Teaching a Little Dog to Stop Nipping People Who Pick it Up

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 24, 2020

dog bites when picked up

For this Omaha dog training session we worked on what to do if a dog bites when picked up. 8 year-old Yorkie, Cooper nips when being picked up and has a problem resource guarding toys and his human’s bed.

While the dog resource guarding the bed and toys was the priority for this in home Omaha dog training session, the guardians also wanted help with Cooper’s habit of nipping and biting people when they go to pick him up.

Why Dog Bites When Picked Up

Your furry friend may not enjoy being picked up for different reasons. One reason could be if they have been dropped before. Another could be if they feel unsupported or unsafe when being picked up. They may also not like being picked up before something they don’t like or being interrupted while doing something they enjoy.

How to Train a Dog to Like Being Picked Up

Cooper had started to nip and bite when people attempt to pick him up, especially when he wasn’t expecting it. Cooper nipped at me when I went to pick him up for our roadmap to success video at the end of the session. As this happened at the end of the appointment, I didn’t get a chance to film how to stop a dog from nipping when picked up.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t film the secret to stopping a dog from nipping when picked up. You can learn how to train a dog to like being picked up in the free positive dog training video below.

This is an easy way to stop a dog from biting people who pick it up. It even works if you are not a professional Yorkie dog trainer.

Dogs Dislike Being Picked Up

The key to train a dog to like being picked up and stop biting is to practice in small steps to make sure that the dog is comfortable with that step a few times before moving onto the next one. It will take some practice, but I’m betting if everyone in the family practices the steps I outlined in the above video once a day (10-20 reps each practice session), they should be able to pick the dog up without any nips within a week or two.

Remember to always pay attention to your dog’s cut off signals. Don’t continue picking them up if they are backing away or laying on their back and showing their belly. And once you have successfully lifted your furry friend, don’t hold them in an uncomfortable position.

For a small dog like Cooper, be sure to keep an arm under the dog’s legs for support. If you continuously hold a dog in an awkward position they’ll develop a negative association with being picked up, making it more difficult to help with unwanted behaviors, like if a dog bites when picked up.

Resource Guarding

The other issue the family wanted help with was the dog’s habit of resource guarding the bed. This can be dangerous as a dog may bite one of the humans if they simply roll over into the dog when in this state. My first suggestion is to stop sleeping in the bed, but some people struggle with this. Here are two alternative options to consider instead.

The first suggestion is a simple exercise you can use if your dog guards the human’s bed. The best time to practice this is any time except when sleeping in the actual bed.

Have the person the dog guards the bed from go to their bed and invite the dog on top of it. Once the dog is on the bed, go to the bathroom with some high value treats (but keep them hidden so the dog doesn’t know you have them).

Walk to the bathroom and then call the dog to you. When the dog gets there, give it a treat and assign a special command word for this recall like “attention,” “on deck,” “spot,” or something else. Only use this word to mean come off the bed to the bathroom.

After treating the dog for coming to the bathroom, have the dog go back to its starting position on the bed. If the dog wont go back to the bed, enlist the help of someone who can stay on the bed and call the dog there. Treat the dog for going back to the bed if necessary.

Repeat calling the dog from the bed to the bathroom for 20 treats, then go do something else. Repeat 4 times a day for a week. By the end of the week, the dog should be conditioned to come from the bed to the bathroom on command. This will allow the human to call the dog to the bathroom in the night after the human uses the facilities. This should prevent the dog from guarding the bed and refusing to let the human get back in bed.

The other option is how I usually stop dogs from resource guarding. This will work both for the bed and the toys, but since the bed guarding likely happens when the human is half asleep and not in the mood, the above steps should be a nice alternative option. You can watch me go over how to stop resource guarding in the video below.

Addressing Behavior Issues: Dog Bites When Picked Up and Resource Guarding 

When dogs guard objects, it can be a source of frustration for their owners. However, this behavior presents an opportunity for owners to address it positively, helping their dog overcome the problem effectively in the long term.

Just like I mentioned in the “pick up the dog” video above, the guardians will need to go slow and at the dog’s pace. If the dog barks, growls, lunges or is reactive in any other way, that is an indicator that we moved too far too fast.

Addressing behaviors like if a dog bites when picked up or resource guarding in dogs, as demonstrated in the training session with 8-year-old Yorkie Cooper, requires patience and consistent effort. By understanding the reasons behind these behaviors and implementing positive training techniques, owners can effectively help their dogs overcome these challenges.

Whether it’s teaching a dog to feel comfortable being picked up, trying to stop a dog from nipping, or modifying resource guarding tendencies, the key lies in practicing gradual steps and providing ample reinforcement. Remembering to proceed at the dog’s pace and being attentive to their signals is crucial for success. With dedication and the right approach, guardians can create a harmonious environment where both they and their furry companions can thrive.

We covered a number of other tips in this in-home dog behavior training session, from why a dog bites when picked up to  resource guarding. To help the family members remember them all, we recorded a roadmap to success video you can watch below.

Do your dogs dislike being picked up? Click Here
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This post was written by: David Codr