How to Safely Transfer a Small Dog from Person-to-Person

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By Dr. Sophia Yin

Have you ever had a client walk in with their little land-shark of a Chihuahua or Toy Poodle in their arms and you needed to examine it or carry it and you know you won’t be able to get near it once the owner puts it on the table or floor? Or you have a little, bitey dog in a shelter,  kennel, or hospital setting you are carrying—because somehow you’ve already made friends with him—and the safest way for you to get him to be handled or transported by someone else is by handing him off to them? 

In that case, knowing how to safely transfer a dog from one person to the next would be really handy. Here’s one method you can use. Practice this method with friendly dogs of different sizes until you can do it smoothly and you get a good feel of how  to use it.

Step 1: First, hold the dog with one arm and that hand under the dog’s chest as you see me doing. For larger small dogs, use two fingers in front of the chest.
For smaller dogs, use one finger in front of the chest. Step 2: In preparing to hand the dog over, put your left hand on the dog’s side against his ribs as shown above. This isn’t always necessary. It’s safest to do this if the dog is comfortable with you, which he is with me as shown in this photo. Otherwise, if you can’t get into position smoothly and inconspicuously,  the dog may see that approaching left hand as a threat.
Step 3:  The technician reaches with just one hand over the dog’s back to place her hand around the rib cage and then under the chest the way it will be placed when she completely holds the dog on her own. Step 4: Rather than using her free arm to help hold the dog, the technician pulls the dog to her side while you simultaneously hand the dog to her. Again, you can do this one-handed, but you have to make sure to loosen your grip as the technician pulls the dog towards her side.
Step 5: In order to release the dog to the technician, slide your right arm so that only your hands are on the dog. Here’s the wide shot. You can see that you let go of the dog with your right arm so that only your hand is on the dog.
Here’s a side shot while I let go of the dog completely. Notice: the technician supports the dog one-handed or with one arm the way I did at the start and that the dog’s back is parallel to the ground. Once the dog is in this position he’s not likely to be aggressive to the technician as long as she doesn’t do something to scare him (such as putting her face or hands up to his face, supporting him poorly, or letting him get off balance).

 

This probably seems ridiculously simple until you try it on an aggressive or wiggly dog. For instance, watch the video below. In this case I show that this dog is aggressive—I wave my hand in front of its face. I’m easily able to take the dog using the technique shown above. However, when the technician tries the same technique, but does it slightly incorrectly, you see a completely different response. She accidentally reaches out with both hands such that one hand is in the dog’s view and thus appears as a threat.


Practice this technique correctly with small, friendly dogs first and then with small, friendly, wiggly dogs. If they wiggle a lot, then your technique is off and you’ll need to practice more before using it with a fearful, reactive, or potentially aggressive dog.  You’ll also need to practice enough to know which dogs you can “handle.” Your goal is to be able to transfer the dog with such skill that the dog is not reactive or aggressive. If you’re not sure you can do this, it’s best to use another technique or muzzle the dog first.

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One response to “How to Safely Transfer a Small Dog from Person-to-Person

  1. I have a 5 year old Peek-A-Poo that we adopted when he was one. He only lets my husband or me hold him. I have two teenagers who would love to bond with him, but if they try to hold him or if they even come too close, he growls, snaps and will sometimes nip at them. It has always been like this. What can we do?

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