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Why Does My Dog Put His Paw on Me? 6 Reasons Why

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

calm purebred dog is resting with owner in bed in night

Dogs display several behaviors that can range from adorable to annoying. One of the gestures is putting a paw on their owners or pawing repeatedly at them. If your dog frequently lays their paws on you, you might wonder what’s going on. Here are six reasons why your dog might put his paw on you.

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The 6 Reasons Why Your Dog Puts His Paw on You

1. They Want Attention

While it may seem cute, dogs often put their paws on their owners to demand attention. For example, does your dog frequently start pawing at your arm while you’re scrolling through your phone or place a paw on your leg while you’re talking to someone else?

Your pup might be using the pawing behavior to turn your attention towards them instead. Dog owners often reinforce this behavior by engaging or reacting to their pet’s pawing. Even if your response is to say “No!” and move away, it still gives your dog the interaction with you they were looking for.

labrador retriever dog pawing to his owner
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. They Need Something

Your dog may also put a paw on you because they need something specific, not just your attention. Is it getting close to dinner time? Your impatient, hungry dog might start pawing at you to get their bowl filled faster.

Maybe your pup needs to head outside for a walk, but you haven’t reached for the leash yet. While this is a simple explanation for why your dog is putting a paw on you, it’s also a tricky habit to break. It’s easier to fulfill your dog’s demand rather than train them to ask for what they need.

3. They Are Feeling Insecure

Anxious or frightened dogs can perform paw-related gestures to communicate their emotions. If your dog holds a paw off the ground without touching anything, it’s typically a sign of stress. Dogs can also paw or push at you or other people to demonstrate a need for space or as an attempt to avoid interaction.

Nervous dogs can paw at you if they encounter a new person, animal, or situation. Try removing your dog from the situation to help them relax or redirect their attention with treats and toys.

vizsla dog closes his eyes with his paw
Image Credit: Ivanova N, Shutterstock

4. They Are Showing Affection

If you and your dog share a moment together, they may gently place their paw on you as a sign of affection. Dogs can experience the same chemical reactions humans associate with “love,” such as dopamine and serotonin.

When they do, they often display physical signs of love, including pawing the person who is triggering the happy feelings. Affectionate dogs often place a paw on the person who is scratching their chest or rubbing their belly.

5. They Are Trying to Tell You Something

In some cases, your dog may place a paw on you as a way to open communication. There’s something they want you to know or pay attention to, and they use a paw to indicate that fact. Humans do the same thing by clearing their throats or tapping each other on the shoulder.

Once your dog has your attention, look for other behaviors that tell you what your dog is trying to communicate. For example, does your dog place a paw on you and then run to the door once you’re looking at them? They probably need to go outside.

Pretty and cute dog holding it's paw to owners hand
Image Credit: Robyn-May, Shutterstock

6. They Sense Your Emotions

Dogs are excellent at sensing our emotions because of their long history as human companions. If you’re sad, lonely, or anxious, your dog may paw you to provide comfort or reassurance. It’s your pet’s way of offering you a hug or a shoulder to cry on.

Some breeds are especially in tune with human emotions. It doesn’t always have to be people they know, either. Some dogs are just naturally empathetic, like trained therapy pups.

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Should I Let My Dog Put a Paw on Me?

As we learned, dogs can put their paws on us for loving and affectionate reasons or demanding and needy ones. If your dog demonstrates affection calmly, it’s usually okay to let them gently put a paw on you.

However, if your dog is pawing to indicate stress or to demand something, you might not want the behavior to continue. Learn to identify other signs of stress in dogs, such as flattened ears, a tucked tail, or a crouched body position. If these are present, you’ll need to manage your dog’s behavior.

Try to identify what’s stressing them out first. You may need to take your dog away from a new situation and re-introduce them to it slowly, using treats to encourage positive associations. If your dog is stressed by a big life change, such as a new baby or new pet, talk to your vet about strategies to help them cope.

If your dog is pawing at you to ask or demand something, it’s a good idea to train them out of this behavior rather than give in. For example, ignore your dog when they paw at you for attention and ask them to sit or follow another command to receive it instead. Teach your dog to sit at the door or by their food bowl if they want dinner.

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If your dog loves to use their paws to communicate, it’s a good idea to keep their nails trimmed to avoid painful scratches. Putting a paw on you is just one of many behaviors or gestures dogs use to communicate. Learning to interpret your dog’s body language will strengthen your bond and help you avoid problematic behaviors in the process.

Featured Image Credit: IAKIMCHUK IAROSLAV,Shutterstock

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