Although massive in stature, Great Danes are also very sensitive and easygoing. But sometimes they seem to forget just how massive they are… or better said, they don’t even realize it at all. Have you ever experienced a Great Dane’s pawing? Given their giant mastiff-type construction, you may need to brace yourself for the experience, if you haven’t done so yet. Dogs use a wide range of communication tools to express their feelings including body language, vocalizations, and the use of their limbs. Pawing is simply another way for your Great Dane to communicate with you. Let’s find out more about why it happens and what your response should be.
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The Root of the Behavior
When a small puppy with tiny paws does it you consider it to be absolutely adorable, but when you’re dealing with a full-grown Great Dane… let’s just say things don’t look so cute all of a sudden. They are big dogs, of course, and that means that whenever they put their paws on you, you’ll really feel it. Although plenty of people misinterpret the behavior as an aggressive one, pawing is typically a sign of friendly interest. But because they are a large breed, Great Danes can easily claw or cause another type of injury in the process, especially if they are around small children or elderly people. If your Dane is putting his paws on you, he’s most likely interested in playing with you. He may make his request a little more difficult to ignore by placing his paws on your arm or leg and then running away.
Pawing could also be about seeking attention over a certain thing, for example, asking for food or water, going outside for a walk, or simply wanting to show his affection, while waiting for yours in return. This tendency also could come from training. In this case, he might be repeating an action in hopes of getting a desired response. So if you have rewarded him for this kind of behavior in the past, don’t be surprised that he’s constantly bringing it up now. Teaching him how to shake hands or high five could also be a reason for the pawing. Your Dane might associate the action with receiving praise or bonding with his human companions. At the same time, pawing could also be caused by attempting to assert his dominance on your or other family members. In this case, you’ll notice him putting his paws on the back of someone who is bending over or on their shoulder.
Encouraging the Behavior
Paying attention to your dog's normal behavior will help establish the reasons behind his action and what steps you need to take further. If your Great Dane likes to put his paws on family members and guests included, you need to be extra careful about letting small children play with the dog, as well as strangers or people who are not familiar with him. The behavior could be dangerous, particularly if the dog doesn't know his own strength or paws at someone much smaller or frail.
The first thing you should do is stop rewarding unwanted behavior. Discouraging your dog from pawing starts with you and the environment he grows accustomed to. For example, if your Dane paws the door and it opens, he discovers that the action has a positive consequence. The same goes for pawing… playing patty-cake with your dog when he’s only a puppy can lead to more serious consequences later on. When your dog paws at you, ignore him and refuse to make eye contact or interact with him for about 30 seconds. Instead, direct his attention to other things, such as playing retrieving games with him. It will not only stimulate his brain but it will also encourage him to do some exercise at the same time.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Enrolling him in a basic obedience class will work wonders for your paw-playful Great Dane. Apart from teaching him much needed communication and training skills, your dog will also learn some self-control. Training will not only wear him out mentally but also physically, so you should definitely consider this option if you get fed up with all the “black eyes” and broken glasses. Great Danes can have a mind of their own, so assuming the role of a confident owner who can take charge is essential for their socializing skills. And remember to be consistent in your efforts to curb his attention-seeking ways, by never rewarding the behavior and getting every family member on board with the new changes.
Great Danes usually don’t realize how big they are and sometimes this means bad news for you. If your Dane likes to put his paws on you too often, you’ll simply need to teach some other actions that can get him the attention he desires. A professional can help with all the behavior modification efforts, but you can also discourage his actions by not rewarding unwanted habits and trick training him to increase his focus.