Is Your Dog Pawing (What Does It Mean And What Should You Do)?


Your dog will sometimes stop at nothing to get your attention. One of the easiest ways he can do so is to use his paw to poke, prod and scratch you until he gets his way. It's a deceptively annoying habit, and it's one that you can stop.

Why Dogs Paw and Scratch

A dog pawing and scratching is essentially a base form of canine communication. The most prominent message they like to spread through this non-verbal cue is that you make them the center of your universe by giving them immediate attention and gratification. Think of it this way: a dog pawing you is not really all that different than a seven-year-old child perpetually shouting "Mom!" or "Dad!" until the parent finally responds (quite possibly with a sharp, "What?!!?").

There are times when a dog’s pawing conveys a different message other than “love me and love me now.” For instance, a contrite dog that knows that he did something naughty may decide to put a paw on your body as a means to apologize for their behavior. This is usually accompanied by a sad face that we often find impossible to resist.

Your dog may also use pawing as a means to tell you he needs something important, like food or more water. He could also use his paws as a means to convey a connection with you, especially during times when he senses you may be in a bad space. Dogs can be extremely intuitive when it comes to detecting human emotion, and his pawing in this regard could be his way of showing you that he’s here for you.

When Something Endearing Becomes Something Annoying

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While the occasional paw of forgiveness or camaraderie is as acceptable as it is endearing, pawing for the sake of getting your attention is neither. Depending on the size of the dog and the paw he’s attached to, the act of perpetually pawing and scratching for attention can be more than a nuisance - it can be costly if not dangerous.

A dog with a mighty and active claw can inadvertently cause rips and tears in your clothes. Worse yet, a steady stream of pawing behavior can scratch your skin or easily hurt the tender flesh of a baby or toddler. And if you placate his demands by giving him the attention that he wants, he’ll only end up being more persistent in his behavior.

A Matter of Training

Like all annoying canine behaviors, the act of seemingly perpetual pawing or scratching can be quelled by engaging in some basic training techniques. These methods will typically use the usual mix of praise and treats to get him around to your way of thinking and acting, and it may take some time for the sessions to collectively be a success. However, once he ceases to scratch at your arm for attention, you'll be glad you put in the time.

Before You Train Your Dog - Read His Body Language

While it’s a good idea to train your dog to stop pawing at you for annoying reasons, you may want to be careful to guard against training the “good” forms of paw-based communication out of his system. After all, it can be a very effective way for your pooch to convey a surprisingly eclectic range of emotions.

Because of this, it’s important that you pay close attention to the reasons why he’s pawing at you, especially during the training phase. You should be able to recognize very clearly whether or not your dog is getting you to scratch behind his ears or if he’s feeling bad for something wrong. You should also be able to let your dog know that you know this - your four-legged friend will pick up on this better than you may realize.

Your Dog Loves You - Never Forget This

Yes, it can drive you crazy if your dog insists on constantly paws at you to draw attention to him. But be slow to anger here, no matter how frustrated he makes you. Remember, he’s not doing this out of spite - he’s really only doing this because you are the center of his universe.

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