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My Pet World: How to train dogs who don’t like being picked up

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a 9-month-old male cairn terrier who runs from me when I need to pick him up. I've tried doing it while kneeling so I don't tower over him, but to no avail. Once I am able to pick him up, he's fine. Is this typical of some dogs and will he grow out of it? – Terri, Rocky Hill, Connecticut

Dear Terri,

If you think about it, being picked up is not something a dog should really be used to; being several feet off the floor is not a normal position for a dog to be in. Naturally, this can make some dogs nervous.

While there is no guarantee your dog will ever enjoy being picked up, you can help him accept it. Do each of the following steps for a few days before progressing to the next step.

First, act like you’re going to pick him up, but give him a treat instead. Second, go to pick him up by putting your hand under his body, but don’t actually pick him up. Just give him a treat, remove your hand and walk away. Next, offer him a treat, then pick him up and keep offering treats until he is on your lap. Finally, hold out a treat when picking him up while standing, again offering him treats until he is calm. At this point, he should be looking for the treat and therefore less concerned about being picked up. This training is meant to distract him so in time he’ll forget to be nervous about being picked up.


Dear Cathy,

I read your column regularly and enjoy the articles. But I have one thing that drives me crazy and that is your use of the word "bingo" as an example for a reward word. Isn't there any other word you can think of or use as examples, such as "perfect," "cheerios" or even "good boy/girl"? Your advice is usually very good, but maybe you could change this up a bit from time to time. – Pat, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Pat,

Your letter made me laugh. I am sure if I gave you a tasty treat every time I said “bingo,” you might feel differently!


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