The reasons why a dog might paw at its owner are quite varied. As a general rule, Dogs use their paws as a means of communication and pawing generally means there is something they want from you. Understanding what they are saying is essential to know as an owner, especially if the pawing is undesirable and want to train them.
Other forms of communication, such as barking, jumping, even biting or growling, all generally should be understood before you jump straight to scolding or training. Pawing is no different. You will need to know why your dog is pawing before planning on how to stop it.
Reasons a Dog Might Paw You
Pawing is nearly always for the attention of some kind and some reason. A dog might paw you for love and cuddles. He may also want to play and paw you to get you to join them.
Dogs will also paw at you as a sign of penance when they have done something wrong and want you to know they are sorry.
However, dogs will even paw you as a sign of rebellion and mischief. It can be a form of sass as much as it might be a form of apology.
Dogs are attuned to their humans’ moods and may approach you with their paws in a kind of empathy for you. However, pawing can be a sign of dominance, too, an attempt to prove themselves as the alpha of their pack.
Dogs paw when they are curious about something you may have or because they are hurt or in need of food or water.
For all that, pawing is considered the mark of an ill-mannered puppy or dog and generally needs to be trained out. Pawing can be harmful, whether a dog is big or little, since their claws can break skin or bruise. A dog with pawing problems can be significantly endangering to children and the elderly.
But how can you determine why precisely your dog is pawing at you so that you know how best to go about training them?
Deciphering Your Dog Messages
Hopefully, you are somewhat familiar with dog body language already. You should know what a happy dog looks like, both excited and calm. You should also know what a wary or upset dog looks like.
And, it would help if you understood what naughtiness and boundary-
pushing looks like. I would suggest that you find a simple diagram with images of the basics if you don’t know what primary dog body language is.
If you know what your dog looks like when he is excited or calm or angry, then determining the specific reason behind your dog’s pawing will be much easier.
- Pawing accompanied by calmness and those big sad puppy eyes is generally an apology or a sign of submission. However, pawing, accompanied by excitement, challenging eye contact, and pushiness, is often more about being domineering.
- Insistent but calm pawing, which might escalate if you don’t respond, is often about attention, pets, and cuddles. If it is insistent and excited or jumpy from the beginning, your dog may be inviting you to play.
- If you have something your dog wants or is curious about, pawing may be his way of attempting to get it.
- If your dog is pawing and you can’t see an immediate reason, consider if your dog has water or if it is dinnertime.
- Lastly, if pawing is accompanied by limping or whimpering, your dog may be hurt and may need you to tend to him.
- Understanding what your dog is saying is essential since some reasons will require discouragement and others merely redirecting or altering behavior. Occasionally there will even be something legitimately wrong that really will need your immediate attention.
- How to Stop Pawing
- Pawing can be cute in a few settings, but if there are any situations where pawing is not acceptable, you will have to commit to eliminating it everywhere. A dog should only paw when it is asked for, as a command or trick.
- In every other situation, the behavior should be consistently discouraged or altered to something acceptable. Otherwise, your dog will become confused and struggle to learn that the action is bad.
- It would help if you also varied wary of incidentally rewarding your dog’s pawing unawares. There may be times when you are distracted and unknowingly reward your dog either with attention or what it asks for after pawing at you.
You will need to be very vigilant to avoid this since this will confuse the dog and cause him to think there are times you will reward him and times you won’t, and he will always opt for giving pawing a try if it has gotten him his way before.
- Also, you must be careful that you do not ever give in when the dog persists. This rewards him for persistence and makes teaching him not to paw even more challenging since he has learned that he might get his way if he continually pushes his pawing.
Consistency is critical, and know that even negative attention, like scolding and pushing away, is attention to the dog and will negatively encourage bad behavior.
You have several options for handling a situation, all depending on why your dog is attempting to get your attention. The first is to ignore your dog until he stops.
This will teach him pawing gets him nowhere. When he loses interest and walks away, you can then call him back and pet him, but on your terms.
You must be the one in control of these situations. You call the shots, not your dog. It is why pawing should only be on command, as in when it is for a trick, and never anytime else. Any other time your dog uses his paws to get your attention, he should not get your attention.
Alternatively, depending on why your dog needs you, you can teach your dog to sit and wait instead. This works well when a dog’s pawing for attention is about a likely need; he is curious about something, needs to eat, or has a toy he wants you to play with.
Learning to wait for you is a valuable way to control destructive behaviors. When your dog paws, you can command him to sit and wait. When you are ready, be sure to lavish him with praise if he has remained calm and quiet while waiting. If this is a new practice, slowly build up the amount of waiting time so that you don’t unnecessarily frustrate your dog.
If your dog refuses to stop pawing you or begins to bark or nip, stand up and leave him for a bit. At a later time, when you think it is right, you can call him back and deal with whatever needs he has.
In this way, your dog will gradually catch on that throwing a fit, and being pushy never gets his way and very well may lead to the departure of his human.
Always be calm when dealing with your dog, even when you are upset with him. Don’t make eye contact while ignoring him, and if you stand to leave a room, only tell him no or something along those lines, don’t look at him. Even eye contact is a form of attention and shouldn’t be given if your dog is acting up.
Be aware that if your dog is used to this behavior, getting him what he wants to refuse to give in will probably cause the behavior to escalate temporarily. You will have to be especially firm and wait it out, leaving the room if you must.
If you try all this and you still can’t get your dog to stop pawing at you, consider taking him to training classes or a behaviorist. Some dogs are a little harder to train than others, and it may be you need a little extra help to get your dog back on track.
Ideally, you are training your puppy from day one to be respectful and that you are the boss. While pawing can be cute, it generally is considered bad behavior and should not become a habit for your dog. Your dog should not learn to be pushy or that by being pushy, he gets his way.
Thankfully there are several ways to redirect this energy or discourage it altogether.
Always be sure the blame doesn’t lie on you, however. Be sure you are adequately exercising your dog and that he is fed, clean, and healthy.
Shower your dog with love, but be sure you are the boss and that things happen on your terms. Your dog will be less stressed if he knows his place and knows you will take care of his needs.