What to Know About Grabbing a Dog by the Scruff


What is the scruff?

The scruff is the loose skin around your dog’s neck. If you’ve ever seen a mama dog with her puppies, you’ve probably seen her pick them up by their scruff when they wander too far away. She knows exactly how to grab them so that she doesn’t cause any pain or harm. The pups go limp and allow their mother to carry them back to safety.

Although doggie moms carry their pups by the scruff, it is not recommended to carry dogs in this way. Since we humans don’t have the natural instincts on how to correctly carry dogs by their scruff, we can end up easily causing pain or damage. Once a puppy is no longer a puppy, picking them up by their scruff is risky because they are much too heavy to have all that weight placed on their neck.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t grab your dog by the scruff. Done correctly, grabbing the scruff can be used as a means of training.

Grabbing the Scruff for Training

Grabbing a dog’s scruff is an indication of dominance. In wild dogs, or dogs that are fighting, the dominant one will grab the other dog’s scruff. When an owner grabs a dog’s scruff, it shows that the owner is the alpha. Mothers will also grab their pups by the scruff and gently shake when they are bad.

If you do choose to grab your dog’s scruff as a method of training, it is recommended that you consult with a trainer or your veterinarian for proper guidance – but here are the basics.

When your dog does an undesired behavior you should react immediately. Dog’s have a better chance of understanding what they did wrong when the action is dealt with right away.

  1. Grab your dog’s scruff firmly but not too hard.
  2. Gently shake the scruff.
  3. Sternly say “no” while maintaining eye contact.

Eventually, your dog should be able to associate “no” with an unwanted behavior and you should no longer have to grab their scruff.


Know Your Dog

You must also know the personality of your dog. If your dog is quite submissive or fearful, they are likely to not react well to this type of training. This could cause them to become even more fearful. Grabbing the scruff should be reserved for confident dogs that need minor behavior corrections.

People often believe that dogs can’t even feel their scruff. They definitely can feel it and are very aware of it because of its association with dominance.

Remember, this type of training is not suited for every dog and you should get proper instruction before proceeding. You are trying to replicate the behavior the mother would display. You should not shake roughly or yell furiously. Be gentle and firm.


Have you had experience with this type of training? Share your tips in the comments below.

About Sabrina Kremer

Sabrina is a content and marketing intern here at dogIDs. She is currently studying retail merchandising at NDSU. She enjoys reading and watching Netflix, but her favorite activity is exploring the outdoors with her pup, Peanut.

  1. This is a great post! I really appreciate that you visit a style of training other than “ignore bad behavior, praise good behavior”. I think that the method of training hardly matters so long as the dog is properly trained with no lasting issues from the method used. There are far too many dogs being put down in shelters for behavioral issues. If the dog is safe (to themselves and the community) and happy, that’s all that matters.


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    • I have a 12 lbs and do it more often, and I’ve done it since he was a pup and can do it for minutes at a time if need be but have never done it for more than a couple minutes after chasing him down the block… My 65lbs dog I’ve done in the past when she was smaller stopped for a while and have been forced to do it now that she’s bigger, kinda had to retrain her and myself because there is a sweet spot but I can it more firmly with both hands and can keep her off her feet just long enough for her to calm down or force her to move when shes being a brat…


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