Interestingly, women aren't the only species known for moving stuff around and making changes to their living quarters. Female dogs make changes too and this often entails changing the location of their whelping area. Moving a litter of pups from point A to point B isn't every dog's cup of tea; indeed, with no baby strollers at their disposal, mama dogs have no other choice than relying on their most ancestral means of transportation.
Carrying by the Scruff
Your puddy tat is not the only species to carry her little ones by the scruff of the neck; turns out this popular method among felines works well for canines too. Mama dog will simply grab the extra skin around the pups' necks, which is commonly known as the scruff. Once she has a good grip of the pups, she'll carry them to their new destination. Don't worry if the pups whimper a bit when they're moved, it's quite rare for them to get injured in the process.
Carrying in the Mouth
In some cases, you'll see mama literally carry her pups in her mouth. As much as this looks a tad bit scary to watch, don't worry, mama dog isn't aggressive or engaging in some sort of horrendous cannibalistic act. If you look carefully, you'll notice that she doesn't clamp her teeth down more than necessary. Once the pups are at their new destination, she'll release them and you'll notice that the puppies are just fine.
It's quite natural for pups to become limp as an overcooked strand of spaghetti upon being picked up. Most likely they engage in this behavior for some very good reasons. First of all, by going limp they're much easier to transport since struggling may cause injury or make mama dog angry. Secondly, excessive struggling may cause the pup to be left behind and in harm's way. Going limp, therefore, increases the pups chances for survival according to Psychology Today.
Don't expect mama dog to continue carrying the pups by the scruff for the rest of their lives. As the pups learn to walk, they will start putting their own legs to work and will follow mama dog around. Also, as the pups grow, their innate tendency to go limp diminishes, and they'll begin to rebel any attempts to control their behavior especially once they reach the teenager stage.
Don't Mimic Mama
You may be tempted to pick a pup up by the scruff, but by doing so, you risk putting unnecessary strain on the pup's neck. The best way to pick up a pup is the same way you would pick up an older dog. Gently slide one hand between the pup's front legs under the chest while keeping the other hand under the tail and butt explains Brad Pattison in the book "Brad Pattison's Puppy Book: A Step-By-Step Guide to the First Year of Training." Also, avoid picking up dogs by the scruff to deliver a correction. Fortunately, more modern and gentle methods are available today when dealing with behavioral problems.
By Adrienne Farricelli
Psychology Today: Why Do Some Puppies Go Limp When You Lift Them Up?
Brad Pattison's Puppy Book: A Step-By-Step Guide to the First Year of Training; Brad Pattison
Bella Dog Magazine: Dominance Theory
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.