Dog Restraint Made Easy

A Safe and Kind Way to Restrain, While Keeping Everyone Safe! Thanks to Globe University for the photo.

I am a former veterinary technician, and I think even if you are not actively serving in that world once you have, you still feel like a vet tech.

Some days I miss it so very much and other days I am glad that I don’t have to deal with some of the emotional trauma you have to see when you work with people and animals.

The good thing is, the knowledge and the skills stick with you once you have worked in that world.  And, this knowledge makes me a better dog trainer and a better “momma”.

The hard thing is that sometimes when you are working with your animals you need another skilled set of hands.

But these skills aren’t necessarily common knowledge for most people and it requires a quick thinker and someone who isn’t willing to give up!

Recently I needed a little help with an injured raccoon we were getting ready to release into the wild.  I was capable of safely holding him and his little head still and keeping him from biting me, but I needed my husband to quickly put a muzzle on him so that we could attend to a wound.

But he was a little too apprehensive to get the muzzle on quick enough.

It wasn’t his fault!  It is intimidating to try to muzzle a growling snapping adult raccoon!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to muzzle him, but I was able to get him the treatment he needed for release.

Lateral Restraint. Thanks to Washington University for the Photo

I Think All Dog Owner’s Should Know a Few Things About Safe


The first thing to know is that ALL dogs, provided they actually have teeth, bite.

Your dog will bite, your neighbor’s dog will bite, and despite how adamantly your friend says her dog would never bite… he will too.

It is like the TV Show “House” where doctor House says, “Everybody lies”.  Well, all dogs bite!

All dogs have a trigger, it may be pain or fear or a combination of both but you never know when your dog might bite.

As a veterinary tech, it was our job to make sure that a dog NEVER bit a vet!  If a dog was going to bite, we had to sacrifice ourselves because we were less necessary to the achievement and success of the hospital to make money.  Sometimes you have to make sure the dog doesn't bite you or someone else who gets close!

But I will be the first to tell you, none of us wanted to incur a bite or a scratch so we learned to restrain a dog (any dog) and still stay safe.

If you are ever put into a position where your dog has been (heaven forbid) hit by a car, or been in a dog fight, or has cut or ripped a paw, or is in need of emergency veterinary help it is best to know how to restrain your dog and still keep yourself safe.

I also use these same skills to assist me when I trim nails more on that click here, or clean ears of a dog that is not so accommodating.

Whenever I restrain my own dogs I remember that they are animals and they have a threshold that I might hit, so I make sure to remember they might bite me and therefore I must keep myself safe.

If your dog is obstinate growling or already showing aggression, you may need to use a muzzle or take your dog to the vet for professional help.

The first safe hold. Thanks to

The First Hold

The first way to safely hold your dog for an examination or a nail trim is to lightly wrap one arm around the dog’s neck and the other around the dog’s tummy right in front of his hips or you can use your other hand to hold a paw while nails are being trimmed, or keep him still by holding him under his arm pits.

I prefer to keep my other arm around his tummy so if he decided to fight and scratch me, it is easier for me to apply pressure and lift him up.  This keeps him from digging his nails into my back, leg or arm.

It is important not to use more force than you need (especially with cats!) if you are nervous and squeezing the animal tightly he will feed off of your energy and fight.  Instead you use the lightest touch possible to keep the dog still.

If he fights you can easily and quickly keep him in one place with this particular hold.  You just flex your muscles and hold to keep him still.

Because your arm is wrapped around his neck, you can keep him from snapping at your face, even if he does start to get aggressive.  You can also feel him growl as he begins to hit his threshold.

Lateral Restraint

Lateral Restraint on a Small Dog. Thanks to Halow Consulting for the photo

The second hold we would use, was for dogs that were really squirmy.

Some dogs are less likely to fight if you put them on their side.  You can’t run away as easily if you are laying down!

So first you lay your dog down on his side.

Next facing your dog’s back you take your arm closest to his head and place that arm over his neck, your elbow toward his head and grab the leg on the bottom.

Your other arm goes on top of his back near his tummy and in front of his hips and you again grasp the bottom leg.

As with the other hold, you don’t use any more force than you need.  If the dog struggles, you are easily able to keep his head still with your arm and elbow and you can keep his feet and body still because you are holding the legs he is laying on.

You May Never Need to Restrain Your Dog

But, something may happen that you may need to bandage a paw or hold your dog in an emergency.

Knowledge is the best way to prepare yourself in an emergency!

And, if you are just needed a better way to trim some nails, either of these holds can be helpful!

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  1. Barbara Allen says:

    Great info…thanks. I think I naturally do the first hold, but didn’t know about the second one. REALLY GOOD INFO.


  2. JimB says:

    What about restraining a 90 lb Lab retriever?


    Minette Reply:

    Size doesn’t matter, sometimes it takes an extra set of hands, but we restrained any and all breeds the same!


    Andrea Reply:

    so sorry about the loss of your dog. So very sad. I will hug Roxie more everyday. she is only 9/1/2 mo. choc. Lab that we got as a rescue pup for MS


  3. Cynthia Stevenson says:

    How do you get a quick muzzle on a scared/hurt animal? I’ve seen it done on TV (Animal Cops–Animal Planet show) but can never seem to make it work on my calm/uninjured dog let alone a dog in pain/terror.


    Minette Reply:

    creep up from behind and very quickly come over the top of their head and over the snoot. Don’t hesitate or the dog is likely to be gone 😉

    Sometimes I grab with my knees as my hands lower the muzzle onto the snout.


  4. ursula simard says:

    I just want to thank you for posting all this wonderful information for us.It really helps! God bless!


  5. Carol Walliser says:

    Good information .. and glad to see some Greyhounds on display. I have one and she’s a sweetheart. Everyone should adopt a greyhound!!


  6. ginger says:

    I actually saw a tech lose the grip on a German Shepard and the dog shredded the vet’s arm. The tech was fired right there on the spot. Yikes! The vet cooed at the Shepard and told him he forgave him because it wasn’t his (the dog’s) fault. Then he continued working on the dog with a towel wrapped around his forearm! Another frightened tech came in to help and REALLY held the dog tightly!!


    Minette Reply:

    You NEVER let the vet get bit!!!!


  7. Thank you so much for showing us the restraint holds. I have had to do this also and thankfully I have never been bitten either. My German Shepherd/Sheltie mix only seems to have the natural tendency to bite someone if they apply any pressure to her hip. I warn people when they go to pet her or bathe and groom her. Otherwise, Mollie is a gentle loving furry kid! My sympathies go out to you, Minette for the loss of your buddy. I know the deep pain. I don’t know if you are a woman of faith, but I lift you up in your time of grief.


    Minette Reply:

    I am Carol, it is what gets me through, knowing that I will see him again, and I know he is waiting!


  8. Darlene says:

    How would you use any of these holds on a dog, or cat, that is lying in the road after being hit by a car?


    Minette Reply:

    Cats should be scruffed it is the only way to keep yourself from getting bit.

    A dog should can be muzzled with a leash or a towel or blanket and then you can get your arm under their head to keep yourself safe.

    Always make sure you don’t get bit first, especially if you don’t know the pet, then it is to make them safe.


    Suzie Reply:

    Such valuable info. Thank you. But in reference to restraining a cat, what does “scruffed” mean?


    Minette Reply:

    Cats have a scruff of skin at their necks, where their mommas use to carry them around.

    It is the safest place to restrain a cat and sometimes even calms them.

  9. Wendy says:

    When dealing with wild animals injured, trapped or in distress (koalas, echidnas, possums, wallabies) I use a blanket or tarpaulin to throw over the unsuspecting animal, then quickly “tuck and roll” so the animal is hanging in a makeshift sack held from the top. VERY easy to carry, and easy to transport to a vet or wildlife carer, or just to let loose in the safety of the nearby bush. At all times the blanket is between me and the sharp claws and pointies. (When dealing with an echidna, it’s ALL sharp pointies)


  10. Pam Kutscher says:

    I have a rescued Boston Terrier that came with fear aggression issues towards the vet (I was forwarned about this when I adopted him). He also had a skin infection that required repeated visits and then developed an eye problem that ended up in a painful corneal rupture with subsequent loss of the eye–this all over a space of about a year and a half.
    I have to commend my vet’s staff for the wonderful job they did of taking time to win my dogs trust but also gently restraining him when necessary. When it was apparent that his eye was too painful to allow examination, he was sedated. THe next day (with pain controlled by medication) he allowed a veterinary opthomologist to examine his eye with no problems. He ended up losing the eye but has recovered fully and loves to go to the vet now–mostly because they make him feel special and also because I go armed with plenty of treats to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.


  11. Peter Gobel says:

    The very best time to get your pet comfortable at the vet is when there is no reason to go. Take a drive to the Vet’s, walk in, grab a cookie from the counter, offer it to the dog, ask anyone on staff, if they have a second to, “Say, Hi, and give a treat.” Go home or off to the dog park. Just a few trips occasionally will maintain the “Yeah!- off to the Vet” attitude that will help you and your dog relax when the that hand finally plays.


    Pam Kutscher Reply:

    I totally agree, Peter. I do that and failed to bring it up. Thanks for mentioning. This does so much to create good associations. I am lucky to have vet nearby so can take the dogs when I pop in to pick up heartworm and flea products or just when passing by. Also helps my dogs to be more civil towards other animals there waiting and learn to ignore them.


  12. jack says:

    My 75lb Black Lab is 20 months and so hyper,he loves the vet and all the people. How can I get him to relax?


    Minette Reply:

    Take him in often and work on simple obedience (without an appointment, ask when they normally have lunch and see if its okay to pop in occasionally). Also have office staff give him treats for being good and doing what you or he asks.


    Jack Reply:

    Thanhs for your help!


  13. Susanne says:

    I’ve been lucky with Buddy. He’s bashed himself up a few times chasing racoons through the forest, and always submits to care with patience. However, I really appreciate the information. Like Barbara Allen, I think that the first hold is a natural. I also find when I hold Buddy, he is less likely to start fussing. That’s likely part of the secret of successfully treating an injured dog. You hold them in case you hit a threshold, but you also hold them to let them know you are in control (hopefully) of the situation.


    Minette Reply:

    You always try to use the least amount of restraint possible.

    You put your arms in that position in case you need them but you don’t squeeze unless you do. No one wants to feel restrained so you do the least amount possible.

    The second hold is much more restraining and uncomfortable for most dogs, however it is sometimes the only way to get things done!


  14. Winnie Reed says:

    I have a rescued Pit Bull. He won’t let anyone touch his feet. He is 8 yrs old and too late for puppy training. His nails are extremely long. I need to trim them. Any ideas. Remember we are dealing with an 80 lb Pit.


  15. paul Jagodzinski says:

    Ok, have a two year old Lab who hates having his paws touched. How do you clip his nails? Large tablespoon of peanut held by one person, while I clipped!!! Got all four paws done, no problem. Hopefully he will get used to it!!


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