Dogs are great communicators; we just need to learn their language to understand it!
Take pawing, it’s a communication method all on its own. If we master it, and therefore manage it early on, the rules are set to avoid misunderstanding, frustration, and annoyance on both sides in the future.
What does it mean when your dog paws you or puts his paw on you?
Well, pawing or placement of paw on you can mean a few things, like:
- Attention seeking
- Discomfort / Pain
The trick is to check out other body language being used at the same time as the pawing to determine what your dog means at that time.
A wagging tail and pricked ears along with pawing most likely means ‘hey, play with me!’.
Pacing, whining, and/or quick glances around along with pawing could mean he’s anxious, in pain or discomfort.
A relaxed posture, soppy face, and placing his paw on you rather than constant pawing probably means he wants some love.
The more time you spend with your furry friend, the more you’ll pick up the subtle nuances of his language.
Should you encourage pawing?
You certainly shouldn’t stop pawing as an option altogether.
As I’ve said already, it’s one way for him to communicate with you. And given there are a limited number of ways we can communicate together, removing one will only make it harder for you to know what he wants, or more importantly, what he may need at times.
How can you manage pawing?
Training is the only way to manage pawing so you both know the boundaries between acceptable pawing and unacceptable pawing.
(Because as soon as he realises he can get his way with pawing for attention, food, playtime, or other, the more he’ll use it to do just that!)
So whatever age you and your pooch are united is the time to set the ground rules.
First, here are a few considerations when it comes to understanding pawing:
1 Observe behaviour
When he paws you or puts his paw on you, what else is he doing? Is he:
Relaxed or alert?
Whining or barking?
Boisterous or calm?
2 Check the pawing action. Is it:
3 Is it only at a certain time of day?
Near meal times
When it’s time for a walk
After eating and he needs the loo
By taking the time to understand his pawing, you should be able to figure out how to best manage it.
And this is where the boundaries are owner-specific.
Some dog parents will love to cuddle and play and show affection for hours at a time. Others won’t. You need to know what your boundaries are to be able to work with him so he understands.
The key, however, is to be consistent.
It’s not fair on him if one day you return home to his excited pawing by dropping everything to start playing with him, and the next you ignore him completely.
So decide your boundaries, then teach him.
Easy… well the method is at least, it could take a little time for your meaning to sink in though!
Oh and I should say upfront, if you think the pawing is because he’s in pain, all rules go out the window. Obviously. Take him to the vet to get professional help.
Okay, so if it’s not pain and you want to manage his attention-seeking, playtime, food request, or strokes, try…
- Asking your dog to sit when he starts pawing
- When he sits, reward him by giving him affection or throwing a toy
- Continue with this until he sits for attention without any pawing
- Once you’ve mastered that, it’s time to let him wait without any response
- So when he comes and sits for attention, give a command that shows he won’t get what he wants straight away, he’ll have to wait a while. This could be ‘wait’ or ‘not now’ or whatever works for you, but be consistent with the same command
- Eventually he’ll walk away when he realises now is not the time for play, cuddles or food
- After a while the pawing should stop completely or be minimised to your preference
Then remember to spend time with him when it does suit you.
Go on plenty of big walks. Treat him to some enhancement activities. Show him heaps of love and give him tons of affection when you’re relaxing in front of the tele.
As long as your pooch knows all his needs are met, even if they aren’t quite to his timings or as much as he’d like, you’ll have a loving and loyal friend by your side.