As a dog owner, you may have experienced Fido suddenly looking at you and placing its paw on your leg. What does this gesture mean? What is it trying to say?
When your dog puts its paw on you, it is trying to communicate its affection or its needs to you. We often use our hands to show our love to our furry pets by petting or giving them a good head scratch, and they learn from these gestures and use them for their benefit.
Dogs use their paws to initiate something from us, be it calling our attention, an invitation to play, or simply trying to get us to pet them. Animal behaviorists said that to know what it means, one should look at the context and their body language.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons your dog is exhibiting this gesture and the ways we can reciprocate or understand what it is trying to communicate.
What Does It Mean When A Dog Puts Its Paw On You?
Dogs not only communicate through their barking or the way they use their tails. Their pawing gesture also says something a lot about what they want and need.
Here are seven possible reasons for understanding why you may get that occasional nudge of a paw.
“I Love You”
This is the most endearing reason why your dog puts its paw on you. It means it trusts, loves, feels safe with you, and enjoys being in your company.
You may even notice your furry pet leaning in its body on you while it places its paw on your leg.
The best way to respond is to give your dog some love by petting and giving light caresses on its neck or ear area.
This would not only increase their “feel good” hormones but yours as well. Spending quiet time strengthens the bond between you and your pet just by plain touching.
Sometimes your dog just wants your attention.
Maybe you have been too busy with your work, or the chores at home have been piling up lately that you are beginning to forget to give Fido that much-needed attention.
If the pawing is accompanied by bark and a wagging tail, then this signifies that your dog is reminding you that it wants to spend some time with you.
Some dogs who felt ignored even for a short time may exhibit pawing, especially after a long nap.
Simply give your dog some attention with some light playing, even for a little while. Everybody needs some break anyway.
Another reason for pawing is probably to get your attention that it is time for your dog to eat or it wants a share of the food you are eating.
If you feed your dog regularly at a scheduled time, you probably will not get pawing gestures.
But, if you feed your dog regularly outside of its mealtime and give it food every time you have something in your hands, then your Fido will probably develop the habit of always begging for food by putting its paw on you.
You can avoid this by ignoring your dog’s begging when you are eating something. It will learn sooner or later that it will not be rewarded for unscheduled eating.
“I’m Not Feeling Well”
Asking for help or comfort is also one reason why your dog paws at you.
Dogs obviously cannot say they are in pain, but they can let you know if they are feeling something is off with their body by getting your attention.
Sometimes your dog’s source of pain or discomfort is hard to pinpoint. Look for warning signs like a low-hanging tail, pricked ears, panting, crying, or shifting gaze. If there is persistence in these behaviors, visit your veterinarian immediately.
Sometimes your dog needs some reassurance, especially when they are in stressful situations.
Instances such as a large dog seem to be intimidating to a smaller dog. Perhaps, feeling anxious about being in a new environment that is unfamiliar to your dog could trigger it to paw at you.
Whatever the situation, pawing could be a sign that it is having mental distress. Other signs include licking of lips and repeated yawning.
“I Feel You”
Dogs will surprise you sometimes with their empathy.
They can sense whether we feel happy or sad, and they are quick to react to our emotional state. There are instances when dog owners who feel down experience a reassuring paw from their furry pet.
What seems like a comforting tap on the shoulder is really your dog’s way of saying, “It’s going to be alright.” Dogs can really make astounding bonds with their humans.
Has your dog chewed on your favorite pair of shoes? Then you just might witness it asking for forgiveness by offering its paw like a handshake.
It is your dog’s way of making itself submissive to you in order for you not to scold it. This may be accompanied by a lowered head with eyes looking up at you.
It is not hard to forgive your dog when you see those droopy puppy eyes. Dogs usually know they have done something wrong. This behavior may have stemmed from something your dog did in the past that made you snap at it.
The best thing to do is to give your dog a gentle reprimand but with a strong conviction to let it know that you are not happy with what it has done.
How Do You Stop A Dog From Pawing?
Sometimes pawing can be irritating, especially when it is happening too frequently. It also doesn’t help if you have a large dog that is constantly pawing at your face and nudging you with its snouts.
You will definitely end up with lots of scratches on the arms and face, especially if your dog has overgrown nails.
One way to stop it is not to reinforce the behavior. Giving your dog something in return for its constant pawing would make it think that it is being rewarded for the behavior.
It is best to just ignore your dog and say in a firm voice to stop.
Avoiding eye contact and walking away from your dog are also two ways not to reinforce pawing. Your dear Fido will get the message if you stay consistent.
You can also interrupt the pawing behavior by giving commands, like “sit” or “stay”, before they start pawing at you.
Lastly, your dog just wants your attention, so give it some of your time. Most times, a little bit of “you and me” time is all it wants.