Lifting Your Dog


Does your dog ever growl or snap when you try to pick him up? Use this counter-conditioning technique to make him want to be lifted up!

1. Place both hands briefly, gently, on either side of your dog’s spine, and then feed him a treat.

2. Gradually move your hand down and under your dog’s ribcage on the far side, touching and feeding him a treat several times at each step.

3. Gradually move your other hand around the front of your dog’s chest to his opposite shoulder, touching and feeding him several times at each step.

4. Put light pressure on your dog with both hands, gradually hugging him toward you, and then feed him a treat.

5. Gradually increase pressure, feeding him treats several times at each step.

6. Hug your dog against your chest, lifting upward slightly; release and treat.

7. Gradually increase the amount of lift pressure until you are picking him up, giving him a treat several times at each step.

Dog’s choice approach, small dog

1. Shape or lure-shape your dog to go into a carrier on cue.

2. Lift the carrier to transport your dog to the desired location.

3. Treat while carrier is being carried, to offset any negative association with the movement of the carrier.

4. Treat when you place the carrier at the destination, again to maintain a positive association with the moving process.

Another dog’s choice, small to medium-sized dog

1. Shape or lure-shape your dog to jump into your lap when you are seated on the floor. Put the behavior on cue.

2. Make a circle of your arms in your lap so when he jumps into your lap he is jumping into your arms. Practice until the behavior is fluent (happens quickly and easily) and on cue.

3. Kneel, and cue him to jump into your arms. Practice until fluent.

4. Sit in a chair and cue him to jump into your arms. Practice until fluent.

5. Stand and cue him to jump into your arms. Be sure you catch him!

A third dog’s choice, any sized-dog

1. Using a portable ramp or steps made for dogs, shape or lure-shape your dog to walk up the ramp or the steps. Put it on cue.

2. Practice until the behavior is fluent.

3. Use the ramp or steps in place of picking him up when you need him on an elevated surface such as getting into the back of your SUV, or onto the exam table at your veterinarian’s office.

Learn more about how to train your dog to accept being touched for basic husbandry chores.

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Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.