Why Does My Dog Put His Paw On Me?

What does that paw mean? 🤔

dog holding hands with a person

There are few things more adorable than when your pup puts his paw on you as you’re rubbing his belly. It's so nice to feel chosen that you probably don’t want to move and disturb him — but what’s he actually saying when he does that?

We reached out to Aaron Rice, an animal behaviorist and expert dog trainer at Stayyy, to answer the question: Why does my dog put his paw on me?

Why does my dog put his paw on me all the time?

When a dog puts his paw on you, it’s his way of trying to talk to you. Since dogs can’t speak, they have to communicate nonverbally with their owners.

“A dog's paw is a very powerful tool,” Rice told The Dodo. “It can be used to express a range of emotions, from being excited to being fearful or even being aggressive. It could be to get attention, to show affection or to communicate that they want something.”

To get your attention and tell you he wants something

Pawing is a learned behavior. Most pet parents will pet their dogs, praise them or give them a treat when they put their paws on them, which reinforces the behavior. So if your pup sees that putting his paw on you gets him attention, he’ll keep doing it.

“A paw on you means that they want attention, food, water or to go outside,” Rice said. “Some dogs might just want your attention, and they will use their paws to get it.”

If it’s around dinnertime, your pup might be trying to tell you he’s hungry. Or if you just stopped petting him, he could be trying to say, “Don’t stop.”

To show he loves you

If your pup puts his paw on you while you’re rubbing his belly, there’s a good chance he’s letting you know he loves you.

“A paw on you is a sign of affection and trust,” Rice said.

Touching, looking into your dog’s eyes and spending time together release the hormone oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. This is the hormone that gets released when mothers feed their newborns, and also facilitates the parenting instinct, making moms want to care for their babies.

So you actually get bonded to your dog when you’re touching him (and when he’s touching you by putting his paw on you).

To calm himself

Your pup might want comfort from you. “A paw on you can also be used as a calming technique by your furry friend when they are feeling anxious or stressed out,” Rice said.

And you’ll feel less stressed if you pet your pup, too. Just like staring into your dog’s eyes releases oxytocin, spending time with him also reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

So petting your pup can actually be good for you.

If you pay attention to the context clues when your dog puts his paw on you, you’ll be able to understand what he’s trying to say. Whether it’s food, playtime or pets he wants, you have to admit — pawing’s a pretty cute way to communicate.