How Dogs Use Their Paws to Communicate

Dogs shaking hand with human, friendship between human and dogs.

Dog paw and human hand shaking.

A lot of the time when we talk we get animated, we use our hands to help explain stories and convey more emotion. It’s a nonverbal way we can communicate more than what we’re saying. While dogs can’t talk to us, they do use a lot of nonverbal cues to let us know what they are thinking or needing. One way to do this is with their paws. Much like when we use our hands, our dogs can use their paws to communicate with us.

What their paws are saying:

  • “Hey! Don’t forget to give me attention!”

A lot of times our dogs will sit at our feet and gently start using their paws to poke you. This is usually a plea for attention. They are ready for some play time, cuddles or simply they just want in on whatever you are doing. It’s much like child tugging or poking at your saying, “I’m here, pay attention to me!”

  • “I want to apologize…”

When your dog has done something naughty and you have to scold them, they often feel remorse. So, after a little time out or a little feeling sorry for themselves, they will come apologize to you. That’s when they pop their paws up on your arm, lap, or leg with their sad eyes looking up at you to say, “I’m sorry…” They know they messed up and behaved badly, so they are trying to make amends so you don’t stay mad at them.

  • “I want to connect with you.”

Dogs like to feel connected with their favorite humans. Just like us, dogs need the warmth of touch and companionship. A lot of times they use their paws just to feel connected to us and be a part of the pack. It’s like saying, “I love you” or “I’m happy to be with you.” They can do this if you haven’t had a chance to cuddle in a while or if you’re visibly upset. Your dog will often use their warm touch to connect with you and reassure you.

  • “I need something…”

Sometimes they’ll use their paws to let you know that they need something. Maybe their food or water bowl is empty, or they need to go potty. Especially if they have trained not to beg or bark, this is a way they can subtly ask you for something.

  • “Let’s Play!”

This is often how puppies and young dogs interact with each other. A lot of times they paw gently at other dogs or slap their paws on the ground playful to try and start a game. If the other dog paws back then that signals, “Yeah! Let’s play!” And the game is on.

It’s fun to know what your pet is trying to say with their nonverbal communication. But just make sure not to give into their “pawing” demands too much. If you react each and every time they request, then it could become a pretty annoying behavior. Use times where they are not really in a dire need to say “no,” so that they learn their paws are not the ones in control.

Does your dog poke you with his/her paws? We’d love to hear about your stories. You can reach us on Twitter or on our Facebook page!

And don’t forget to give us a call for dog walking services to keep your dog entertained during the day! We’d be happy to be poked, come play, walk and care for them to break up long days when you’re out and about.

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