It is not a secret that our dogs love us and want to find any means or ways to show us that they do. But most times the outcome of these efforts does not yield the effect which we both want. If you are here you likely have a situation where your dog is always trying to put his paws on you. This leads you to ask the questions. Do dogs like to have their paws held? Why does my dog want me to hold his paw?
If your dog puts his paw on you or into your hand, it means your dog is simply trying to get your attention to themselves or draw your attention to something else. They are trying to communicate with you the best way they can.
Quoting Jonah Erickson at wagwalking.com
“Giving paw is an instinctual behavior that dogs will use to get your attention”.
If this is so, then what exactly is your dog trying to communicate by letting you hold his or her paws. The answer to this lies in the dog’s body language after putting his paws in your hand. Your dog sitting beside you in a relaxed manner, facial expression calm, tails down, ears up(typically not forward) is trying to communicate.
Empathy for you.
Our dogs are very observant of our moods day in day out, they are empathetic creatures and living with us, they get attuned to our emotions and living habits. The smallest change in our attitude is noticed by our dogs. They already know that barking, yipping, or running around can easily be misunderstood by us. Also being empathetic creatures they have observed time and time again how we as humans empathize with each other. Being that they can’t talk like us, an all well-adapted dogs (only the untrained and unsocialized ones) know that mouthing is out of the question. The best way they can try to empathize with us is by giving us a paw to hold.
This is the equivalent of your dog holding you warmly by his or her side. They are telling you that no matter the situation, they are there for you and we all know that the loyalty of a dog cannot be questioned.
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Asking for forgivness.
Yes, your dog can be asking for your forgiveness for something he has done. Making you hold their paws in your hand and looking at you with puppy eyes is one of the ways they ask for forgiveness.
Unlike empathizing with you, dogs resort to this behavior depending on how well it has worked for them in the past. You might have let go of a bad behavior in the past. For example, you may have condoned your dog putting his paws on you every time you come back home from your job or any outside activity, it seems fun at the time and might even appear very endearing, but continuously allowing this behavior will give your dog the impression that that kind of expression is acceptable and can be used in other situations. This is called negative reinforcement.
Basically, this is one of those times where you need to be firm with your dog, depending on the situation at hand and the training technique you may be using.
Empathy for themselves.
Your dog may hold out his paw and want you to hold it if they are feeling insecure or having separation anxiety issues. Like we said earlier our dogs are very observant of us and tend to analyze what we are likely to respond to and what we might not respond to. When all erratic whining, trembling, and crying has failed the dog, he or she will resort to a gentler approach.
Here you need to be observant, unlike when your dog empathizes with you or seeks your forgiveness the body language is different when they need empathy for themselves. You may notice things like lip-smacking, flat ears, yawning, and in some extreme cases trembling.
If you notice these things, please do not try to comfort your dog immediately. According to Rebecca Forest an accredited dog trainer from the dog clinic.
The best thing to do when you notice the above things to shift your dog’s attention to something else, change the environment, pull out a dog toy and play with them, go for a walk…
You get the idea. Why you shouldn’t console or pet your dog immediately is simple. Petting him or her immediately reinforces the act and this is not what you want constantly from your dog. That would only lead to negative reinforcement and more anxiety issues for your dog. The best thing at this time is to find ways of boosting his or her self confidence.
In situations where your dog puts his paws on you and goes into some other activity, there is a liklihood that the dog is trying to steer your attention to something else. If he is showing excitement with physical attributes like wagging their tails, pricked ears, relaxed mouth with an attentive gave, in addition to exhibiting a burst of energy. He or she is likely trying to communicate that:
Need to Play.
A dog in an excited state is hard to ignore, if your dog puts his paws on you and bounces around ecstatically, maybe taking a bow here and there, your dog likely wants to play with you. Playful dogs are known to initiate game playing this way. The more intuitive ones would go the extra length of bringing a toy or a plaything in their mouth and putting their paw on you to get attention. An acceptable scenario would be for the dog to place the plaything or toy in front of you and bounce around excitedly.
This all depends on the mode of training and exercise that you want to give your dog. Simply put, encourage the behavior you want from your dog and ignore the ones you don’t want.
Time to Eat.
If you have been a dog parent for a length of time, one of the amazing things we notice about our dogs is how they are attuned to time. It’s like they are ready for any activity that has been sanctioned by you and that includes, time to wake up, time to step out of the house, time to step into the house, time to play, and oh yes time to eat. Their biological clock is attuned to these things and they seem to be ever ready to keep up the routine.
So if it seems that to them that you are forgetting their mealtime. They would try to remind you of this. One of the ways they tend to do this is by putting their paws on you and pushing or nudging you. Some will even go to the length of nudging their bowls or even presenting the bowl to you.
Now although it an acceptable practice to feed your dog and give them water at particular chosen times in the day, you should also be careful and make sure that you are not encouraging habits that make the dog feel as if he or she is in command of these actions. If left unattended you will have a dog that is consistently begging and demanding for food.
Talk to You.
Just like we humans can make gestures when talking to explain a situation or concept better, our dogs also do the same thing with their paws. Even so, we have people that exhibit a lot of attitude or sass even when it is unnecessary, the same thing applies to our dogs. Dogs have different temperaments and personalities and some express themselves more than others. This includes putting their paws on their dog parents or favorite people.
Dogs that are known to put their paws on people a lot are regarded as rude dogs, with the human analogy, imagine one that exhibits a lot of sass in their daily interaction. You will usually find the person’s company irritating and with time downright nauseating.
The important thing is to understand your dog’s personality and what they are trying to communicate at the time. Who knows, something important may be happening which your dog is alerting you to.
You are the Alpha.
Sometimes your dog just wants you to know that he or she understands that you are in charge and that they love you. This kind of pawing from your dog is accompanied by a lowered gaze and some sort of submissive gesture. This is usually the best scenario to pet your dog and assure him or her that they are important in your life.
I am the Alpha.
If your dog can submit to you as an alpha there is also the possibility of them taking the alpha position in your life. Although in recent times this has become less of a reality especially since everything needed for their survival in the modern world is dependent on you.
Having said that if your dog puts his paws on you followed by a dominant gesture such as direct eye contact for a long time, resisting your commands, trying to force himself on you, etc. Then he is definitely trying to tell you he is in charge. Fortunately for us, a little bit of obedience training would definitely whip him back to the status quo.
In a situation where your dog puts his paws on you and is panting with dilated pupils or is just tugging at you with both paws and teeth, bouncing around excitedly. Then this is a more serious situation and your dog is trying to communicate:
I am in Pain.
Heavy Panting and dilated Pupils are quick signs that your dog is experiencing physical pain or is very stressed at the moment. Unless you are aware of any medical condition and have the medication at hand to administer, the best thing to do is to contact your vet and get direction on the next best course of action.
A situation whereby your dog is having a stomach problem, poisoned, broken bone, etc. and needs to be taken to the vet immediately should be handled with a lot of care. Depending on your relationship with your dog, you should be able to feel your way around her to know the best way in which you can carry or assist them. Whatever you do, Maintain your calm. Your calm expression will also help your dog to be open to you and your vet for whatever treatment that would be necessary.
There is a serious problem somewhere.
Putting their paws on you and tugging at you with their teeth at the same time with excitement is an indication that there is some emergency (at least your dog thinks it is). It would be advisable to follow the dog and observe exactly what he or she considers an emergency. Depending on what it is, your dog may even be barking for you to react faster.
This is a rare scenario, especially for domestic dogs but there is no telling of future events and anything can happen to you or a member of your household at any time.
In Conclusion, some dogs are more prone to use their paws than others. If you notice that your dog has the tendency to use his or her paws to achieve things like pulling a duvet over himself in bed, moving his feeding bowl to a more comfortable space, opening a door with his paws, tapping the remote control, etc. then your dog would be geared toward wanting you to hold his paw from time to time. The advantage of having these kinds of dogs is that they are capable of learning more advanced tricks using their paws. Things like turning a light bulb on or off, playing a musical instrument like a piano, playing football, and more. Your responsibility would be to know when to reward such behavior and when to ignore it totally.
You get a good feeling knowing that your dog wants you to hold his paw, but this behavior is not one which you would want to encourage every time. This is because the behavior can easily turn out to be a nuisance. Make sure to keep this behavior in check by only condoning it when it is absolutely necessary.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.