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Why Do Dogs Cross Their Paws? 8 Common Reasons

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

Pyrenean Mountain Dog lying down on bed looking up with paws crossed

Isn’t it adorable when you see your dog cross his paws? Known as “polite paws,” a dog crossing his paws is also photo-worthy, as you may not see this quite that often. But have you ever put any thought into why dogs cross their paws? If so, you’ve journeyed into the right spot.

In this post, we’ll examine the eight reasons why dogs practice the “polite paws” phenomenon and get to the bottom of this adorable act once and for all.

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The 8 Reasons Why Dogs Cross Their Paws

1. Trying to Communicate

Dogs can’t speak, of course, but they can bark to alert us to their attention. They can also cross their paws in an attempt to communicate with you. Dogs use body language to communicate something, and by crossing their paws, they might be telling you they want a treat or food. While no scientific evidence supports this theory, it’s plausible, especially if you draw attention to your dog when his paws are crossed, and he knows the act will get your attention.

2. It’s a Comfort Thing

Humans position themselves to sit in a comfortable position, and dogs are no different. Scientists believe that by crossing the paws,1 it takes the pressure off the elbows by positioning them in an outward position. Crossing the paws indicates the dog is comfortable and relaxed, and this position allows the entire body to rest against the surface—this is ideal if you have tile floors and your dog wants to cool his body off.

Dog paws
Image Credit: PickPik

3. Your Dog Is Tired

When a dog is tired, he wants to be as comfortable as possible, and since we’ve determined that crossing the paws is a comfort thing, it makes sense that your dog is tired and wants to get as comfortable as he can get to take a relaxing snooze. Crossing the paws takes the weight off the elbows and other areas of the body, allowing your dog to be relaxed and comfortable.

4. It’s a Sign of Contentment

Imagine it’s a sunny spring day, and you look over at your dog lying on the floor. His paws are crossed, and he’s sniffing the spring air wafting through the opened windows. Does he look content? Of course he does! In this scenario, your dog is relaxed and as comfortable as he can be. Do you see a pattern here? Crossing the paws is comfortable for your dog and allows him to relax even more.

Dog Toy-terrier lies on the floor with crossed paws
Image By: Fayzulin Serg, Shutterstock

5. It’s a Learned Behavior

Dogs are observers, and they certainly observe everything we do, especially when it comes to praise. We all know that seeing a dog lying on the floor with his paws crossed is an adorable sight, and we humans are prone to acknowledging the behavior with positivity. For example, we may go over and love on our dog and say all the positive words, like “Good boy!” A treat may even follow, and if so, your dog may learn to cross his paws more often due to getting a reward for the act.

6. A Sign of Submission

A dog may cross his paws as an act of submission around another dog. Usually, if your dog is crossing his paws for this reason, he will also avoid eye contact with the other dog; crossing the paws may convey to the other dog that he is not a threat and will not bother him, and more importantly, does not want to engage in a fight.

Crossing the paws also allows your dog to be lower to the ground, which also conveys to another dog that they are not a threat—a dog in this position will need more time to get to his feet, indicating he is not interested in confrontation.

cute labrador dog puppy lies on carpet the head rests on the crossed paws
Image Credit: bmf-foto.de, Shutterstock

7. It’s All About the Breed

It’s harder for small breeds to cross their paws, not to mention they don’t have as much weight to deal with while lying down, which makes sense that larger dog breeds are more prone to cross the paws. You’ve probably never seen a Dachshund cross its paws because they have short legs—therefore, crossing the legs would be uncomfortable.

8. Your Dog Is Copying You

It’s a scientific fact that dogs copy their owners, and when your dog sees you cross your legs, he may try to mimic the scene. Your dog may mimic you without even realizing he is doing so, or he could be mimicking another dog he saw doing the same thing at the dog park. Our dogs observe everything we do, and if your dog notices when you cross your legs, he’ll think of it as being like you when he does the same.


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Dogs are amazing animals and keep us entertained daily. As you can see, several possible reasons can explain why your dog crosses his paws. The possible reasons are contentment, trying to communicate, being tired, comfortable, showing signs of submission, showing off learned behavior, or it’s simply a common occurrence for the breed. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly adorable and camera-worthy!

Featured Image Credit: Anne Richard, Shutterstock

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