Does It Hurt Dogs When You Pick Them Up by Their Skin?

As dog owners and lovers, we often find ourselves handling our furry friends in various ways, including picking them up. 

However, a common concern among pet owners is whether lifting a dog by its skin causes them pain or discomfort. 

In this article, we will explore the anatomical and physiological aspects of dogs’ skin, discuss the potential consequences of lifting them by the skin, and provide guidelines on proper handling techniques to ensure the well-being of our canine companions.

Understanding Canine Skin

Before delving into the effects of picking up dogs by their skin, it is crucial to understand the structure and function of canine skin. 

The skin serves as the largest organ of a dog’s body, providing protection from external elements and regulating body temperature. 

It consists of three main layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue. The dermis, located beneath the epidermis, contains blood vessels, nerve endings, and collagen fibers that give the skin its elasticity.

Skin Elasticity and Pain Sensitivity

One of the primary concerns when picking up a dog by its skin is the potential pain caused by stretching the skin beyond its natural limits. 

The skin’s elasticity allows it to stretch to accommodate a dog’s movements, but excessive stretching can be uncomfortable or painful for the animal. 

Dogs have varying levels of skin elasticity depending on their breed, age, and overall health. Puppies, for instance, generally have more pliable skin than adult dogs.

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Skin Lifting Techniques and Consequences

Picking up a dog by its skin can be detrimental if not done correctly. The most commonly affected area is the scruff, located at the back of the neck, where the skin is looser and has a higher concentration of nerve endings. 

This region is often used by mother dogs to carry their puppies. However, it is essential to note that a mother’s instinctive grip is gentle and not forceful.

When a dog is lifted improperly by the scruff, the skin can be stretched excessively, leading to discomfort, pain, and potential injury. 

The consequences may include bruising, tearing of the skin, sprains, or even damage to the underlying tissues and structures. 

Additionally, lifting a dog solely by the scruff may put unnecessary stress on the neck and spine, risking musculoskeletal issues.

Appropriate Handling Techniques

To ensure the well-being and comfort of our canine companions, it is crucial to employ proper handling techniques. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Support the body: When lifting a dog, it is essential to support their body properly. Place one hand under the chest or abdomen and the other hand under the hindquarters, ensuring that the dog feels secure and stable.

Avoid lifting by the scruff: While the scruff is a natural carrying point for mother dogs, it should not be the primary method of lifting a dog, especially when the dog is fully grown. Instead, use the scruff as a gentle guide if necessary, but focus on supporting the body.

Use harnesses or appropriate lifting aids: For dogs that have mobility issues or require assistance, using a harness or lifting aid specifically designed for dogs can provide more secure and comfortable support.

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Communicate with your dog: Before lifting, establish a connection with your dog and ensure they are comfortable with being lifted. Take into consideration any signs of anxiety or discomfort, and adjust your handling technique accordingly.


While dogs have a certain level of natural skin elasticity, it is crucial to handle them with care to avoid causing pain or discomfort. 

Lifting a dog solely by their skin, especially by the scruff, can result in injuries and potential long-term consequences. 

By employing proper handling techniques, such as supporting the body and avoiding excessive stretching of the skin, we can ensure the well-being and happiness of our beloved canine companions. 

Remember, a gentle and considerate approach goes a long way in building trust and strengthening the bond between you and your furry friend.