Puppy Communication: Why Your Puppy Growls When Picked Up

Two Yellow lab puppies


Puppies are adorable bundles of fur and energy, but they can sometimes exhibit behavior that leaves new pet owners puzzled. One common behavior that can be both surprising and concerning is when a puppy growls when picked up.

While it might seem like your furry friend is being aggressive, there are often underlying reasons for this behavior that relate to communication rather than aggression.

In this article, we’ll explore why puppies sometimes growl when picked up and what you can do to understand and address this behavior.

Fear or Discomfort

One of the primary reasons a puppy growls when picked up is fear or discomfort. Puppies, like humans, have personal space boundaries.

Being lifted off the ground can be an unfamiliar and unsettling experience for them, especially if they haven’t had much positive exposure to being held. If your puppy growls when picked up, it could be their way of saying, “I’m scared” or “I don’t like this.”

To address this issue, it’s essential to gradually introduce your puppy to being held and make the experience as positive as possible.

Start by gently lifting your puppy off the ground for brief moments, offering treats and praise as you do so. Over time, your puppy should become more accustomed to being held without feeling fearful.


Another common reason for growling when picked up is pain.

Puppies may have hidden injuries or sore spots that you’re unaware of, and being lifted can exacerbate their discomfort. To rule out any physical issues, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian if your puppy’s growling when picked up persists.

If pain is the cause, your vet can recommend appropriate treatment. In the meantime, handle your puppy gently and avoid picking them up unnecessarily until the issue is resolved.

Lack of Socialization

Proper socialization is crucial for puppies to become well-adjusted adults.

If a puppy hasn’t been exposed to various people, environments, and situations during their critical socialization period (usually between 3 and 14 weeks of age), they may growl when picked up because they are not used to the sensation or the presence of unfamiliar people.

To address this issue, focus on positive socialization experiences. Gradually expose your puppy to different people and environments, always ensuring that the encounters are positive and not overwhelming. This can help your puppy become more comfortable with being handled by different individuals.


Puppies have bursts of energy and can become easily overstimulated.

When a puppy is excited or hyperactive, being picked up may intensify their excitement, leading to growling or even play-biting. This behavior is often referred to as “zoomies.”

To manage overstimulation, teach your puppy to calm down and redirect their energy with training exercises and playtime. Avoid picking them up when they are in a highly excited state, as this can exacerbate the behavior.

Establishing Boundaries

Sometimes, puppies growl when picked up as a way to assert themselves and establish boundaries. This is more common as puppies start to mature and test their limits. It’s important to address this behavior early on to prevent it from becoming a long-term issue.

To establish boundaries, use positive reinforcement training methods to teach your puppy that growling is not an acceptable way to communicate. Reward calm and compliant behavior with treats and praise, and avoid reinforcing growling with attention or treats.

Understanding why your puppy growls when picked up is essential for fostering a healthy and positive relationship with your furry friend.

By addressing the underlying causes, such as fear, discomfort, or overstimulation, and using positive reinforcement training techniques, you can help your puppy become more comfortable with being picked up and ensure a happy and well-adjusted adult dog.



Photo by Chevanon Photography