom of it. Does your puppy always growl when picked up or is this a new behavior? You’ll then want to consider if your puppy growls when picked up in a certain way, or at a certain time. Then you can start to slowly put the pieces together.

Most commonly, dogs and puppies growl when picked up if they’re not used to human touch, have negative past experiences being picked up, or because of pain and discomfort. Obviously, some puppies simply do not like being picked up, or maybe you’re always picking them up at the wrong time. 

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make your puppy more comfortable with human touch. However, it’s still crucial that you respect your dog’s boundaries, and won’t hurt them in the process.

Common Reasons Why Your Puppy Growls When Picked Up

They’re Uncomfortable Or In Pain

If your puppy growls when picked up, it could be because they’re feeling discomfort or even pain. What might seem like a comfy and cushy position for you, might actually be super uncomfortable for your pup. If that’s the case, it’s not uncommon for a puppy to growl when picked up. You’ll also want to make sure that you handle your pup gently, and never hurt or restrain them. 

However, your puppy growling when picked up could also indicate that there’s an underlying health issue that should be dealt with immediately, especially if your puppy has only recently started growling when picked up. They might be experiencing stomach problems, they may have painful matted hair, or maybe they’ve sprained a joint, which now causes pain whenever you pick up your pup up. If this is a new occurrence, be sure to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Other signs of general pain include loss of appetite, lethargy, and difficulty getting up and moving. If you notice any of these symptoms along with the growling, it’s time for an urgent vet visit. 

They Have Negative Past Experiences

Dogs are fast learners, and if they’ve been continuously mishandled in the past, it’s only normal for them to associate being held with those bad experiences. If the puppy has been mishandled or even scolded at a young age, it’s very common for these situations to leave a mark. 

For this reason, it’s crucial that a puppy has been properly handled and treated from the moment they’re born. During those very first weeks and months of a puppy’s life, they’re extremely impressionable and delicate, soaking in each and every situation that happens with or around them. 

They’re Not Used To Being Touched

Touch desensitization and daily human interactions are crucial when raising puppies. For instance, ethical breeders make sure that all of their puppies are well-socialized, and that they handle their puppies daily. All of this hugely contributes to raising confident dogs that are used to human touch. 

Some breeders even use the Early Neurological Stimulation method (ENS), which starts from day three after the puppies are born. For the upcoming two weeks, the puppies are gently handled daily, which helps them get used to human touch. As an added bonus, the ENS method has shown to improve the puppies’ heart health, immune system, and tolerance to stress. 

On the other hand, if the puppy comes from a seedy breeder, or they’ve been rescued from horrible living conditions, they might not be used to human touch. If a puppy has no opportunities to socialize and get used to body handling, it’s very likely that they’ll have issues with being picked up later on in life as well. 

They’re Setting Boundaries

Other times, when a puppy growls when picked up, it could simply mean that they’re setting boundaries. It’s not uncommon for new dog owners to get overly excited when getting a new puppy. This often results in us wanting to pick up and cuddle our pets at all times. Or maybe you have a tendency to pick your pup up when they’re in the middle of another activity, such as playing or sleeping. 

Understandably, if your puppy is not happy with the situation, they’re going to find a way to communicate this to you. Either your puppy growls when picked up, or maybe they’ll start running away and hiding from you, or trying to wiggle out of your arms. 

If that’s the case, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your own behavior and how you show affection. Of course, there are dogs that simply don’t like being picked up at all. However, most of the time, it’s just a matter of respecting your dog’s boundaries. Keep your kisses and cuddles for when your pup has shown interest in it, and try to resist the temptation of picking up your puppy when they’re in the middle of another activity. 

What To Do If Puppies Growl When You Pick Them Up?

If your puppy growls when picked up, it’s usually a very clear indicator that they’re not happy with the situation. Simply consider what your pup is trying to tell you and put them down. This will also teach your dog that you respect their boundaries. They also won’t be further traumatized by having to be restrained in what they perceive as an awfully unsafe situation. 

In fact, puppies and dogs see these situations as a threat. So, if you continue to hold your puppy even after they’ve started growling, it could lead to worse behaviors, such as biting and aggression. 

However, you’ll still have to tackle the problem head on to find a solution. Obviously, your first reaction would be to respect your dog’s boundaries and put them down as soon as they express their negative feelings. But with the following steps, you’ll be able to teach your puppy to enjoy being picked up, while also learning yourself how to respect your dog’s boundaries. 

How Do You Pick Up A Dog Without Making Them Growl?

My puppy growls and snaps at me! What can I do about it? Well, first of all, you have to figure out why your puppy growls when picked up. As we discussed earlier, if a puppy starts growling when picked up, there could be a few different reasons for that. 

Rule Out Health Conditions

Firstly, you want to rule out any medical conditions that could cause your dog pain and discomfort. If your puppy has recently started growling when picked up, it could mean that there’s something else at play here. 

Make Sure You Handle Your Pup Properly

Secondly, it’s vital that you handle your pup gently without causing them any pain or discomfort. You’ll want to be especially careful with puppies and small dogs. Smaller dogs are definitely more delicate, and could get hurt much more easily than larger dogs. 

Choose The Right Time & Place

Thirdly, make sure you only hold your puppy up at an appropriate time and place. Don’t interrupt your puppy’s mealtimes, playtime, sleep, or other activities that require their full attention. Even when they’re misbehaving, picking up isn’t the best course of action. 

Teach Your Puppy To Enjoy Human Touch

Once you’ve tackled these three things, you can start figuring out whether a behavioral problem is causing your puppy to growl when picked up. Regardless if your puppy is not used to human touch, or if they associate negative past experiences with it, the key is to teach your puppy that body handling and human interactions are very much normal, even enjoyable. 

You’ll want to start slow and steady with touch desensitization, and only use positive reinforcement methods to really cement good associations with being picked up. Ideally, early socialization and touch desensitization should start from the moment the puppies are born. But, it’s equally crucial to continue with this once your new puppy comes home. 

You might also want to pay attention to how you pick up your dog. Some puppies get scared because they’re being lifted up fast and with no support. Make sure you support the pup’s torso and bottom, and don’t make any sudden movements. You’ll want your pup to feel as safe and comfortable as possible. 

Should I Punish My Dog For Growling At Me?

Under no circumstances should you ever punish or scold your dog for growling at you when you pick them up. As we discussed earlier, it often indicates that a dog is not happy being picked up, and they’re trying to set their boundaries with you. Just as any normal person would respect another human being’s personal boundaries, so should you respect your puppy’s boundaries when they’re trying to communicate this to you.

There’s not a single acceptable reason to punish your dog for growling at you. After all, your dog is doing its best to communicate with you. And obviously, all of these reactions and behaviors usually stem from improper socialization and training. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of dog owners and breeders, not the dog. 

Instead, always approach the situation in a calm manner. Undesired behaviors and reactions can be untaught with positive reinforcement training and touch desensitization. Be sure to check out our other training guides and articles, where we have tons of helpful resources for puppy and dog owners. 

Puppy Growls When Picked Up: Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Dogs Growl When You Pick Them Up?

There are different reasons why a dog or puppy might be growling when picked up, either physical or psychological. The most common causes include pain and discomfort, improper handling, fear, frustration, or improper socialization.

For insurance, some puppies growl when picked up because they’re not used to human touch. It’s also common for puppies and dogs to growl when they’re being picked up whilst they’re engaged in another activity. 

How Do You Stop A Dog From Growling When You Pick Them Up?

If your puppy growls when picked up because of a behavioral issue or lack of socialization, you have to teach them how to enjoy being picked up. Teach your pup that body handling is completely normal, and reward them for not growling when being picked up. 

It goes without saying that whenever your puppy growls when picked up, put them down immediately and let them know that you respect their boundaries. This will also make your pup feel safe and secure in your presence, provided that you don’t punish them if they mess up from time to time. Instead, opt for positive reinforcement training methods that will teach your puppy appropriate behaviors and reactions.

Of course, don’t pick up your dog when they’re engaged in another activity, regardless if they’re misbehaving or not. For example, if your dog is chewing on something they’re not supposed to, redirect their attention to an appropriate chew toy

Why Does My Dog Hate Being Picked Up?

If your dog hates being picked up, it could indicate that they have negative past experiences with it. Maybe they’ve been picked up way too much and way too often. Or maybe they’ve been hurt while being held in the past, which they now see as an unsafe situation. 

Of course, some dogs just don’t enjoy being picked up, especially if they’re on the larger side. You also want to make sure that you’re picking your dog up the right way – that their body is fully supported and you’re not making any sudden movements. 

Puppy Growls When Picked Up: Final Thoughts

Why does my puppy growl when I pick her up?” It’s a common question we get. In fact, we’ve asked that question many times in the past as well. Above all, it’s important we keep in mind that growling is a way for dogs to communicate with us. Most commonly, dogs and puppies growl when picked up because they’re either feeling uncomfortable or in pain, they’re not used to being held, or they’re in the middle of another activity. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s crucial you get to the bottom of it. This helps you rule out any medical conditions, and also find an appropriate solution for the issue. Luckily, behavioral problems like this can be easily fixed, as long as you stay firm and consistent, and provide your pup a lot of love and affection in the process. 

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