You’re sitting in your home, doing your own thing, when suddenly you feel a gentle weight press on your leg. You look down to see your precious floof’s paw resting on your lap. Sound familiar? Why does my dog put his paw on me?
While most of us find this pawing behavior adorable, you may have wondered why your dog is doing this. Does doggo want something from you, or is he simply saying hi? Much depends on the context, but we have a pretty good idea of why your dog may be putting his paw on you.
Read on to discover the secret language of the paw.
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- 1 What Does This Pawing Behavior Mean?
- 2 Why Does My Dog Put his Paw on Me?
- 3 How to Stop Pawing Behavior
- 4 Wrapping Up ‘Paw Communication’
What Does This Pawing Behavior Mean?
Since our pets can’t talk to us using human language, dogs often use body language to communicate. Just like frequent whining, barking, or wagging their tail, putting a paw on you is a sign that your pup is trying to tell you something.
Your dog will usually place its paw on your leg, hand, or lap to initiate communication. It’s their way of saying, “Hi, I have something to tell you.” And when we respond by looking at them or touching them (and we all know it’s hard not to respond to this adorable gesture), the conversation can continue.
But what exactly is your pet trying to communicate by pawing at you? Let’s take a look.
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Why Does My Dog Put his Paw on Me?
Your pup can say many things and express various emotions with a simple paw gesture. It’s up to you to determine what the paw means in every situation. Looking at other body language signals can help you determine what your dog is trying to communicate.
For example, pricked ears, a wagging tail and a relaxed mouth show that your dog is excited and wants to do something. On the other hand, a low-hanging tail, shifting gaze and tight mouth can indicate that your pet is anxious and needs your help with something.
Let’s look at all the different things your dog may be trying to say, and you’ll become a paw communication expert in no time!
1. Showing Affection
This is the sweetest reason your pup may be putting its paw on you. Just like you pet your dog to show love and affection, your furry friend may be trying to ‘pet’ you back. A dog can’t really perform a stroking action, so placing a paw on you is the closest they can get.
Your pup feels happy and loved when you pet it, so it makes sense that your sweet baby wants you to feel loved too. When your dog places its paw on you, it’s a sign of your pet’s trust and closeness with you.
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2. Seeking Attention
On the other hand, if you’ve been busy and haven’t given your dog a lot of pets or playtime, a well-placed paw may be its way of asking for your attention. This is a good sign that your pooch feels comfortable enough to ask for what it needs.
Some pets are more independent and will do their own thing until you come to them. Others are needier and will seek you out to ask for your touch and attention. As long as the behavior doesn’t become too demanding, there’s nothing wrong with giving your pup some quick scritches or a short tug-of-war game.
And if you’re already petting your dog when the paw comes down, the meaning should be clear: “I love this, don’t stop!” And who are we to deny them more love?
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3. Asking for Food
Have you noticed how amazing your dog’s internal clock is when it comes to mealtimes? If your pet places a paw on you and stares you down, check the time to see if doggo may be asking for dinner.
However, if your dog is pawing at you while eating, you must ignore it. By rewarding begging with a tidbit of food, you’re encouraging this behavior in your pet. No matter how cute those puppy dog eyes are, when your pet places a gentle paw on your lap, stick to your dog’s eating schedule.
Your pup will always ask for food if you let it, so you need to be the responsible owner in this scenario. Give your pooch cuddles and attention for the paw tap, but don’t give it treats.
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4. Need to Go Outside
If you’re still training your puppy, you’re probably the one who decides when to take the little one outside for a potty break. However, as your dog gets older, it will tell you when it needs to go outside. Some dogs may stand at the door and bark. Or your dog will place a paw on you and might even turn its head to look at the door.
At other times, your pooch may want to go outside and play. If you feel a paw on your leg and look down to see that your pup brought its favorite toy along, it’s clearly asking for playtime.
5. Feeling Sick or in Pain
Dogs are smart and know that they’ll get attention from us when they place a paw on our lap. However, your pup may not always be looking for attention in the form of cuddles or food. If your dog isn’t feeling well or has hurt itself, it may place a paw on you to ask for help.
If your dog uses pawing behavior to communicate this need, you can tell by the accompanying body language. Your clues are a hanging tail instead of a wagging one, along with pulled-back ears and whining.
Check for obvious things like a thorn stuck in its paw, but if you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your fur baby, it may be time for a visit to the vet.
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6. Feeling Anxious
Similarly, your dog may seek you out if its discomfort is emotional. Your pet could be feeling anxious about a new environment, loud noises like thunder, or if you’re about to leave them alone. In this context, the pawing behavior might be accompanied by paw licking, yawning, a low tail, or heaving breathing.
Although your instinct is to cuddle and comfort your fur baby, this could reinforce their feelings that there is indeed something to be anxious about. This, in turn, could make their anxiety worse the next time this situation comes around. Instead, please give them a few pets for reassurance and then distract them with a favorite toy or a change in environment.
7. Comforting You
Dogs are very sensitive to our emotions, and this last reason proves just that. If you are feeling sad or down, your sweet pup may pick up on those feelings and try to comfort you with a paw. Your dog loves you and cares about your well-being too.
By gently placing a paw on your lap, your pet may simply be giving you a doggy hug to try and make you feel better. What did we do to deserve these lovely animals?
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How to Stop Pawing Behavior
As we’ve seen above, most of the reasons for pawing are your dog’s way of showing love or communicating its needs. However, there are some cases when you might want your pet to stop this behavior. For example, if your pooch uses its paw to beg for food or bother guests for attention, it could be time to lay some ground rules.
Here are a few gentle ways to discourage your pup from inappropriate pawing behavior:
1. Ignore the Paw
If your dog keeps pawing at you in a situation where it shouldn’t do so, ignore your pooch. Don’t make eye contact, don’t speak to your pet, and don’t touch its paw. You can try to angle your body away so that doggo can’t reach you. Then, once the pawing has stopped, you can turn back to your dog and give them attention and praise.
2. Be Consistent
Make sure that you’re not confusing your pet about what is appropriate and inappropriate pawing. For example, if you’ve decided to ignore pawing at the dinner table, then always ignore it. If you react sometimes but not other times, you’re making it hard for your dog to understand what is expected.
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Wrapping Up ‘Paw Communication’
This list once again shows how intelligent our furry friends are. Even though they can’t talk to us, dogs can communicate various things with just their paws. Your pet may be asking for love, food, or help, and it’s up to you to figure out their body language. The information above should be a good starting point but remember that each dog is different, and you’ll need to learn your pet’s specific clues.
So next time you see a cute furry paw on your lap, take a look at the rest of your pup’s body language. And if you can’t see a specific need they’re asking you to help, it may simply be time for some well-deserved cuddles.
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