Why Does My Puppy Growl When I Pick Him Up?

puppy growls
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Puppies are super adorable so it is quite normal that you just want to pick them up, hold them, and cuddle them all the time. But if your pup growls at you when you pick them up, it isn’t exactly encouraging, right? Just why is your puppy growling at you when you pick them up? Did you do something wrong?

There are five main reasons why your puppy growls at you when you pick them up. Firstly, your pup could be in pain because of an injury or there could be an underlying health issue like a joint disorder that causes your puppy pain and discomfort. Two, your puppy may have had negative experiences with being picked up. 

Three, your puppy may be scared because they are still young and haven’t been socialized properly by the breeder, mom dog, and littermates. So they aren’t used to being picked up. 

Four, your puppy may be frustrated because it wants to sleep, play, or explore their world and you stop them by picking them up. Fifth, you use picking up your puppy as an interrupter for undesired behavior which your puppy was enjoying so they see being picked up as something negative.

5 Reasons Why Your Puppy Growls When Picked Up

There are a few reasons why your puppy growls when they are being picked up:

Reason 1: Your Puppy Is in Pain

If your puppy growls when being picked up, then they might be in pain and there might be an underlying health issue. Another dog may have bitten or tumbled your puppy during rough play or your pup may have injured his front paw.

So growling is your puppy’s way of telling you that something hurts, especially if you place pressure in that body area when picking up the pup. Taking your puppy to the vet is the best solution so health issues and pain can be ruled out.

Reason 2: Your Puppy Had Negative Experiences Before With Being Picked Up

One negative experience with being picked up, whether accidentally by you, your kids, your guests, or the puppy’s previous owner, can scar the puppy for life. They will remember that negative experience with being picked up and associate it with all future “pick ups.”

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It’s the same if you picked up your puppy for a nail trim and your pup had a fright or you accidentally cut into the nail bed. Your puppy may feel reluctant to be picked up and may growl at you. Moreover, your pup’s option to flee is taken away when they are being picked up, leaving only fighting – growling and biting.

Reason 3: You Pick up Your Puppy as a Negative Consequence to Unwanted Behavior

You may pick up your puppy to stop or interrupt unwanted behavior like eating a toxic plant, eating bird or rabbit droppings, or chewing your favorite pair of leather boots. When you try to pick up your pup in these and similar situations, your puppy may growl at you and try to bite you.

It would be better to opt for a positive interrupter. Choose a fun word like “cupcake” or “sprinkles” because you can’t sound mad when you are shouting words like these. You do, however, sound pretty scary to your puppy when you scream or loudly say “no.”

If your dog is hearing impaired, you can use a touch interruptor, like touching their backs with one finger.

Once you’ve said the interruptor word or touched your dog’s back and your dog stops the unwanted behavior, follow this with a reward like a treat, cuddles, petting, or a “good boy/girl.”

Reason 4: Your Puppy Isn’t Used to Being Touched and Picked Up

Another reason your puppy may be growling when you try to pick them up is that your puppy is still young and not used to being touched and handled by their fur parent. Your pup may tense up and even try to bite you. Plus, for a puppy, it’s quite scary being lifted off the ground, which adds to the fear of being touched and then picked up.

Reason 5: Your Puppy Is Frustrated

Puppies learn by exploring their world. They can’t go exploring and learning when you are picking them up and holding onto them. Being constantly picked up by you or your kids – who just want to play with the puppy – can be a source of frustration for your pup.

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Your puppy can’t speak with you to tell you to leave it alone for a while – like a child might ask for a time out – so it growls to send its message to you.

What Should You Do When Your Puppy Growls and You Try to Pick Them Up?

So what do you do when your pup growls at you when you pick them up? Follow these tips:

  • Don’t keep hold of your puppy unless it is unsafe to put them down. When you can, place them safely on the ground because keeping hold of them will teach them that growling is okay.
  • Don’t shout at your puppy or hit them because this will only increase your puppy’s anxiety, frustration, or fear. Your puppy may become aggressive and bite you.
  • Put your puppy down safely.
  • Keep calm. Your puppy isn’t growling at you, their loving and kind owner, to hurt you. Instead, they are trying to tell you something.

How to Get a Puppy to Stop Growling When Being Picked Up

To get your puppy to stop growling when you pick them up, you first need to find out why they are acting the way they are. Dealing with the underlying issue of the growling will ensure that your puppy won’t need to growl.


  • Taking your puppy to the vet so they can check if there are any physical problems.
  • Using positive interrupters to stop undesired behavior and be consistent with how you train your pup.
  • If there are specific parts of your dog’s body they don’t like you touching when you pick them up or hold them.
  • Counter-conditioning your puppy and asking a force-free dog training professional to help you.
  • Learning how to pick up your puppy the right way; remember, puppies are fragile as their bones are still weak and need to grow.
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Puppy Growls When Picked up FAQs

Why does my puppy randomly growl at me?

There are various reasons why your puppy growls at you seemingly out of the blue. The most common reasons include your puppy being sick and/or in pain, feeling scared, being aggressive or possessive, or exhibiting territorial behavior. Your puppy may also be growling when it is playing, and gentle growling is perfectly okay.

Do puppies like being picked up?

Puppies don’t like to be constantly picked up, held, and cuddled. These acts raise a pup’s stress and anxiety levels since dogs are cursorial animals – they need to be able to run away if there are any signs of danger. And while you aren’t a danger to your new puppy, your pup doesn’t know that, so they may not like being held. Moreover, if you don’t correctly pick up your puppy, you could hurt them, and they won’t like being picked up.

Should you growl back at your puppy when they growl at you?

Research suggests that you shouldn’t ever growl back at your puppy (or adult dog) when it is growling at you or exhibiting other aggressive behavior. Studies have found that people who act aggressively toward their dogs or respond with punitive training methods raise aggressive dogs.

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few reasons why your puppy may be growling at you when you try to pick them up and hold them. Find the underlying issue:

  • Is your puppy sick or do they have an injury or another health issue?
  • Did their previous owner treat them well?
  • Was the puppy properly socialized to being handled?
  • Have you been using “picking up the puppy” as a behavior interruptor?
  • Are you or your kids picking up the puppy too often?

Then address these issues by taking your pup to the vet, socializing them, using positive interrupters and training methods, or asking a force-free professional for guidance.

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