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Animal HandlingPlay
Often used when referring to grabbing animals to control or hold them, especially small ones. SlideThe vet held the puppy by the scruff to examine it.
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Metaphorical UsePlay
Can indicate strong or rough guidance of someone, not just animals. SlideThe officer took the thief by the scruff and marched him out.
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Parental BehaviorPlay
Sometimes used to describe a parent firmly guiding a child in a protective manner. SlideShe grabbed her son by the scruff and pulled him away from the road.