Why Do Dogs Paw At You? What Your Pup Is Trying To Tell You

Oluwatosin Michael
Oct 06, 2023 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Oct 19, 2021
Friendly smart dog giving his paw.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.4 Min

Have you ever had a dog put their paws on you when you haven't asked them for a high-five?

While it may surprise you at first and annoy you when your dog does it too often, the reasons behind your dog pawing at you are quite simple. Mostly, they have something to do with your dog trying to communicate with you, whether it is to express their love or draw your attention to something urgent.

It might be the most adorable thing a dog might do at times, but dogs putting their paws on you or pawing at you is merely them using the few means of communication that they have, to tell you something. Most of the time, dogs do this as a way of saying 'I love you'. Just like humans show their love towards their dogs by petting them, they might want to do the same. So even though they can't move their paws to stroke us back and forth like we can, they try to express their affection towards their owners by simply giving them their paws.

However, a dog pawing at you may not always be a gesture of love and affection. Sometimes, it is possible that he wants to draw your attention to something. Your dog might be trying to say that he wants to go outside, wants to play, or wants food because he is hungry. In some rare cases, he could be trying to establish dominance over his owner, but it could also be that he wants to tell you that he's uncomfortable or anxious. A dog could also be trying to give you a sign that he is injured or not feeling well. The difference between when a dog is putting his paw on you as a sign of affection and distress can be figured out by understanding his behavior and body language. Thus, it is important to understand your dog's body language as well, as it can help build a healthy and reliable relationship between you and your dog.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about why do dogs like to be pet or why do dogs roll on their backs here on Kidadl?

What does pawing mean in dogs?

A dog is said to paw at someone when he places his paw on someone. It is a completely normal behavior and is nothing to be concerned about in most cases. Pawing is merely your dog trying to communicate with you. Since humans use their hands and voice to communicate with their pets, a dog might also try to use his paw or bark at their owners to communicate with them.

Oftentimes, a dog may realize that whenever he paws at his owner, he gets love and affection in the form of pets, or maybe even treats. Thus, he could continue this pawing behavior to get that kind of attention whenever they want, which could become a problem. However, a dog putting his paws on you could also be because he wants you to take him out for a walk, or if he is feeling hungry and wants you to give him some food. Pawing could also be a sign that your dog is injured or not feeling well. In this case, you should always take him to a vet to rule out any issues related to your dog's physical health. Other reasons could include him asking for forgiveness after doing something he was not supposed to, or trying to comfort you when he can sense that you feel sad.

Why do dogs give you their paw without asking?

Since they cannot speak, many dogs will often put their paws on someone's arm or leg and hope that the human understands the signal and gives them the attention that they want or need.

It is very common for a pup to give you his paw without you asking for it. This may be because he knows from experience that you will acknowledge him whenever he paws at you, and could often do it to get your attention. But there are a number of reasons for your dog's pawing behavior besides needing attention, and it is important to know exactly why he is doing so. Many times, he could simply be asking you to play with him. It is important for his physical and mental well-being that he gets his required exercise as well as social interaction. While pawing to ask for play, his body language would be a wagging tail, pricked ears, a playful smile, or even a toy nearby that he wants you to use to play with him. On the other hand, when he is trying to tell you that he is feeling stressed, insecure, anxious, or hungry, his behavior might be a bit different. His tail would be low, with flat ears and a tight mouth. If he is not able to put pressure on his paw and is simply holding it up, it could be a sign that his paw hurts and he might be injured. Getting him urgent medical attention should be the most appropriate response in this situation.

Happy dog waves paw.

Why do dogs paw at you whilst playing and petting?

Dog owners would be quite used to their dog giving them his paw while they are playing or having a casual belly-rubbing or petting session, and while it may look extremely cute, your dog is also trying to tell you something by pawing at you.

A dog giving you his paw while you are petting him usually means that he is trying to pet you back to reciprocate the affection. Another reason could be that the dog likes the way you are petting him and is pawing at you to tell you to continue to pet him. If you have been petting him for a few minutes and suddenly stop, your dog could paw at your hand in a bid to get you to start petting him again. The same goes for when you have just gotten done playing. Your dog might put his paw on you to ask you to continue playing some more.

How do you get your dog to stop pawing at you?

While at first, your dog's pawing behavior might feel cute and endearing, it is possible that he learns to paw at you all the time in the hopes of being petted or given a reward. In this case, it is important to discourage this behavior by getting him the proper canine training.

If your dog paws at you, it is natural to want to show him love and affection, and even reward him with a treat. However, this might lead to your dog demanding attention even when it is inappropriate or not feasible for you. The nails of your dog's paws might also hurt you when he is trying to get you to pet him. Thus, it is important to show restraint, train your dog not to paw at you for pets all the time, and also be gentle in his attempts. Some ways to do this would be trimming his nails so they don't hurt you when he paws at you. You could also try training him yourself by ignoring his attempts in order to let him know that the tactic won't work. However, it is important to first correctly recognize the reasons behind why your dog might be pawing at you as he could be trying to tell you important information about his health.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do dogs paw at you then why not take a look at why do dogs howl when you howl, or Akita Inu facts?

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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