How to Pick Up a Dog by the Fold of Skin on His Neck

Picking up an adult dog by the fold in the neck should be done in only two situations.
Picking up an adult dog by the fold in the neck should be done in only two situations. (Image: dog image by Mat Hayward from

When dogs are puppies, their mothers usually pick them up by the scruff of the neck. This is the area of skin below the head on the top of the dog. This skin is loose, which allows the mother to pick up her puppy without harming it. Picking up a puppy is a dominant act that makes the puppy submit. As puppies turn into dogs, it is generally not a good idea to pick them up by the folds of neck skin. But in some cases picking up an adult dog in this manner is necessary for “training or restraint purposes,” reports the website.

Assess your dog's situation. Pick it up by the folds of the neck skin only if you need to stop it from behaving badly or if you are training the dog, and only use this method if you have been taught how to use it properly by your veterinarian or dog trainer.

Grab the folds of neck skin gently with one hand.

Lift the dog up but not too high. The higher the dog is lifted, the more pressure is placed on the skin to hold up the weight of its body.

Keep the dog lifted for just a few moments. This should be enough to send a message to the dog that its behavior is wrong. Look him in the eye and tell him "no" to reinforce your message.

Place the dog back on the floor gently. Never handle your dog roughly.

Tips & Warnings

  • When confronting behavior issues with your dog, always consult with your veterinarian or a trained animal behavior specialist prior to engaging in any confrontational disciplinary actions. In a study published by the University of Pennsylvania (See Reference 2), non-confrontational training methods such as food rewards for good behavior, teaching the dog to sit for everything or training the dog to look at the handler resulted in more positive outcomes than confrontational training methods. Discipline your dog only if you catch him in the act of misbehaving. Otherwise, he will not associate the discipline with his actions.
  • Scruffing, an act used to establish dominance, should only be performed on a calm, confident dog who only needs minor behavioral correction. Performing an act of dominance on a fearful or aggressive dog may only increase his fear or aggression. Scruffing a dog should not be performed beyond puppyhood, either. As the dog grows, the added body weight places increased strain on the neck skin, which can cause pain or injury to the dog. Pick up older dogs by lifting with two hands, placed behind the armpits of the front legs and under the rump. Improper use of scruffing can cause physical and psychological damage to your dog.

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