The Guide To Scruffing A Dog The Right Way

We all want to show our dogs how much we love them, but sometimes we just don’t know the best way to do it. Scruffing a dog can be a delicate process, and if you don’t do it right, you could end up hurting your pup.

But have no fear!

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about scruffing a dog the right way. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be a pro at showing your dog some affection in the most gentle way possible.

Do dogs feel their scruff? How do you safely pick a dog by the scruff for training?

Read on to find out.

What Is Scruff?

A dog’s scruff is the area of skin on the back of its neck. It’s also sometimes called the nape.

The scruff is a sensitive area for dogs, and it’s full of nerve endings. This means that your dog can feel you touching them there, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

You might have noticed that when you scruff your dog, they sometimes freeze in place. This is because the scruff is an area of their body that they can’t reach to groom themselves.

Dogs will also instinctively lift their feet off the ground when you pick them up by the scruff. This is because, in the wild, mother dogs will pick up their puppies by the scruff in order to carry them.

Picking a dog up by the scruff is also a way of showing dominance over them. In the wild, the Alpha Dog would be the only one who would pick up another dog by the scruff.

How Do Mom Dogs Use The Scruff?

Mother dogs use the scruff to carry their puppies. They will also use it to move them around and to discipline them.

When a mother dog disciplines her pup, she will often pick them up by the scruff and shake them. This is a way of showing the pup that she is not happy with their behavior.

For instance, if the pup is biting too hard, the mother may scruff them and shake them to let them know that they need to be gentler.

picking a french bulldog puppy

Do Dogs Feel Their Scruff? 4 Signs

Although some people believe it’s not the case, it’s actually quite a sensitive area, and dogs can feel it when you touch their scruff. Here are 4 signs that your dog is feeling the touch on their scruff:

Whining And Yelping

This is one of the most common signs that a dog is feeling something on its scruff. If your dog starts whining or yelping when you touch their scruff, it means that they are feeling it.

Dogs generally don’t whine or yelp unless something is bothering them. They may also start pawing at their neck as if they’re trying to get you to stop.

Aggressiveness And Growling

Another sign that your dog is feeling their scruff is if they become aggressive or start growling. This is usually a sign of discomfort, and it means that your dog doesn’t like what you’re doing.

For instance, if you’re scruffing your dog too hard, they may start growling to let you know to back off. They may also try to bite you or move away from you.

Staring At You

If your dog is staring at you while you’re scruffing them, it’s a sign that they feel it. Dogs generally don’t stare at people unless they’re trying to communicate something. In this case, they’re probably trying to tell you that they can feel their scruff. Also, if your dog looks like they’re in pain, it’s probably because they are.

Going Limp

The last sign that your dog is feeling their scruff is if they go limp. This usually happens when a dog is uncomfortable with what’s going on. If your dog goes limp, it means that you need to stop what you’re doing and give them some space.

Furthermore, it’s a sign that you need to be more careful when scruffing your dog in the future.

How To Safely Pick Up A Dog By The Scruff For Training

Now that you know how to tell if your dog is feeling their scruff, let’s talk about how to safely pick them up by the scruff for training.

When picking up a dog by the scruff, it’s important to do it in a way that is gentle and non-threatening. Here are a few tips for doing it the right way:

1. See How Professional Is Doing First

If you’re not sure how to pick up a dog by the scruff, it’s always a good idea to see how a professional does it first. This way, you can learn the proper technique and avoid hurting your dog.

A lot of dog trainers use this method, so you may be able to find a class or seminar near you. It is also a good idea to ask your veterinarian how they would pick up a dog by the scruff. They have likely done it many times and can show you the correct way to do it.

2. Firmly Grab Your Dog’s Scruff (But Not Aggressive)

When picking up your dog by the scruff, you need to grab it firmly, but not too aggressively. You should be able to feel their scruff between your fingers, but you shouldn’t be squeezing it too hard. You also don’t want to grab their scruff too low on their neck.

puppy grabbed by the scruff

The best way to pick up a dog by the scruff is to grab it right behind their head. This is the part of the scruff that is attached to their spine, so it’s the strongest part.

3. Shake The Scruff Gently

Once you have a firm grip on your dog’s scruff, you can start shaking it gently. This will let them know that you’re not happy with their behavior or want them to stop what they’re doing.

It’s important to only shake their scruff for a few seconds and not too hard. You don’t want to hurt them, you just want to get their attention. Remember when training your dog that positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement.

4. Say “No” While Maintaining Eye Contact

Once you’ve shaken their scruff, it’s important to give them a warning. You can do this by saying “no” in a stern voice while maintaining eye contact. This will let your dog know that you’re not happy with what they’re doing and that they need to stop.

Also, by maintaining eye contact, you’re showing your dog that you’re the alpha.


In this article, we’ve talked about how to safely scruff your dog for training. We’ve also talked about the signs that your dog is feeling their scruff.

If you’re not sure how to pick up a dog by the scruff, it’s always a good idea to ask a professional. They can show you the correct way to do it and make sure that your dog doesn’t get hurt.

Remember, when scruffing your dog it’s important to be gentle and non-threatening. If you’re not sure how to do it, it’s always a good idea to ask a professional. And above all, be patient when training your dog. They’ll get it eventually!

What is your personal opinion on scruffing your dog?

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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