Anyone who has been around dogs has noticed this behavior: the infamous paw.
Dogs can claw at you for a variety of reasons and it’s not always what you might initially think.
Some find this behavior extremely cute and even introduce the classic ‘shake’ or ‘paw’ as a command.
Others don’t like muddy paws minding their business, especially if it’s served with a slap in the face.
But what really puzzles some dog owners is why their dogs offer paws to them without being asked.
The truth is, your dog may enjoy interacting with you.
Why do dogs give you their paw without asking?
Dogs often give their paw without asking because they are looking for attention, wanting to spark a play session, showing affection or simply apologizing, and all of this is accompanied by the right body language.
If your dog gives you the paw because he’s looking for attention, that’s a basic acknowledgment that your dog might take pleasure in.
However, attention-seeking behavior doesn’t stop there. Your dog probably wants you to interact with him.
If your dog hasn’t exercised physically and mentally that day, you may want to give in to your dog’s silent cry for entertainment.
However, if the behavior becomes a regular pattern, you can try simply ignoring it.
The same goes for reasons like starting a play session when you don’t have time.
Attention seekers don’t always want to play. But more often than not they do.
My Rottweiler loves to give her paw to anyone who asks her, and it is very much a requirement for play.
Since she is super calm about it, I have no problem giving in to her wishes.
It is up to you whether you are okay with your dog asking for attention.
Have you ever considered that a soft paw is your dog’s way of showing affection?
It’s true, sometimes your pup seems to have it all and still makes that intense eye contact with a gently placed paw on your knee.
This often goes hand in hand with seeking attention.
My Rottie does it all the time when she places a paw and at the first acknowledgment she darts next to me or on my lap.
If you have just scolded your dog or are angry with him in some way, you may see an apologetic paw.
While the other legs are accompanied by a relaxed or even tense ready-to-play posture, this is certainly not the case with this one.
The apologetic paw comes in a package with flat ears, a low wagging tail, and maybe even licking or avoiding eye contact.
If it becomes excessive, you can also ignore that behavior, but don’t punish your dog for something that is now over.
Dogs who get to that point just make an offer of peace and usually that will settle the matter.
Why does my dog want me to hold his paw?
Dogs may want you to hold their paw to seek comfort, show affection, or apologize. In other cases, holding your dog’s paw may be a learned behavior pattern.
As previously mentioned, holding your dog’s paw can be an attention-seeking behavior and since the attention can be positively reinforcing, dogs may like us to hold their paw just for comfort.
This can happen in situations where your dog feels really uncomfortable, runs towards you and extends his paw for you to hold him.
Pawing can also be done quickly if your dog is trying to signal that the situation may be a bit overwhelming for your dog.
Amalia often hits me with her bear paw and then does nothing but stare at me.
While I’m sure some of it is basic comfort (even for her as an overly confident girl), there’s another part.
It’s almost as if my dog is trying to comfort me (i.e. show affection). What can I say, it works quite often.
Dogs may also want you to gently hold their paw in an attempt to make amends, as direct contact can confirm that the bond is still intact.
The final reason why your dog wants you to hold his paw may have to do with learned behavior.
If you have a command like “shake,” “(give) paw,” or even “sit nice,” where your dog extends his hand with both paws, you may be exhibiting this behavior even if you haven’t asked for it.
I’m sure this is sometimes the psychological motivation behind my dog’s paws.
Before I let her run free or devour her meal, I often perform a few commands and “paw” is one of them.
Simply put, your dog may assume that behavior that was positively rewarded in the past will be rewarded again.
Rewarding that behavior (through food, pets, or even just attention) only reinforces that their impulse was right.
Why do dogs raise their paws when petted?
Dogs may raise their paws when petted to return your affection and the physical contact shows that your dog enjoys the pet.
However, a more aggressive paw movement can also be a signal that the dog wants you to stop, like pushing a hand away.
If you think about it, dogs have come an incredibly long way in reading our body language and some may have figured out that this is a way of telling people to stop petting them if that has helped in the past.
Why does my dog wrap its paws around my arm?
This one is quite funny because my dog also exhibits this behavior.
Just move your hand in a certain way right in front of my dog and he will jump up and wrap both paws around your arm.
Why does she do that?
I can only assume it’s a learned behavior since we have the “sit nice” command and the responses she gets when she looks like a cute 100 pound bear cub might be what she’s looking for.
Sometimes dogs will wrap both paws around your arm, “locking” you in place so they can begin grooming.
As long as your dog wraps his paws around your arm, everything will be fine. As soon as they grab your arm with their mouth, you know something may have gone wrong.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.