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11 Real Reasons Why Your Dog Cries When Picked Up + 7 Tips

Why Does My Dog Cry When Picked Up

Do you have a clingy pooch who once loved being held…

But now, yelps whenever you pick them up?

Or a Fido who seems to hate it and always screams to be put down?

You probably want to know why this is happening.

Is it possible to hurt them while doing it?

Keep reading to find out:

  • What makes your dog yelp while being carried.
  • Whether you’re picking them in the right way or not.
  • Potential dangers and injuries for all sizes of canines.
  • Helpful tips on how to hold them properly and make a fearful Fido get used to it.
  • 7 different crying scenarios explained + advice on how to respond in each situation. 
  • And many more…

Why does my dog cry when picked up?

Your dog cries when picked up because they’re being held incorrectly, frightened due to a past trauma, startled, or not used to being carried. It can also be due to pain caused by injuries, cramps, spinal and stomach issues, developing growth, vaccine shots, joint problems, and swollen lymph nodes.

Does it hurt my dog when I pick him up?

You can hurt your dog when you pick them up if it’s not done correctly. For example, holding them with one hand without any support might cause muscle tears. They may also have hidden injuries and underlying medical conditions. And those aching body parts will be painful once touched accidentally. 

Small breeds like Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Dachshunds are prone to cartilage and joint problems such as:

  • Tracheal collapse.
  • Cruciate ligament tear.
  • Disk disease (spinal issue).
  • Legg-calve-perthes disease.

While medium and large breeds – Hounds,  Basenjis, German Shepherds, and Retrievers are more likely to get:

  • Arthritis.
  • Bloating.
  • Growing pains.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia.

So to prevent discomfort, canines should be carried according to their size, breed, and age.

You’ll find how later on in the article. But for now, let’s dive into…

11 reasons why your dog cries when picked up

#1: They’re held in the wrong way

Your Dog Cries When Picked Up Because They're Held In The Wrong Way

Dogs, especially tiny ones, are more delicate than we ever know.

Hold them in the wrong way, and they could suffer from injuries or even emotional trauma.

So if you or someone is holding your Fido the same way you lift a cat – with their body dangling in the air…

It’s uncomfortable, and it can strain their muscles too. (Poor pooch!)

There are many reasons why your dog whines when you pick them up. And maybe you’re lifting them by the:

  • Tail.
  • Belly.
  • Scruff.
  • Collar.
  • Armpits.

Warning: Never pick your dog up by the tail, scruff or collar because you might cause permanent injuries. Also, avoid picking them by the armpits and belly.

Also, some dogs wouldn’t tolerate being cradled like a baby.

Want to know other things they dislike? Check out this article. 

#2: They’re frightened

If this is a new thing, someone might have dropped them, which can be a painful and traumatic experience.

How old is your Fido?

If they’re still a pup, they could be in one of their fear periods. Or, they developed a phobia of children or specific people. So they dislike being held by them.

It’s also possible that you’ve done something they hate after picking them up. Say bathing them, clipping their nails, carrying them to the car or the vet.

However, if your pup is like this since you got them, they might have a past trauma. Or they weren’t used to being carried.

So if they avoid eye contact and have flat ears, put them down gently. This is the most evident signal that your doggo is uncomfortable with the situation they’re in. 

But don’t fret. With the proper training, your dog could get used to this. And I’ll discuss it shortly, so stick for a bit. 🙂

#3: They were taken by surprise

People get startled and scream when hugged from behind. So imagine the fright of floating in the air without notice.

Your pooch might be resting or doing something. Then you lift them. And I’m sure no one likes to be interrupted – even your dog.

Also, suddenly picking up an old Fido could scare the hell out of them.

They might have poor vision or hearing. So they don’t know if someone’s about to carry them.

Note: If you have a senior dog, give them a sign first. Pat in front of them, show yourself and wait for them to recognize you.

#4: They dislike being carried

“I say this is unnecessary, hooman.

I’m better off walking.”

Your pooch might also hate being picked up or cuddled.

Most large dogs will be uncomfortable being held high. Also, independent and energetic ones may not want to be confined in your arms as they love being on their own and doing something.

But still, this can vary per dog as they have different personalities.

So if they insist that they hate it, I say respect their choice.

#5: They’re injured

You pick up your pooch correctly like usual. But they protest for you to put them down.

So you would wonder, “Why does my dog cry when I hold them?”

If it’s all of a sudden, it looks like they’re in pain. And you’re touching a part that’s hurting.

It could be a:

  • Bone fracture.
  • Sprain (ligaments).
  • Strain (muscles or tendons).

One common sign of this is limping. And physical traumas can be caused by :

  • Accidents.
  • Deep cuts.
  • Falling off from a high place.
  • Overexertion (excessive running and jumping). 

What to do?

Gently touch each part of your dog’s body. If they become uncomfortable when you press a specific spot, that could be it.

Bring them to the clinic for assessment. And give them plenty of rest for fast recovery.

You might also like: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Cries During Walks + 5 Tips

#6: They have leg cramps

Dog Leg Cramps

Yes, dogs can get cramps too. And this is due to the over-exhaustion of their muscles. 

So you may notice twitching and difficulty in straightening their legs.

But one study reports that 58% of 14 dogs with cramps also show these symptoms:

  • Restlessness.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Increased yelping.

“How can I help them?”

A warm or cold compress will lessen the pain. Also, avoid running and jumping. And give them plenty of rest and water.

Usually, this will be gone after a few hours.

But if it persists, your Fido might have:

  • Seizures.
  • Vitamin deficiency.
  • Neurological disease.

#7: They have abdominal problems

Another reason for this is discomfort in the abdomen.

They have a hard belly that’s painful when touched. And this is why your dog screams when picked up.

This can be due to:

  • Bloating.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Buildup of bad gas.
  • Ingesting of foreign objects.

One obvious sign of this is loss of appetite. Other possible symptoms are:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Licking the air.
  • Drinking less water

 #8: They have spinal issues

Does your Fido love to jump on and off the furniture?

They may not experience any problems after a few days. But if they keep on doing it, they can harm their back.

One common injury is IVDD or intervertebral disc disease. This is damage in the spine – either in the neck or back. And it could lead to paralysis.

Dogs who have short and long bodies are prone to this. Such as Dachshunds, Corgis, and Beagles. Especially if they’re obese too.

But wait, there’s one condition that you should be aware of, particularly if you have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS).


This is a trauma in the spine that’s due to fluid-filled cavities.

Research shows that this is mainly observed in CKCS – with a prevalence rate of 95%. So this could be in their genes.

But, other breeds can also have this, like:

  • Lhasa apsos.
  • Pomeranians.
  • Maltese terriers.
  • Pekingese dogs.

Apart from pain in the head or neck, they’ll also:

  • Scratch excessively.
  • Cry when eliminating.
  • Keep rubbing their face.

“What should I do?”

VCA recommends giving them pain relief medications like gabapentin. As well as acupuncture.

But in severe cases, surgery is considered.

Reading tip: Why do dogs arch their back?

#9: There’s a developing tumor

Do you feel a lump in their body?

In most cases, experts say they’re only fat cysts that aren’t cancerous. And these can be inflated by the vet using a needle.

But if you notice any redness, swelling, or even pus, book an appointment at the clinic asap. It could be dangerous and need to be removed immediately.

#10: They have joint pains

Your pooch may have arthritis if they’re old.  And carrying them in your arms might have caused their joints to throb more.

Hip dysplasia, a genetic condition, is also likely if you have a large dog. Say, Saint Bernards and German Shepherds.

Dogs who have this will find it hard to:

  • Jump.
  • Get up.
  • Lie down.
  • Climb steps.

So they may lay down to eat or choose to sleep downstairs.

Aside from genes, diet is also a factor in this. Because excess weight puts more pressure on the joints – making their condition worse.

Further reading: Why does my dog grunt and groan?

#11: They have an infection

Your Dog Has An Infection

Lymph nodes are small lumps found all over the body. And they’ll bulge and become painful if there’s an infection.

So you might be pressing some of them while you’re holding your pooch.

“Where are they located?”

You can’t feel all of them. But the most obvious ones are in the:

  • Groin.
  • Armpits.
  • Under the jaw.
  • Back of hind legs.
  • Around their shoulders.

Loss of appetite is the most common symptom. And this can be caused by:

  • Allergens.
  • Fungal infection.
  • Bacteria from ticks (e.g., Lyme disease).

What to do about it

Crying in dogs can either be due to physical or emotional pain. And if they’re healthy, this issue might be solved by holding them the right way.


It’ll depend on their age and size. But no matter how big they are, always remember to hold them close to your body.

For small dogs: Put your dominant arm beneath their chest. Next, extend your fingers between their front legs. Then support their rear with another hand.

For medium size: Place one arm under their chest and one beneath their belly. Or put your dominant arm around their shoulder. Then use the other hand to hold and secure their feet.

For large dogs: Keep your pooch in a standing position. Then place one hand around their back end. While the other one under their neck. And gently pick them up close to you.

Note: Most big dogs won’t enjoy being carried. So only do this if necessary – when they’re ill or injured.

Is your dog still fearful?

  1. Approach them from the side and let them see you first.
  2. Call their name sweetly or make a sound for them to notice you.
  3. If they seem calm, follow the steps above to carry them correctly. And avoid startling them.
  4. Do this regularly but keep each session short.

However, if they’re anxious, wait for a few days until they get used to you.

This should also be a group effort. So tell everyone at home to refrain from grabbing your pooch. And teach them – especially kids, how to correctly pick them up.

When to go to the vet

Canines will usually hide their pain. They’ll only show symptoms of discomfort when it’s too much to take.

So watch out for any of these common signs and go to your vet at once:


  • Limping.
  • Shaking.
  • Arched back.
  • Walking slower.
  • Reluctance to jump.
  • Blood in vomit/stool.
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing.
  • Holding their head below their shoulders.
  • Difficulty when lying down and getting up.


  • Aggression
  • Restlessness.
  • Too much licking.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Excessive vocalization.

7 scenarios of dogs yelping when picked up + tips

#1: Dog yelps when picked up under the chest

If your dog has a tender chest or painful neck, it might be due to:

  • Growth.
  • Neck pain.
  • Soft tissue injury.
  • Bruise/fracture in the ribs.
  • Swollen lymph nodes due to infection.

And this can be a result of an accident or a bad fall.

What to do?

Take them to the clinic for a physical exam.

Also, strict rest is advised. If there are other pets in the house, keep your pooch in a crate. This is to avoid them from being touched while healing. 

#2: Dog yelps when picked up and shakes

Crying and trembling are signs of fear and anxiety.

They might have a bad experience while being carried. Or they weren’t used to it. Other Fidos can also be scared of heights.

But they may also shake from painful joint pains. As well as nerve problems and spinal issues.

So it’s best to have them checked by an expert first to rule out medical conditions.

Warning: A dog shaking and crying, when picked up, might have excruciating sensations. So if you need to go out for a checkup, carry them gently. Put a muzzle on them to prevent any bite incidents. (Do this also in other scenarios.)

#3: Dog yelps when picked up after shots

If they recently received shots, the pain might be due to the swelling of the pricked area.

This is normal. And it may go away after 1 or 2 days. 

What you can do is avoid touching the painful spot. And make them comfy as possible as they might also feel weak.

#4: My puppy yelps when I pick him up after shots

The soreness of the injected part is normal in vaccinated dogs. And you might be holding it. That’s why your pup is crying when you pick them up.

But, experts say this could be due to having multiple vaccines at once. And they can be more potent for a small dog like yours.

So watch out for these symptoms of allergic reaction within 24 to 48 hours:

  • Fever.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Facial swelling.

Note: This is rarely fatal but contact your vet about this to know what’s the best medication for your dog. And to avoid this in their next shots.

#5: Dog yelps when picked up under front legs

Most Fidos will be uncomfortable when only carried by their front limbs.

This is because those are delicate parts. And they couldn’t support all the weight of their lower body.

The pain can also be due to strained muscles. Mainly because of overexertion. But it could also be a result of improper handling.

Other causes are:

  • Tick-borne diseases.
  • Growth in the armpit.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Sores due to collar chaffing.

What should you do?

Follow the correct ways of picking up a dog listed earlier. And treat any sore wounds.

If more signs occur after a few days, see an expert.

#6: Dog yelps when picked up under back legs

There are many reasons for this:

  • Arthritis.
  • Disc disease.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Cruciate ligament tear.
  • Severe luxating patella.
  • Kidney stones/infection.
  • Growth/cyst in their rear end.
  • Overexertion of the base of the tail.

An abscess (pus buildup) can also form in their bum. And this is due to infected anal sacs.

What to do?

First, bring your dog to the clinic for a checkup.

Large breeds and overweight Fidos are more prone to this, so…

  • Keep them at an ideal weight. (Ask your vet about this or use this online tool.)
  • Watch what they eat. Reduce their servings if necessary.
  • Avoid giving them commercial snacks. Try healthier ones instead, like apples and sweet potatoes.
  • Choose light exercises and walk them every day – with rests in between.
  • And make them drink lots of water!

Read next: 13 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Licking Their Base Of Tail

#7: Dog yelps when picked up under stomach

Uh-oh. Possible causes of abdominal pain are:

  • Bloating.
  • G.I. upset.
  • Gas buildup.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Muscular cramp.
  • Internal bleeding/anemia.

What you should do is monitor them at home first. And call your vet about the situation.

Give them a bland diet that consists of plain boiled rice and chicken. Mix some pumpkins in their meals for fiber which can help with their digestion.

Also, ensure they’re getting enough water to avoid dehydration if they have loose stools.

Note: If their condition gets worse overnight, see the vet right away.