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Why Do Dogs Not Like Their Paws Touched? 5 Common Reasons

Jana Blagojevic

By Jana Blagojevic

male hand stroking dog's paw

Dogs are amazing animals known as “man’s best friend” for many reasons—their outstanding personalities, loyalty, and ability to cheer up their owners. That being said, there are some things these best friends don’t enjoy, for example, when we touch their paws.

In this article, we will tell you all the possible reasons your dog dislikes its paws being touched, so stick with us to find out more.

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The 5 Reasons Why Dogs Do Not Like Their Paws Being Touched

1. Sensitivity

Dogs’ paws are in direct contact with the ground, so they must keep them safe. Unfortunately, the constant exposure of paws to the ground puts them at risk of being hurt at any time. Wounded paws are very common and also very difficult to treat because of their constant use. Even though they seem strong and durable, the pads on the dog’s paws are not invincible—they are susceptible to hot and icy surfaces.1 But lucky for dogs, they can build up tolerance much quicker than humans can. So, if your dog has an extreme reaction to their paws being touched, you should probably look for any wounds or burns.

Before you make your diagnosis, you should look at how your dog is walking. You should contact your local vet if there are any signs of illness or wounds or if they are walking strangely. A fairly common condition often found in the paws of dogs is pododermatitis,2 an inflammation of the paw’s skin. It can affect one or all four paws. With pododermatitis, dog owners often notice constant licking of the paw and dogs behaving like they are feeling some pain.

vet showing cracked paw pad of german shepherd
Image credit: GaiBru Photo, Shutterstock

2. Instinct

As we were talking about the sensitivity of the paws, we touched on the subject of the use of paws for walking, which also means that they are crucial for dogs’ survival. In the wild, dogs would need their paws for everything they do.

Dogs would travel miles to find food and needed to be as strong as possible to survive. A hurt paw for a dog in the wild could be a death sentence because of their inability to continue searching for food and they may become an easy target for predators. Nowadays, dogs are cuddly and overall, very friendly. However, we can’t deny that they kept many of their instinctual behaviors. One of them is protecting themselves—instinctively dogs may not like for you to touch something that they are so dependent on, like their paws.

3. Balance

Unlike humans, who have the perfect balance just by standing on two legs, dogs need all their extremities to keep their balance, so it’s no wonder that dogs wouldn’t want you to lift and touch their paws. Lifting their paw would automatically put them off balance, and your dog obviously doesn’t like that. Because, again, this makes them feel vulnerable and unprotected.

a hand holding dog's paw
Image Credit: Linalyan, Shutterstock

4. Negative Experiences

Until recently, experts didn’t know that dogs have episodic memory similar to humans. Episodic memory is the ability to recall events or circumstances that happened in the past. This can be closely related to why your dog doesn’t like their paws touched. For us, it’s common to be driven by past experiences and trauma, and the same goes for dogs.

Your dog may have trauma related to paw touching. For instance, a human or other dog may have hurt their paw in the past, or maybe they stood on some sharp object and are now very protective. This behavior happens very often with stray dogs who get adopted but carry a lot of trauma from their past.

5. Nail Trimming

The most important thing for every dog owner is that their dog is always healthy and happy. But if we want to keep our dogs healthy, we sometimes need to do something they are not the biggest fans of, like nail trimming, which is an essential part of grooming our dogs. As we already said, dog paws are very sensitive, so we must be very careful when trimming their nails.

Before nail trimming, you should consult with your veterinarian to teach you how to do it properly. It would help if you always used dog-friendly clippers or grinders. Also, you should always be careful not to cut the nail too short, but if you accidentally do, always keep the styptic powder or other clotting powder near to stop the bleeding.

With that said, the most crucial thing with nail clipping is not to stress your dog too much because, as we said earlier, dogs have a great memory, so you don’t want to chase them around the house the next time they see nail clippers.

dogs getting nails trimmed
Image Credit: Duet PandG, Shutterstock

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How to Make Your Dog Feel Safe While Handling Their Paws

The first thing you need to do is to calm yourself —you don’t want to stress your dog even more than they already are. Second, you can give them something to eat, like a safe treat, to keep their focus away from what you’re doing. It would be wise to show them the clippers before you start to keep them calm. The same goes for simply touching or petting their paws—it will help if you assure your dog that its paws are safe in your hands and that you are not a threat.

You should start by gently touching and petting their paws and after some time, you can begin to hold their paws—but only for short periods until they get entirely used to it.

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Dogs can behave very differently on different occasions, even with something as simple as holding their paws. But their reaction can tell us about their health and past trauma. If you worry about your dog’s health, you should always take them to your local veterinarian. The same goes for showing aggression while nail clipping or touching their paws, which can be problematic, especially with big dogs.

Featured Image Credit: MDV Edwards, Shutterstock

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