3 min read


Why Do Dogs Paw At You



3 min read


Why Do Dogs Paw At You




Do you find that your dog keeps trying to shake your hand while you guys are just hanging out? Maybe he keeps tossing those paws in your face every time the game's on, and you just need a break from the nonsense. A lot of dog owners wonder about this particular behavior, and what it could indicate about their dog's mood or demeanor. Over the years, animal behaviorists have come up with a litany of explanations for why your canine buddy wants to stick his feet on your face or chest. And while the verdict is still out as to why specifically this occurs, there are several strong candidates outlined below that may help you understand your dog’s eccentricities.

The Root of the Behavior

Your canine's feet are a really important part of communication between themselves and other dogs. When a canine puts his paw onto your body, oftentimes he may be asking for attention. The problem exists in just how many different types of attention he could be asking for. The most common type of attention dogs require is play. Social interaction is absolutely crucial for your dog to have a healthy mental attitude. In addition to pawing you, other indicators that he wants to play include a quickly wagging tail, mouth open in a "smile", and low level barks or growls that sound non-threatening. Another type of attention they often display with pawing is curiosity. Say for example your dog has noticed that you're holding something in your hand that he just absolutely needs to see. He may use his paws as a way to "point" at what he wants to know about. In these situations it's best to just avoid a struggle and show them what you have.

Your little doggy dude may also be trying to tell you that he needs your help. The best way to discern if it's an emergency is by your dog's body language and physical movements. Are they holding a paw up and refusing to put pressure on it? Are there a fair amount of pitiful whimpers coming out of him? These are a couple of very clear indicators that your dog needs some emergency attention! A really common type of pawing happens when your canine is just content. Sometimes you may notice this behavior when you've just gotten done given him a good batch of belly rubs. You can also see this behavior if you let your dog sleep with you a lot. They may just be dropping the paws on you because they love the snuggles so darn much.

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Encouraging the Behavior

Dominance can be a less desirable reason that your dog is pawing at you. This is a behavior that harkens back to a much earlier time in canine history, when this sort of physicality was required to establish a primary role in relation to other members of the pack. If your dog is doing this to you on a regular basis, he is vying to the position of pack leader. This is somewhat concerning primarily because pack order is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your canine. Nowadays, this is something that most animal behaviorists will tell dog owners to discourage as a general behavior. So, what types of things can you do if you're just tired of your dog getting his feet in your face at every available opportunity? Well, the easiest option that a lot of vets recommend is to limit the jumping behaviors your dog has probably gotten used to. Paws tend not to be that close to humans unless a dog is jumping up onto you or someone else. Discouraging these types of behaviors can have a great effect on unwanted movements. Nowadays, there are canine training programs for just about everything, and jumping is no exception.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Behavioral health for your dog is super important, and pawing behaviors are generally a great indicator of where they're at emotionally. The raised paw in particular can mean that they're feeling insecure. Dogs are almost as complex as humans in regards to mental health, so it takes a critical eye to catch these deep sorts of indicators. They can occur for a multitude of reasons, from physical health issues all the way to the scent of a close by predator. Research has shown that while these issues can be really daunting for pet owners, they are almost always able to be treated by a combination of one-on-one training programs and psychological medications.


If your dog’s paws are creating issues for you, there are several solutions. Doggie boots are available at most pet stores, and regular baths will help avoid the foot smells. If your dog’s paws tend to shed, maybe try some lotion. Just remember that if you’re ever really frustrated, you can always hit the “paws” button.

By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze

Published: 02/10/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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