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Another common misconception I hear is that scruffing, or lifting a dog by the nape of his neck, is a normal way to pick him up. After all, that's how his mother carried him when he was a puppy. While this is true, it was only in the brief, early weeks of life, and this behavior doesn't continue when the pups are grown. Just as our mothers stop carrying us on their hips after a certain point, scruffing is not comfortable or natural for grown dogs.
According to the CDC, about 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., and half of those take place at home, with a familiar dog. Children from 5 to 9 years of age are at highest risk. While there are many causes, understanding humane handling and the signs of stress are key ways dog owners can help prevent family members from becoming another statistic.
While a dog owner may claim a bite is unprovoked, the truth is there is often provocation, but it is simply missed. There’s no excuse for picking up a pet the wrong way, which brings us to the final point...
If the dog is small (under 25 pounds), place your dominant arm under his chest, between the front limbs, while tucking his back end between that same arm and your torso (what some of us might refer to as the football hold). For medium-size dogs (between 25 and 40 pounds), place your dominant arm behind the dog’s back legs, and your non-dominant arm around his chest, in front of the limbs and stabilize the dog against your chest as you lift. This helps ensure the pet is properly supported and comfortable. Ideally, larger dogs really require two people to be picked up properly: one lifting from beneath the chest and the other lifting from the abdomen and rear.
If your dog is scared or in pain, care should be taken to avoid getting your face or hands near his mouth, in case he might bite. If he is injured and you need to lift him to safety, consider using a muzzle (only if he is not having difficulty breathing) and sliding him onto a board for support.
Aside from that, all children should know some important safety tips:
Interacting with dogs in a safe and humane manner helps increase safety, reduce injuries and build trust. With a little training and encouragement, all kids can be taught the correct way to pick up a dog. As an added bonus, your kids can then teach their friends and other adults how to do it right!
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