A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

Why Does My Dog Paw at Me?

By: Kelli Rascoe

Brown dog paw in owner's hand

Puppies and adult dogs have their own unique communication style. If you’re a new dog owner, you may not know what your best friend is trying to say to you. Every dog is different which includes their own quirks and behaviors. In the case of dog behavior, you may find yourself asking questions like, “why does my dog paw at me?” In fact, your dog’s body language may be trying to tell you something more. Fortunately, we sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about dog body language and the benefits of understanding what they might really mean.

Dog owner questions answered: why does my dog paw at me

Boxer dog sitting in a white bed with his head titled

Reasons why your dog may paw you

There may be a wide variety of reasons why your furry friend may paw at you. It may be something they want or need, including your attention. Wilde points out several reasons why your dog may paw you below.

  • When a dog paws, it’s generally an attention-seeking behavior for pats, food, water, or playtime.
  • This behavior is reinforced by you. For example, your dog paws, and you pet them. So the next time your dog wants food, pets, or toys their going to paw at you. Also, when they learn that’s how they get what they want, it may increase in frequency.
  • Pawing is only an issue when it becomes bothersome to you. First, examine everything to make sure there isn’t a need that needs to be addressed, or a medical concern, like an empty water bowl or food bowl.
  • If there is no immediate need, and your pup just wants attention, then giving in and petting or playing is reinforcing the behavior. Consider redirecting their attention or ignore the behavior which can help to reduce the frequency or eliminate unwanted behavior.
  • If it’s unclear whether the held paw is for attention or due to injury, talk to your veterinarian. They can examine your dog and recommend the next course of action.

Dog body language

Have you ever looked at your pet and wondered what they were doing? Your dog may use their body as a way to express what they’re thinking or feeling.

Naturally, there’s a connection between communication and behavior. Also, “it’s important to look at your dog’s behavior and the context in which they’re demonstrating the behavior,” says Wilde.

Consider your environment and if there have been any recent changes like a move or an introduction of new pets or people. Every dog may respond differently to change in their home. They may seek your attention to know that everything is okay.

The benefits of understanding your dog’s body language

You want your dog to be healthy and happy. Fortunately, when you take the time to understand your dog, you may have a better understanding of what they need or want.

Most importantly, it may help their overall health and wellness.

Wilde breaks down some benefits of understanding your dog’s cues.

“Dogs communicate through their body language. Try watching your dog’s posture, ear position, jaw tone, and overall behavior. It may tell you a lot about what your dog is trying to communicate. Also, a behavior like yawning or a tense jaw may be a sign of anxiety. Consider all the behaviors to determine what they’re trying to tell you. Understanding your dog’s body language can help build the bond you have with your pet. This can also help avoid conflicts with other dogs and people. If you understand your dog is anxious or afraid, you can take appropriate steps to decrease fear and redirect focus to avoid a conflict.”

The importance of the human-pet bond

There is nothing like the relationship between you and your dog.

The more you understand your dog’s behavior, the closer it may bring you together. Naturally, the feeling of companionship and togetherness may be beneficial for you and your furry friend.

Stress may affect you and your pets differently. In moments of stress, you may need to lean on your furry friends for help.

For instance, “pets can be emotional support during stressful times, and the more you understand what your pet is communicating, the stronger the bond and support may be. Also, pets can help reduce stress, anxiety, and ease loneliness,” says Wilde.

While social distancing is in effect, the companionship of an animal may be beneficial for your health and overall wellness.

A brown and black dog sitting in his owners lap

Why does my dog paw at me: it may depend on the needs and wants of your furry friends

Whether your dog is hungry, wants attention, or wants to bond, there may be a wide variety of reasons why your dog may paw at you. But by paying attention to your dog’s behavior, taking the time to understand your dog’s personality, and talking to your veterinarian, you may have a better understanding of your dog’s communication style for years to come.

To learn more about pet stress, read Separation Anxiety in our Pets.

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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

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