When Should You Stop Picking Up A Dog By The Scruff


If you’ve ever seen a mother dog gently carrying her puppies by the scruff of their neck, you might wonder if it’s okay to do the same with your pet. While it’s true that this is a natural behavior for mother dogs, picking up a dog by the scruff isn’t always appropriate or safe, especially as your canine companion grows older. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore when it’s acceptable to use this method and when you should avoid it to ensure the well-being and comfort of your furry friend.

Understanding the Scruff Grab

What is the scruff of a dog?

The scruff of a dog refers to the loose skin located at the back of the neck, just above the shoulder blades. This area contains the scruff, which is the excess skin that allows a mother dog to carry her puppies.

The importance of the scruff for puppies

In the early weeks of a puppy’s life, the mother uses her mouth to gently grasp the scruff of her pups, enabling her to move them around and transport them when necessary. This instinctual behavior helps keep the puppies safe and close to their mother.

When is it Okay to Pick Up a Dog by the Scruff?

During the first few weeks of life

Picking up a puppy by the scruff is generally considered acceptable during the first few weeks of their life. This replicates the natural behavior of the mother dog and helps keep the puppy safe and secure. However, as puppies grow and develop, this method should be used less frequently.

In emergency situations

In rare emergency situations, such as when a dog is in immediate danger and needs to be moved quickly, picking them up by the scruff can be a temporary solution. Nevertheless, it’s essential to prioritize the safety and well-being of the dog and seek professional help when necessary.

When Should You Avoid Picking Up a Dog by the Scruff?

When they are no longer puppies

As dogs mature, their neck and scruff area become less tolerant of being grabbed. Once a dog reaches a certain age, typically around 3-4 months, it’s best to avoid using the scruff grab method. At this point, they may find it uncomfortable or even painful.

If they have medical conditions

Dogs with certain medical conditions or injuries, such as neck problems or skin sensitivities, should never be picked up by the scruff. It could exacerbate their condition or cause unnecessary discomfort.

Potential Risks of Using the Scruff Grab

Causing pain and discomfort

Picking up an older dog by the scruff can cause pain and discomfort, as their neck muscles and skin become less flexible with age. This can lead to injuries or stress for the dog.

Damaging the skin and coat

Repeatedly grabbing a dog by the scruff can damage their skin and coat. The scruff is a delicate area, and excessive pulling or tugging can result in hair loss, bruising, or skin irritation.

Alternative Ways to Handle Your Dog

Using a harness or collar

To safely handle and control your dog, consider using a harness or collar specifically designed for this purpose. These accessories distribute pressure more evenly across the body, reducing the risk of injury and discomfort.

Teaching commands like “up”

Training your dog to respond to commands like “up” or “lift” can be an effective way to encourage them to cooperate when you need to pick them up. Positive reinforcement training methods can make this process enjoyable for both you and your dog.

How to Properly Pick Up a Dog by the Scruff

The correct technique for puppies

If you must pick up a puppy by the scruff, it’s essential to do so gently and with care. Here’s the correct technique:

  • Slide your hand under the puppy’s chest for support.
  • Use your other hand to grasp the scruff lightly.
  • Lift the puppy carefully, making sure not to apply excessive pressure on the scruff.

Ensuring safety and comfort

Always prioritize the safety and comfort of your dog when using the scruff grab method. Pay attention to their body language and any signs of distress. If your dog appears uncomfortable, immediately put them down and explore alternative ways to handle them.

Common Myths About Scruff Grabbing

The misconception of dominance

One common myth is that using the scruff grab method establishes dominance over your dog. In reality, dominance-based training techniques are outdated and not recommended. Building a healthy relationship with your dog through positive reinforcement is a more effective approach.

Scruffing as a punishment

Some people believe that scruffing a dog is an appropriate form of punishment for misbehavior. However, this approach is not only ineffective but can also harm the bond between you and your pet. Positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods are more humane and successful ways to address behavior issues.

Expert Opinions on Scruff Grabbing

Veterinary perspective

Veterinarians generally discourage the use of the scruff grab method, especially for adult dogs. They emphasize the importance of alternative handling techniques that prioritize the dog’s comfort and well-being.

Dog behaviorist viewpoint

Dog behaviorists and trainers also advocate for positive reinforcement and gentle handling methods. They emphasize that building trust and understanding with your dog leads to better behavior and a stronger bond.

Training Tips for Proper Handling

Positive reinforcement techniques

Use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to encourage your dog to cooperate when you need to handle them. This positive association makes them more willing to participate in activities like grooming or being picked up.

Building trust with your dog

Spending quality time with your dog, engaging in play, and establishing a strong bond based on trust will make it easier to handle them when necessary. A trusting relationship can minimize anxiety and resistance.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you pick up any dog by the scruff?

No, you should only pick up very young puppies by the scruff, and even then, it should be done gently and sparingly. Older dogs should not be picked up by the scruff as it can cause discomfort and harm.

How do I know if my dog is comfortable with being picked up by the scruff?

Watch for signs of discomfort or distress, such as vocalization, attempts to escape, or rigid body language. If your dog displays any of these signs, it’s best to stop immediately and use an alternative method for handling.

Is it okay to scruff my dog if they misbehave?

No, scruffing your dog as a form of punishment is not recommended. It can create fear and anxiety, which may exacerbate behavior issues. Positive reinforcement and reward-based training are more effective and humane methods for addressing misbehavior.

At what age should I stop picking up my puppy by the scruff?

Around 3-4 months of age, you should avoid picking up your puppy by the scruff, as it can become uncomfortable and potentially harmful for them.

Are there any situations where scruff grabbing is always a bad idea?

Yes, if your dog has any medical conditions or injuries, or if they have reached an age where scruff grabbing can cause discomfort, it’s always a bad idea to use this method.

In conclusion, while picking up a dog by the scruff is a natural behavior for mother dogs with their puppies, it’s essential to understand when and how to use this method appropriately. For very young puppies and in emergency situations, it can be a temporary and safe way to handle them. However, as dogs grow older, it’s crucial to transition to alternative methods that prioritize their comfort and well-being. Remember that positive reinforcement and building trust with your furry companion are key to a happy and healthy relationship. Balancing tradition with modern understanding ensures that your dog’s needs are met and that you both enjoy a harmonious bond.

Note: Always consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer for specific advice on handling and training your individual dog.

When dealing with your beloved canine companion, it’s crucial to prioritize their well-being and comfort. While understanding the concept of the scruff grab is valuable, remember that each dog is unique, and their preferences and sensitivities may vary. Always pay attention to your dog’s signals and seek professional guidance when in doubt. Additionally, avoid using outdated methods that rely on dominance and punishment, as they can harm the trust and bond between you and your furry friend. Instead, opt for positive reinforcement and gentler handling techniques to ensure a happy and healthy relationship with your dog.

Answer ( 1 )


    When Should You Stop Picking Up A Dog By The Scruff

    Dog owners often have to deal with unruly dogs. While there are some scenarios where you should use a dog by the scruff method, there are many more times when this is an ineffective way to handle a dog. If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s appropriate for your situation, it’s a good idea to do some research first.

    You’re helping a pet

    If you’re helping a pet who is sick or injured, it’s okay to pick them up by the scruff. If you see an older dog that isn’t moving around very well, pick them up by their scruff. They’ll appreciate it! You can also gently lift up shy puppies who don’t want to be touched by strangers–it will make them feel more secure when they’re with new people.

    If your dog has mobility issues and can only walk with difficulty, then yes: use this method of picking up your four-legged friend instead of lifting him into the air like some kind of circus performer ready for his next trick (which may or may not involve balancing on one foot).

    You’re in a hurry

    If you’re in a hurry, then it’s best to let the dog remain on the ground. If you try to pick up your pup while rushing around with bags and children, it’s likely that things will go wrong. While there are dogs who respond well to being picked up while they’re still learning how to walk on leash or when they don’t know their name yet (and those are great times), most will be frightened by the sudden movement and quick action of someone trying to grab them by their scruffs.

    You also need calm assertiveness when picking up a puppy–this means being able to control your body language so that it doesn’t appear threatening or aggressive toward another living creature who doesn’t understand what’s happening yet! It also means reading theirs: if they seem nervous or unsure at all about this whole ordeal? Give ’em some space until they feel comfortable enough before attempting again later down the road once everyone has had time off from each other’s company.”

    You need to move a dog from one place to another

    If you’re going to be taking your dog for walks, or training it to walk on a leash, then it’s best to pick up the dog by its scruff. This helps you maintain control of them while they are learning new things.

    The dog’s behavior is extreme

    • If the dog is aggressive, don’t pick it up.
    • If the dog is frightened, don’t pick it up.
    • If the dog is in pain or unstable, don’t pick it up.

    If you have a fear of dogs, consider using other methods to control them.

    Use a leash and collar. Leashes can be used on dogs of any size and temperament–and they’re especially useful if your dog has never been trained how to walk on one before or if he’s prone to pulling on his leash.

    Use a muzzle (a device that fits over the dog’s snout). Muzzles are also effective at keeping dogs from biting people or other animals; however, some owners believe muzzles are cruel because they keep dogs from panting properly and communicating their feelings through facial expressions like smiling or frowning! If this is something that concerns you as an owner, we recommend talking with your vet about whether it would be better for all involved parties if you did use one with your pet instead of not doing so at all–they may have some insight into what type hereofore unknown side effects could arise from leaving off such protective gear during walks together outdoors in hot weather conditions where overheating could become dangerous very quickly…

    If you have a fear of dogs, consider using other methods to control them.

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