How do I stop my puppy from growling when picked up?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

Training your puppy to stop growling when picked up can be a challenging but important task. It’s crucial to address this behavior early on to prevent it from escalating into more serious aggression issues. Here are some steps you can take to address and correct this behavior:

1. Understand the underlying cause: Before addressing the growling behavior, it’s essential to understand why your puppy is growling when picked up. It could be due to fear, discomfort, pain, or a lack of proper socialization. Identifying the cause will help you address the issue more effectively.

2. Gradual desensitization: Start by desensitizing your puppy to being picked up. Begin by gently touching and petting them while they are in a comfortable position, such as lying down or sitting. Reward them with treats or praise for remaining calm. Slowly progress to gently lifting them a few inches off the ground and then immediately placing them back down. Gradually increase the duration and height of the lifts as your puppy becomes more comfortable.

3. Positive reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your puppy for good behavior. Whenever you pick them up and they remain calm without growling, immediately praise them and offer treats or a favorite toy. This positive association will help them understand that being picked up is a positive experience.

4. Avoid punishment: It’s important to avoid punishing your puppy for growling, as it may escalate their fear or aggression. Punishment can worsen the problem and lead to more serious behavioral issues. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection to encourage desired behavior.

5. Redirect their attention: If your puppy starts growling when you attempt to pick them up, redirect their attention to a positive and engaging activity. Offer them a favorite toy or treat to distract them from the situation. This will help them associate being picked up with positive experiences rather than negative ones.

6. Socialization and exposure: Ensure that your puppy is properly socialized and exposed to different environments, people, and experiences from an early age. This will help them become more confident and less likely to react negatively when being handled or picked up.

7. Seek professional help if needed: If your puppy’s growling behavior persists or escalates despite your efforts, consider seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can assess the situation and provide tailored guidance and training techniques to address the issue effectively.

Remember, consistency and patience are key when training your puppy. It may take time for them to learn and adjust their behavior. Always prioritize their safety and well-being, and never force them into a situation that makes them uncomfortable.