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7 Reasons Why Your Dog Hits You With Its Paw + 3 Tips

Why Does My Dog Hit Me With Its Paw

Each dog has their own quirk. 

Some dogs run in their sleep, while others swat you with their paws.

They mostly paw your arm, chest, or face once you lie down.

Annoying, isn’t it?

Many people think that they do this for attention. But is this the only reason?

Keep reading to discover: 

  • If pawing can lead to worse behaviors. 
  • What your dog tries to say when pawing.
  • A pawing-alternative trick your dog can learn.
  • And so much more… 

Why does my dog hit me with its paw?

Your dog hits you with its paw because it’s their way of communicating. Pawing might mean that your dog’s scolded, hungry, or wants to play. They will also paw if they demand more love from you or they’re rebelling against you. If you’re sad, pawing is a sign that your dog feels empathy. 

7 reasons why your dog hits you with its paw

#1: You scolded them  

Being a dog parent isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are times where you’ll feel upset about your dog’s actions. 

And there’s a tendency that dog parents raise their voice or scold their dogs whenever they’re upset. 

What some people don’t know is that dogs can feel their dog parent’s emotions. And because of this, your pooch might look apologetic. 

However, it’s not what you think. Dogs have no ethical understanding of what’s right and wrong.

Instead, they get cues from their dog parent’s tone of voice. 

A study revealed that dogs can have the tendency to look guilty. And at times, they look guilty even if they’re innocent. 

The study also elaborates that dogs act this way because they got scolded. As a result, they feel stressed.

One of the ways your dog might attempt to approach you after this is by pawing at you. 

Here are other signs that people interpret as “guilt” in dogs:

  • Tucked tail.
  • Flattened ears.
  • Hunched posture.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Visible whites of the eyes.

Note: Avoid scolding your dog. The best form of discipline is through positive reinforcement. 

#2: It’s their way of communicating 

You can compare your dogs to children. I call you a ‘dog parent’ for a reason. 

If a child wants the attention of its parent, some actions they do are poke their parents or tug their clothing. 

And like children, dogs can also have a time that they want your attention. Them giving you the paw means that you should have a one-on-one session with them. 

After all, dogs communicate through body language. You can know that your dog needs something based on these actions. 

Other ways dogs communicate are:

  • Yawning. 
  • Sneezing. 
  • Eye contact. 
  • Tail posture. 
  • Tongue flicking. 

And this can go the other way too! Your dog might paw you as if they’re the one petting you. 

The reason why they touch you with their paw, in this case, is to show affection. 

Yes, it might get annoying but don’t get this action the wrong way. After all, their feet aren’t the same as our hands. 

#3: The petting demand is high

If you’re petting them, they might paw you if you stop. If your dog does this, it only means that they want more petting from you. 

In some cases, they might use their mouth to tell you where to scratch them. You might mistake this for biting, but they’re basically carrying your hands to the spot. 

Pawing is their way of saying that you should continue this action. The same goes for belly rubs. 

But, you might think that all dogs want to be petted. No, this isn’t entirely true. 

Some dogs like petting while others find it irritating. What you need to do is do a consent test and find your dog’s petting spot. 

First, try to pet your dog. Then, take your hand away from them. How do they act?

Do they lick their lips more frequently? Do they turn their head and body? Does their back shrink? Do they look for your hand? 

If the answer to all or most of the questions is ‘yes’, they might hate petting. 

#4: They want or need food

Your dog might paw you in an instant when they want a piece of what you’re eating. In other cases, they will paw you if they’re hungry. 

And you know what’s more annoying than a pawing dog? A dog who constantly asks for your food. 

Many dog parents give human food to their dog. But this isn’t advisable as your pooch might act rowdy just to get your attention. 

They might associate rowdiness as good behavior if you give food every time they act this way. 

They might also ask for your food because they see you eating it. This means that your dog will want your food because it completely trusts your instincts. 

Over the last 50 years, humans treat dogs as family members and not as pets. Because of this, the quality of food that we feed our dogs changed as well. 

Check out also: Why does my dog bark while I’m eating?

#5: Empathy

Have you ever been sad and then a friend tapped you on the shoulder? They even became your shoulder to cry on. 

Your dog might also paw you because of this reason. Unlike other animals, dogs can read human emotions as if they’re one of us. 

They do this through facial expressions. But, they can also know what we feel based on our voices

When pawing occurs, it’s your dog’s way of saying that they’re with you even in times of sadness. 

They might even lay on your lap if they feel that you need support. This means that in a way, your dog has the qualities of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). 

And if you think you need one, you should contact your local mental health professional. 

#6: It’s playtime 

It's Your Dog's Playtime

In dog language, dogs paw each other (or the ground) when it’s time to play. And since they can’t speak, this is the way they express themselves to you. 

They might want to play if they did the “play bow” too. This is when your dog puts their front legs on the ground and their back end in the air. 

Barking combined with a wagging tail is a sure sign that your dog wants to play with you. The bark might sound scary sometimes, but their body language tells the opposite. 

Besides pawing, there is another sign that dog parents find annoying to a playful dog. This sign is play-biting. 

There’s a chance that your dog might play-bite your hand if they want to have fun. Puppies play bite more than adult dogs. 

For puppies, it’s alright to play-bite because they need to learn how to bite softly. But, you should encourage them to bite toys and not you.

#7: Teenage angst

Remember when you went through a teenage phase? Some try to be as cool as they can while others try to oppose the system. 

Dogs can have the same “angsty teen” phase too. One of the actions they display to rebel is by hitting you with their paw. 

Most dogs have this rebellious phase between puppyhood and adulthood. Your dog might look like an adult, but their mind is still young. 

The maturity of a dog depends on their breed. But, they usually rebel around 7 to 12 months of age. 

Other signs that tell your dog is rebelling: 

  • Selective amnesia. 
  • Excessive wandering.
  • Refusal to obey commands.

Many people that think their dogs are stubborn just don’t know the fact. According to a shelter’s statistics, 33% of dogs coming in there are ranging from 7-12 months old.  

This means that a huge fraction of the dogs coming to the shelter are adolescents. 

Is pawing a bad thing?

No, pawing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just like barking or eye contact, pawing is one of the ways your dog talks to you. 

As long as they don’t paw you frequently, there’s nothing to worry about. 

You should not put pawing in a bad light. But I understand where you’re coming from. Pawing is annoying and sometimes, it can even get painful due to their nails. 

For the most part, dogs who paw their dog parents want attention as soon as possible. This can lead to a lack of manners if not corrected. 

Pawing can lead to scratching. But worse, your dog might not think of boundaries when you allow this kind of behavior. 

A dog that always paws is like a friend who always pulls your arm whenever they want something.

3 tips on what to do if your dog hits you with its paw

#1: Clip their nails 

One of the reasons why dog parents hate their dog’s pawing is because of their claw-like nails. 

If you don’t know how to cut their nails, it’s better to rely on a dog groomer. Their nails can easily bleed if you cut them the wrong way. 

This can traumatize your dog and they may refuse to get their nails trimmed again. But if you can’t go to a dog groomer, make sure you use the right clippers. 

Warning: Never use human nail clippers for dogs because our nails are different. Spring-loaded and plier-style nail clippers are what most vets recommend. 

Some dog nail clippers even have a guard. That way, you won’t cut your dog’s nails too short. 

If you want an easier method, you can use a dog file. Most dogs need their nails clipped every 3 to 4 weeks but it still varies on the breed. 

If this is your first time clipping your dog’s nails, you might want to take a look at this video: 

#2: Correct the behavior 

Your dog paws at you always because they get a positive response from you. What you can do is ignore your dog every time they paw you. 

You can also command them to sit or stop whenever they’re pawing. Once your dog is calm, give them lots of traits and praises. 

It might take time before your dog realizes that pawing is unacceptable. But, like what they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

You should understand that training takes time. And please, don’t use negative reinforcement as a method of training. 

This might only make your dog’s attitude worse. They might develop fear-biting if you hit or shout at them. 

If your training fails to correct this behavior, your dog should undergo obedience training. 

#3: Understand their pawing 

Yes, pawing is annoying at times. But, you should also be understanding about your pet’s needs.

As a dog parent, you should never ban pawing completely. What you should do is set boundaries when pawing is allowed. 

The best thing to do is focus on your dog when they’re trying to paw you. Look what their eyes, tail, and ears say too. 

Yes, there are better forms of communication than pawing. But sometimes, pawing can also be acceptable. 

Some of these moments are when your dog is hungry or when they feel pain. 

Bonus: Teach them to shake ‘hands’ instead

The best alternative for pawing is shaking. This is similar to pawing but doesn’t involve force or scratching. 

Breeds like Boxers, Dachshunds, Terriers, Beagles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Siberian Huskies are more prone to pawing. 

This is because they’re great diggers as well. And because they use paws when shaking, it won’t be that difficult in teaching them. 

Here’s how to teach them the shake command:

  1. Make your dog sit in front of you. 
  2. Hold your hand out to a dog. 
  3. Wait for your dog to paw your hand.
  4. Give them a treat as soon as they do.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for consistency. 
  6. Start building duration for the trick. 

Once they know that they won’t get a treat by pawing, say the “shake” command whenever performing the trick.

If your main goal is just to stop the pawing, teaching them to shake with one paw is enough. Make sure to know which their dominant paw is. 

Yes, you read that right. Dogs have a dominant paw just like humans have a dominant hand. In fact, most dogs are right-handed or right-pawed, if you prefer, just like us.