Help! Why Does My Puppy Growl When Being Picked Up?

Don’t you just love it when you carry your pup around and give him the longest cuddle time in the world? Sadly, this isn’t a scenario that every dog owner enjoys. That’s because some puppies turn aggressive or anxious when they get picked up. Instead of laying calmly in their owner’s arms, the dog ends up making loud growling sounds. Have you ever wondered what this reaction means? How do you get it to stop? To help you understand what you need to do as a dog owner, we’ve rounded up a few tips and tricks in handling a growling puppy. 

Manage the behavior by tracing its root cause

Growling is one of the several ways a dog can express how he feels. While it’s often associated with aggression, it still pays to re-evaluate your dog’s situation and see what brought out the behavior. 

Could it be fear or frustration because you’re holding your pup the wrong way? Did you accidentally drop your dog while trying to lift it off the ground? Is your pooch trying to assert its dominance over you? 

Below are some of the usual problems that may lead to this unwanted dog behavior:


Take note that carrying your dog sometimes requires a particular technique. This way, you can ensure his comfort and encourage him to respond well every time you attempt to hold him up. We recommend picking up from your pup’s front legs and tucking your arms under the rib cage. It would help if you placed another hand on the rear legs to support the dog’s weight.  


Before you dismiss the issue as something behavioral in nature, you might want to consider checking your dog’s condition. In some cases, dogs growl to express pain. It may come from a broken limb, painful muscles, or even stomach flu. It would be wise to look out for symptoms of possible health problems and consult with a veterinarian.  


In addition to vocalizing pain, dogs also growl as their means to scare away people or animals when they feel anxious or fearful. Your dog’s tense demeanor every time you pick him up might stem from a traumatic event. For example, you or other members of the family might have lost grip while holding the dog. During these situations, you need to be extra mindful of the body language before approaching your dog. Additionally, it would be best to do small and slow movements to avoid further startling the animal. 


Some dogs, especially newly rehomed ones, aren’t used to getting cuddled or carried by their owners. In such cases, the growling serves as their defense mechanism until they begin warming up to this new way of expressing affection. If this is the leading cause of your dog’s bad behavior, we recommend starting with gentle petting and frequent physical contact with your newly rehomed dog. Then, you may proceed to place your dog on your lap. 

Excessive excitement 

Puppies can sometimes feel overly excited when presented with something new and strange. In some cases, they express that feeling by growling. As a result, you need to quickly distinguish pleasure or play growling with the aggressive or threatening type. This way, you can identify the best way to approach the situation.

How to train your dog to love being carried in your arms

The faster you determine the main reason why a dog growls when you pick it up, the easier you can correct the behavior. For example, if it stems from a traumatic experience, you should introduce positive emotions when you attempt to carry your dog. You can do this by using verbal cues like “up” and “boost” and handing nutritious treats. Here’s a more detailed step-to-step guide to help you train your pup on how to get used to getting picked up:

  • Introduce your chosen cue – This could come in verbal form, like saying “up” or extending your arms towards your puppy.
  • Pick up your pooch – Make sure to be extra careful with the legs and the rib cage. Also, note any signs of resistance. If your dog appears tense, we recommend starting with gentle cuddles instead. If you have a tiny dog, you might want to consider investing in a small pet carrier that you can tie around your neck. 
  • Reward with a nutrient-rich treat – Nothing is more effective in associating positive feelings towards a command like feeding your dog good quality treats. Opt for nutritious snacks like homemade doggie biscuits or a small piece of jerky.  
  • Put your puppy down – Once you complete the practice and introduce the new cue, you can slowly set your puppy down. On the next day, you can repeat this exercise until your dog becomes fully comfortable with you holding him in your arms. 

You can try picking random moments where you say the cue or pick up your dog once he’s fully accustomed to the routine. 

Delaware K9 Academy Can Help!

Puppies can be quite a handful to deal with, especially during their first few weeks. You might encounter issues like growling or excessive barking when you try to get too close or cuddle them in your arms while you walk around the house. 

If you have a hard time dealing with such concerns or if the tips and tricks we shared above don’t work for your beloved canine, you can rely on a professional to help you instead. It’s also best to call in an expert if you think your puppy’s aggressive behavior has started to progress. 

At Delaware K9 Academy, we provide top-notch dog training lessons that can help you improve your relationship with your new puppy. Using our tried and tested approach, we can help instill obedience and proper dog etiquette to your young and growing dog. 

Get in touch with us today at (302) 409-0654 for your queries. You may also send us a message at dek9academy@gmail.com if you wish to join any of our training programs.