Dog Pawing You | What Does It Mean

Dogs can’t speak to us to tell us what they want, sometimes they may bark, or whine, but other times they use their paws.  A dog pawing you, what does it mean?  Is it just your dogs way of communicating?

Dog Pawing You
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We will soon find out that dogs actually paw you for many reasons.  Some reasons will strike you as rude while others are more sweet and cuddly.

I love to investigate little things in our dogs behaviour that I want an explanation for.  Really it is,”Why is my dog doing that” mentally.  I just need to know.

The other big reason of course is, I love my dog so much that I want understand him as much as I possibly can.  That connection is important to me.  For me this is what makes the dog parenting journey such an amazing journey.

Attention

Like so often a puppy’s behaviour is deemed cute or funny, but then they grow up and it’s not so funny anymore.  This completely applies to a dog pawing behaviour.

In the beginning it makes you feel warm inside, because you think that your dog is sweetly getting your attention. You let it go on for a bit and then BOOM, just like that, it is a regular thing that your dog is constantly doing.  It can even get to the point where it can be dangerous for an extremely large dog to be pawing at people forcefully.  They could harm a child or a frail person very easily.

Very quickly this type of behaviour becomes learned by your dog, so does this mean that I caused this in my dog?

First let’s look at a few of the reasons that our dogs do this pawing behaviour.

Do you know someone that talks with their hands?  I think we all do.  Why are they using their hands when they are talking…..it is their way of communicating!  When we want to get someone’s attention we often use our hands as a way to do that.

Well it is also the same for our dogs.  They throw their paw at you, because they want to get your attention. “Hello Mama, I am right here, don’t you see me”.  Almost in a pushy way.  The goal is just to get your attention for even a moment.

Dogs very often mimic what they see,  so it only makes sense then that a dog picks up hand gestures as a way of communicating, from us.  If you taped yourself having a conversation with someone, I think you would be surprised at the amount of times your hands play a part in your way of communicating.

Play vs dominance

When we watch dogs playing with each other, you will often see your dog paw at the other dog.  They may even paw the ground as a way to say “Hey let’s go, come play with me”.   The other dog reacts right away and the playing begins.

At times, you can even see it as a signal of your dog being submissive to the other dog, saying “OK I know you are in charge”.   In the exact same way that it can be a submission action, a dog pawing can be thought of a sign of dominance over another much weaker dog.

Dog Paw Playing

This pawing action if directed towards you can be a way of your dog dominating your or claiming you as their own.  The conversation goes something like this “You are mine and I am in control”.  This negative pawing can also be their way of disobeying commands, guarding or protecting food or toys.  This would be using their pawing behaviour in an extremely negative way.

Dogs naturally use their paw as a way to communicate with each other, and of course the next thing that happens is they direct that same behaviour at us.

A perfect example of play pawing is when you are playing with your dog and you decide to stop the game.  More times than not, your dogs next move, will be to put their paw up at your leg or arm because they don’t want the fun to stop yet.  I call this a pushy type action but not a dominance behaviour.

Another way your dog may use the play pawing, is if they bring you their favourite toy and paw at your leg for you play along with him.  This would far more fall under the attention pawing and not a dominance pawing.

Love or forgiveness

Did you know that when you are petting your dog, a feel good reaction of hormones occurs.  Very often when you are petting your dog even for a moment or two that when you stop, the paw comes up at you simply to say “Don’t stop”.

The petting makes them feel so good and the want that feeling to continue.

Dogs are very empathetic animals naturally.  When we are feeling sad, scared or even physically hurt, our dogs have a sense of those emotions coming from us.  They pick up on how we are feeling.  A dog often extends his paw as a way of giving you a hug.  It is their way of offering us support.

Dog Paw Forgiveness

Our dogs often do things that get them in trouble. Maybe they ate your toilet paper or got in the garbage, but whatever mischievous thing your dog has done, they may use their paw as way of asking for forgiveness. By batting their sad eyes at you and lifting their paw on you to say “I’m sorry Mama”.  Essentially using their paw as an apology.

The hope for them with the pawing for forgiveness is of course to try to eliminate getting in scolded for what negative thing they have done.  They are pretty smart don’t you think.

Tips to help stop the pawing

There are some easy tips that you can use to help stop your dog pawing behaviour.

The most important thing to do, is to teach your dog a different way to gain positive attention.  First thing you do when your dog paws at your leg is to use a command like “Sit” or “Stay” depending on which commands you normally use.  Even a hand gesture of stop can work.

You need to stay with this correction every time your dog paws you.  You can’t just do it once or twice and the other 10 times give in to them.  Even giving in one time will continue to reinforce the behaviour that pawing is an acceptable way to get what they want from you.

Next, just like teaching your dog to stay, you slowly build up to a longer stay.  The same thing applies to teaching them to stop pawing you.  You could have a treat in your pocket and as your dog sits nicely extending the time length, reinforce that by giving them the treat and lots of praise.  Then the next time repeat, but just make the time longer. This will teach them that sitting nicely gets them a positive rewarding action.

Dog Paw Love

For our dog FERGUS, he has recently started this pawing behaviour.  Although he is still a puppy, we don’t want this to continue to happen, as he is going to be a bigger dog.  I don’t want an 80 lb dog pawing at my legs when I am wearing shorts and scratching my leg.  The other reason we have really been working on breaking this habit, is we have noticed, that he is trying to use his paw in other ways to try to get what he wants.  Right before supper time, he has started pawing to say “Hey I’m hungry, feed me”, even though he still has a 1/2 hour to wait til supper.

With FERGUS, the one tool that so far is working for us is just as I said above with treats and a Sit command.  But the other thing that has really worked for us, is to just simply get up from our chair and completely ignore the behaviour.  If you aren’t there for him to demand attention from, then his action of pawing you doesn’t get him the response he wants.  Over time, then he will realize that it doesn’t work and completely stopping the behaviour.

Do not yell or get angry at your dog if they aren’t doing what you want them to do. Your dog can become scared or fearful of you and potentially cause more negative dog behaviour.  I know it can be hard at times, but when you are at that point, simply step away and collect yourself.  Your dog needs you to be calm in order to understand what you want from him.

Parenting

Why do dogs continue to do this… Well of course, because it works.  You may not even realize that you are positively reinforcing this demand pawing, but you are.

In almost all cases of a dog pawing at you, the action will quickly become a tactic and a habit for your dog.  No matter the reason that your dog is pawing you, it is not something you want to continue to allow.  Left alone without a correction, can and will lead to other negative dog behaviour.  You simply don’t want to allow it to go on.

Relationships are always much healthier, when there is mutual respect.  Just like if your friend is constantly tapping your arm to get attention, that would get old real quick.  It would be annoying and not very respectful on their part.

Making sure that our dogs respect us equally is very important to raising a healthy and well-balanced dog.  Messing around with dominate type behaviour is not something to be taken lightly.

The responsibility always falls on us as parents, to correct.  Blaming a dog for their bad behaviour is more your fault than it is theirs. Remember that.

Correct the behaviour and I assure you that in the end, everybody wins. Your dog will think of you as the pack leader and not as someone or something they can control.

20 thoughts on “Dog Pawing You | What Does It Mean”

  1. Thank you for this article! As someone who cared for my dogs before, I can completely relate to this article. I was able to unconsciously applied some of the advises to stop my dog from pawing me or other members of the family.

    Unfortunately, our last dog died many years ago, her name was Kirah, and I can’t remember if she is the pawing type. She was a survivor, she survived multiple miscarriages but still kept on going.

    Reply
    • Hi Lemuel,

      I appreciate you sharing your story with me about your dog Kirah. Sounds like she was as real trooper going through everything she did. Sorry to hear she passed away.  Losing a dog no matter how long a good it was is difficult.

      I lost 2 dogs in August and honestly it was a very tough time.  They truly are part of the family. I think behaviour is important and really will make your dog a healthy and happier dog.

      Thank you

      Coralie 

      Reply
  2. Thank you for these tips. It is actually our sole responsibility to stop our dogs from pawing and making them know that we are in control and not them. Naturally I don’t feel comfortable when a dog paws. This tips in your article will help me to stop them from pawing by using a particular command tone and using it repeatedly.

    Reply
    • Hello

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post.  Yes you are so right, that we always need to be the ones in control, not our dogs.

      I am glad that you found my post helpful in understanding why we need to stop this type of behavior when it happens.

      Thank you.

      Coralie

      Reply
  3. I never expected a simple pawing of a dog to have so many different meanings. I need to read through this a few times as it contains so much interesting information and I simply want to know as much as I can. 

    My wife and I are animal lovers; my favorites are dogs and hers are cats. We know, we’re a cliche but that’s simply coincidence. 

    As we were reading this, I kept on telling her to see how cool and clever dogs are. She kept highlighting that they are rude and attention seeking; don’t worry, she loves dogs, it’s just a thing we do where one of us focuses of the positives whilst the other on the negative based on what we are reading.   

    It blew my mind that dogs have the ability to communicate none verbally by using basically hand gestures. The fact that they lean this behavior from us as we are interacting shows just how smart dogs are. 

    On a side note, I finally understand why dogs love to be pet so much. They also have a “feel good hormones” as humans do. If we could feel pleasure at a stroke of a hand on our heads, we’d be pawing all day too!

    This was an informative and lovely read, thank you. 

    Solomon & Selina

    Reply
    • Hello,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post.  It really makes sense that our dogs loved to be touched.

      They truly are so clever and smart, sometimes I think they are even smarter then we are. Even though they can’t speak, sure doesn’t mean that they aren’t able to communicate.

      Dogs are so sweet and wonderful.  We absolutely love our FERGUS.  He is just a joy every single day.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts love that you are both dog lovers.  Us dog lovers need to stick together and do our best to ensure they live their very best life.

      Take care and be safe.

      Coralie 

      Reply
  4. Hi Coralie!

    Thank you very much for helping me with this pawing behaviour.  I think my little dog wants to show love but I think it’s also appropriate to teach him how to gain positive attention.

    I’ll test both, the signal with the hand or the “sit” command. I’d like to later share with you which worked better.

    Reply
    • Hi Paolo,

      Yes you maybe right, that your dog is wanting love and not trying to control the situation.  But as always with dog behaviour it may start out as one thing, and quickly become a habit that leads to less likeable behaviour.

      Nipping bad behaviour in the bud is always the best solution to ensuring our dogs are happy and healthy.

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your personal thoughts on my latest post.  Thank you.

      Coralie

      Reply
  5. A very well written post on dogs pawing you have here.  I can tell you that it has been a really big issue.  With the way my dog sled did and I thought it was a health issue before. But now I think my mind is at rest as I do not see you talk about anything like that.

    I agree that we still need to curb this habit and let them know we are in charge. I will make sure I use the advice you gave here.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Riley,

      I appreciate your warm thoughts on my post, so thank you.

      Many people feel the exact same way that you do about our dogs pawing you.   I always found it a bit of a controlling behaviour, where they try exude control over us.

      Changing this behaviour is important for overall discipline and balance for our dogs.

      Take care.

      Coralie

      Reply
  6. It is a bit interesting to see that this out here. It is really a great thing learning the language of our pets especially dogs.

    Though I have often seen my dog pawing but I never truly took it as a sign of communication or anything, I just feel that is her normal reaction to things.

    This is great to see here and thank you. 

    Reply
    • Hi Ella,

      You are not alone with folks not realizing the reasons that our dog paw us.  As always when we learn something new about how dogs communicate with us, it helps us understand them better.

      Every dog is of course different, so there is no golden rule that applies to every dog when it comes to behaviour.  The general rule of thumb though is that dogs do many different things to share with use what they want or need.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. 

      Coralie

      Reply
  7. Hi Coralie,

    Communication between me and my pet is very clear and we most of the time do it by gestures.  While she has quite a lot of ways to pass across what she wants.

    Pawing is something I really have very little knowledge of from what I have read here. Before now I didn’t really understand the meaning of it when she does it.  All of a sudden I feel bad for not knowing these things.

    I hope to make up for the days I was ignorant of this for her.

    Reply
    • Hi Benson,

      That is great to hear that you use hand gestures as a way of communicating with your dog.  My boy Fergus seems to respond to hands signals at times as well.  I like using them, as we have a tendency to talk to our dogs more than we should.

      I say never feel bad about something we didn’t know.  When we know better, we do better.  

      Thank you for taking the time to be a part of my post. 

      Coralie

      Reply
  8. I didn’t know a lot about dogs and why one of the dogs in my neighborhood always pawed me even when I was just walking around minding my own business.

    I always feel dogs have a thing for me because they get all so excited around me and it almost feels like they are smiling at me. And these are the dogs I have never met before.

    I love them but you know I do get scared of them at the same time.

    Reply
    • Hi Shrey,

      Wow that is very interesting, that dogs seem to flock to you.  That generally means that you offer a calm and balanced vibe that they like. 

      I get that it can be a bit much, and even scary like you said.  As always being a bit cautious of other dogs isn’t a bad idea.

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your story with me. Thank you.

      Coralie

      Reply
  9. Hello there,

    When your dog paws at you, give your dog a “No” or “Stop” command. Then tell your dog to sit. Once your dog sits calmly, give the dog a treat and lots of praise.

    You may have to do this repeatedly for your dog to learn the message as it very important that he gets the massage, especially if your dog has been pawing you for a longtime.

    Thanks for sharing hope it helps a lot of people. Do keep up the nice job i like your website layout too.

    Reply
    • HI Sophia,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my post.  Yes it is even tougher to get your dog to stop pawing you, if they have been doing it for a long time. 

      Repetition and patience is the key to breaking this habit.  Our dogs at times without direction can think that they are in control so sticking with the discipline, will make for a well balanced dog.

      Take care.

      Coralie 

      Reply
  10. Hello there, A dog pawing and scratching is essentially a base form of canine communication. The most prominent message they like to spread through this non-verbal cue is that you make them the center of your universe by giving them immediate attention and gratification.

    If they are always answered when they pawn or scratch they soon take it as a normal thing so you must discipline them.

    Reply
    • Hello,

      Yes you are absolutely right, dog pawing is a way that your dog talks to you.  Whether it is for positive reasons, or negative reasons, it is always important to make sure we are in control.

      I know it can be cute and funny to see, but it really is something we don’t want to let continue on.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my post.

      Coralie 

      Reply

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