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Why Do Dogs Put Their Paws On You? A Pooch’s Point of View!

Written by Adaptil, published on 28 February 2022

Although dogs can’t talk, we have various ways of communicating with humans; we bark, we whine, we growl, we circle around and we use our paws to let humans know how we are feeling and what we want to do!

  • We start to bark when we are around 8 weeks old. It’s a way of communicating a warning sign, a welcome or when we want to get our human’s attention. We also bark when we are startled - some of us bark every time the postman comes to the door even though we know he comes every day!
  • We whine, if we are unhappy or when we are excited.
  • We growl if we want to warn something (or someone) off or if we are scared.
  • We circle around when we are excited - well that’s just one reason. We also circle around when we want to go to the toilet, or if we are worried or stressed. I’ve written about this in a previous post!

As you can see, there can be various reasons for each action, so humans need to learn to read our body language so that you can work out what we are trying to say!  

But now, I would like to explain why dogs put their paws on you!

Why do dogs put their paws on you?

One of the most common tricks dog owners teach their pooch is ‘give a paw’ or ‘say please’ - but there are other reasons we put a paw on our humans.

Seeking attention

Sometimes we just want to remind you that we are here!  Over the last couple of years, humans have been working from home much more often, but you always seem to be staring at your laptop. It’s good for humans to take a few moments to stroke us - did you know that stroking releases oxytocin in both dogs and humans, so we both get that lovely warm feeling.

Other times, however, we might be trying to get your attention if we are anxious or in pain, so keep an eye out for any other signs or a change in behaviour and if you are concerned, get us checked out by a vet.

A reminder

Dogs have in-built body clocks, so we know instinctively when it’s dinner time or time to go out for a walk. If you are not quite in tune, we might remind you by putting our paw on your lap and maybe accompany it with a little whine or squeak - just so that you get the message!

We love you too!

We love to have a fuss made of us, with lots of stroking, and some of us love our belly rubs, so we like to show that we love you too and laying our paw on you is our way of stroking you right back!  Sometimes, we are enjoying it so much that we will use our paw (and a nose nudge) to remind you not to stop!

Giving an alert

I have a really special doggie friend whose human cannot hear, so they rely very much on my friend to give them a signal if they need to be aware of something happening around them, like a knock on the door. Dougal (my clever doggie friend) just wanders up to his human and puts a paw on her lap - just like tapping on her shoulder - and takes her to the door. He’s really clever!

We need comfort and reassurance

Although I like to think I am quite brave, there are some times that I’m not so sure! I do try to be brave most of the time, but I’ll hold my paws up and admit that when there are lots of fireworks around, I get scared! This is when I definitely want some comfort and reassurance from my human, so I will sit very close to her and put my paw on her lap so that she will reassure me that I will be OK.

She always has an ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser plugged in, which definitely makes me feel calmer too, especially during fireworks.  I know it's the same for a lot of dogs around the world - I’ve heard that every country has different firework celebrations, so it’s lucky that ADAPTIL is available in other countries too!

I do love to get lots of attention from my human but she also knows when I am stressed or anxious. She can tell from my body language if I am feeling worried (pacing, drooling ec) and she will give me reassurance.

You need comfort and reassurance

Remember that dogs are very sensitive and we're good at reading a human’s body language!  We can detect when you are feeling down in the dumps, or anxious, so we sometimes show our support and try to give you some comfort by sitting close and touching you with our paw - we’re always here for you!

Some of my doggie friends visit people in hospital - it’s amazing how much comfort and reassurance patients get from our company - it’s that oxytocin working again!

Pawing too much?

I’m not guilty of this, of course, but Millie, the pooch who lives in the next street, is always pawing at her human to get attention and I think she is getting a little tired of it!  Her human is being quite strict with her now;  she’s ignoring Millie when she paws too much and gives her a toy to play with instead to try and distract her.  I think Millie is getting the message because everyone in the house is doing the same thing!

Interesting, eh?

Did you know that dogs could be left or right-pawed?  A study from the University of Adelaide found that

  • 34% of dogs were left-pawed
  • 29% were right-pawed
  • 37% were ambilateral  

Another study showed that

  • 74% of dogs had a paw preference (when trying to retrieve food from a tube)
  • 58.3% of these had a right paw preference
  • Female and elderly dogs have a right paw preference
  • More male dogs are left pawed than females

Me, I fit into the 37% ambilateral group and will use either one to get my human’s attention!

Whether we’re just looking for attention or reminding you that it’s time for our daily walk - putting our paws on you is one of the many ways we communicate with our humans.

Adaptil Calm Diffuser

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