5 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Stop Pawing At You (And What to Do)

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Let me start by saying that as a dog parent, I completely understand the struggle of having a pup that won’t stop pawing at you.

It can be frustrating, sure, but also kind of endearing when you realize it’s just their way of trying to communicate with us.

I mean, think about it โ€“ our furry friends don’t have the ability to speak our language, so they have to get creative in getting their point across.

Pawing, tilting their adorable little heads, maybe even a playful bark or two โ€“ that’s their way of saying “Hey, pay attention to me for a sec!”

Now, that’s not to say we can’t teach them some pawing boundaries.

But before we get into management strategies, let’s explore some of the most common reasons our pups feel the need to get all hands-on (or should I say paws-on?) with us in the first place.

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Reasons Dogs Like To Paw

reasons for dog pawing at you

1. It’s a learned communication method

You know, when I really think about it, our dogs have a tougher job communicating with us than we give them credit for.

We humans are lucky to have language – we can express our wants, needs, and emotions with spoken words. But our furry companions? They have to get creative.

It makes total sense when you think about how we use our hands to communicate all the time.

Dogs have been our buddies for ages, so of course they’d start to incorporate paws and physicality into their communication efforts with us.

They’re smart little rascals, they watch and learn!

2. Need immediate attention

Ah yes, the old “paw me for more pets” routine – I know it well!

There’s nothing cuter than being in the middle of snuggle time with my furry pal, petting that soft coat, when suddenly a little paw reaches out to bat at me.

It’s like they’re saying, “No, don’t stop the cuddles mom, I want mooooore!”

I’ll admit, I’m a total sucker for giving in to those demands for bonus pets.

Can you blame me? Science says dogs actually get a little high off the feel-good hormones released during petting sessions with us humans.

So when my buddy extends that paw, I like to think it’s their way of showing me some affection right back – returning the favor, if you will.

3. Guilty of something

guilty dog

That guilty paw tap after some doggy mischief? I’m all too familiar!

My furry rascal knows that move melts my heart – the sad eyes, the apologetic paw extension.

It’s their “please forgive me, dad” plea.

And truthfully, it works like a charm thanks to past rewarding of that behavior.

We’ve all caved to those irresistible puppy dog apologies before, showering them with lovings instead of discipline.

My smart pup caught on fast – now one remorseful paw tap is their ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card with me.

I’m helpless against those pitiful peepers! They’ve trained me well with that guilt-trippy routine.

4. You forgot their basic needs?

As feeding time draws near, the gentle taps and nudges against my leg start up – their not-so-subtle reminder that this hungry pup is ready for some grub!

Of course, my silly buddy can’t just outright tell me “Hey mom, my food bowl is empty over here!” So the pawing and nudging of said empty bowl begins.

It’s their adorable way of sign language to communicate that rumbling tummy, or you probably need to check the water bowl.

Now, as much as I don’t mind the reminder to feed my hungry beast, I do have to be careful. The last thing I want is for those dinner pawings to turn into a full-blown food demanding monster!

Some dogs get a little too good at training us with those tricks.

5. Is it play time?

It starts with that toy dangling from the mouth, eyes wide with anticipation.

Then comes the choreographed routine – spinning in circles, front paws flexing with barely contained excitement.

And when those tactics don’t quite work, out comes the big guns – a gentle pawing at your shins, as if tapping into your play drive.

Good luck resisting that kind of adorably persistent plea for attention!

Our pups know exactly which strings to pull to get us humans joining in on the fun.

That paw extending towards you isn’t just idle pawing, it’s a calculated maneuver.

A nudge designed to bypass our logic centers and go straight to activating the “I simply must engage in zoomies with you right now” part of the brain.

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Should You Allow Excessive Pawing?

Let’s take a step back on the pawing for a second.

Sure, it can be cute when your pup reaches out with those little polka dot toes during snuggle time, like they’re saying “more please!”

But we all know where that sweet gesture can lead if we’re not careful – an insistent, demanding habit that has you feeling like a servant in your own home.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what excessive, unchecked pawing is – a way for our furry friends to make demands of us. Paw me for pets.

Paw me for playtime. Paw me for a treat. Paw paw paw. When we consistently give in to those impatient paws, we’re teaching them that being bossy gets results.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my dog acting like they run the whole darn show!

As much as I adore my little shadow, our relationship has to be built on mutual respect. I’m not about to be constantly pawed at like that friend who can’t take a hint and leave you alone.

There has to be boundaries and balance.

How To Stop Your Dog From Excessive Pawing?

Instead of giving in to the scratching and poking for attention, we have to reset expectations.

When those paws start batting, it’s time for an immediate “Ah ah, no sir/ma’am!” followed by a firm redirect to a more positive behavior like sitting pretty.

The message: You only get what you want by being a good boy/girl, not a bossy pants.

It’s not easy. Our furry friends can pour on the pitiful looks and wear us down.

But sticking to our guns and making them wait progressively longer for the coveted pets/treats/playtime helps them understand we’re not at their constant beck and call.

We’re the ones setting the schedule around here. It takes patience and perseverance, but so worth it to have a respectful pup who knows their manners.

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Keep Pawing At Me?

You’re absolutely right – pawing can mean many different things coming from our furry friends, ranging from the sweetly endearing to the downright demanding.

By taking the time to understand the root cause behind each pawing fit and redirecting them with patience and consistency, we can build that strong, respectful bond we all want.

Our furry kids will be much happier once they realize demanding disasters get them nowhere, while sitting pretty like a good boy/girl is what earns them our undivided love and adoration.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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