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Why Does My Dog Hit Me With His Paw? Top 10 Reasons

Why Does My Dog Hit Me With His Paw

Picture this.

It’s a laid-back day and you’re chilling on the couch. 

Your dog comes into the room and sits next to you. 

But what happens next has you baffled. 

They’re hitting you with their paw. 

It has you wondering, “Why?”

  • 3 tips to stop your dog from doing it. 
  • Top 10 reasons why my dog hits me with his paw.
  • The surprising reason why pawing at you = comfort.
  • Effective training tricks to help your pooch stop the behavior.
  • And much more…

Why does my dog hit me with his paw?

Your dog hits you with his paw because they learned it gets your attention. They also might be trying to tell you that they’re in pain, want pets, or want to comfort you. It can be their way of petting you back or showing affection. Fearful and anxious dogs may also try to paw at their owner.

Top 10 reasons why your dog hits you with his paw

#1: They’re trying to speak to you

Dogs talk in many ways. 

And the basis of their communication is body language.

So it’s possible that your pooch is trying to talk to you. 

And they do it by hitting with their paw. 

But what do they want? 

Keep reading to find out.

#2: They want your attention

A hit with your paw is a sure way to get your attention.

It’s like your dog is saying,

“Hey, hooman. Look at me!”

And sometimes your dog may feel that they’re not getting enough love.

So they want to get your attention in any way they can. 

Even if it means negative attention like scolding or pushing them away.

You might also like: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Wraps His Paws Around You

#3: It’s because of training 

Training is a great way to bond with your dog. 

And a great training process means that your dog learns to think for themselves.

By that I mean with:

  • Proper socialization.
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Rewards-based training.

But with training, your dog learns what behaviors gain your attention. 

This isn’t negative in any way.

It means that your pooch has learned to apply the knowledge acquired in training. 

This is possible especially if your dog already knows “Sit”,“Paw” or “Shake”

Observe the actions of your pooch before they paw at you.

Do they perform a “Sit”?

Does your dog follow it by extending their paw in a “Shake”?

Hitting you with their paw may be a combination of learned commands. 

Independent pooches

If your dog does this it’s a sign of independent thinking. 

And some dog breeds are more likely to think for themselves than others.

Newsweek lists the independent thinker breeds:

  • Pugs.
  • Pekingese.
  • Greyhound.
  • Chow Chow.
  • Basset Hound. 
  • Tibetan Spaniel.
  • American Foxhound.

#4: “Keep petting me hooman”

This happens when you’re already petting your dog. And you stop. 

Your dog’s saying:

“What da hek? Where’s the pets?”

My friend’s dog, Duchess, likes getting petted in a particular spot. 

She’d stand still. All blinky-eyed when you scratch her chest. 

But when you stop doing it… 

Duchess looks at you and paws at your hand. Or the body part nearest to her. 

And she does it every time.

It’s such adorable behavior that her family doesn’t even try to correct her.

Read next: Why does my dog grunt when I hug him?

#5: To comfort you

Your Dog Hits You With His Paw To Comfort You

After more than 30,000 years with humans, it’s no wonder dogs can read us so well.

They can even tell when humans are sad.

Research has long confirmed that dogs display empathic behaviors to humans.

But this study adds additional findings.

The researchers recorded the reactions of dogs to laughing and crying actions. 

A stranger and the owner did the experiment with the dogs. 

And they found that dogs responded more to crying than laughing. It didn’t matter who the person was. 

They showed visual and physical reactions to the person crying. Like nuzzling or licking.

The study also measured the heart rate of the dog. 

And they found that the higher the heart rate and stress response, the more likely the dog showed person-oriented behaviors. 

#6: They’re not feeling great

If your dog paws at you, they might be trying to tell you that they’re in pain. 

Your dog only has limited communication mediums for humans. 

And some dog owners may not be well-versed with their dog’s body language.

Dogs are even masters at hiding their pain. 

It’s a behavior left over from their wild wolf ancestors. It stops other animals from knowing that they’re vulnerable to attack.

But you can still look out for it by reading their body language.

“What are the signs of pain in dogs?”

According to Davies Vet Specialists, observe your dog for these behaviors:

Typical Signs of Pain in Dogs
General behaviorWhen touched/inspected
– Crying.
– Panting.
– Limping.
– Shaking.
– Lethargy.
– Stiffness.
– Lip licking.
– Low posture.
– Flattened ears.
– Licking or scratching at a specific body part.
– Panting.
– Lip licking.
– Vocal reactions.
– Turning head away.
– Increased heart rate.
– Moving away from touch.
– Red, swollen, & warm pain area.

#7: An anxious doggy

Anxious or stressed dogs often go to their owners for comfort. 

It means that they see you as a safe space

Check your dog for the signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Pacing.
  • Licking.
  • Panting.
  • Shaking.
  • Yawning.
  • Drooling.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Rapid eye blinking.
  • Hiding and escaping behavior.

If your dog displays these signs, stay calm. 

And lead your dog to a quiet place. 

“What causes anxiety in dogs?”

It’s common for dogs to have fears. 

According to AKC, this helps them survive.

But there is a problem when fear becomes so ingrained. It becomes a phobia.

Phobias or the anticipation of phobias cause your dog to feel stress. 

Your dog gets anxious. 

And it’s dangerous if left untreated.

There are all kinds of phobias:

  • Sound.
  • Strangers.
  • Situational.
  • Blood injection.

Warning: Dogs with uncorrected phobias can develop extreme reactions. This can be dangerous for other people or animals that come in contact with the dog. 

These dogs have aggressive behavior because of their fears or phobias.

And according to the VCA, fear or anxiety is the most common cause. 

“What are the signs of dog aggression?”

Dogs will display appeasing behavior to diffuse the situation.

This includes:

  • Licking.
  • Yawning.
  • Tucked tail.
  • Ears pinned back.
  • Avoiding eye contact. 
  • Crouched body posture.

If the source of their fear such as a person or another dog doesn’t back away, the behavior escalates.

The dog can: 

  • Bite.
  • Snap.
  • Growl.

It is dangerous to live with an aggressive dog. 

Look for an animal behaviorist who specializes in counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques. 

These training methods are based on classical conditioning.

The SPCA states that counter-conditioning undoes the effects of fear. 

It pairs a conditioned stimulus (reaction to fear) with an unconditioned stimulus (food or treats).

And desensitization is a method that lets dogs gradually get used to a stimulus they find scary. 

The trainer stops just at their threshold. And leads them away. 

Their reaction will diminish. And with enough time, the dog can tolerate the stimulus even if they’re very close to it. 

#8: It’s a learned behavior

Dogs are smart animals. They don’t just learn from training. 

Our pooches also learn from their environment.

They learn by association. 

If they learn that what they do gets them something positive. This can be pets or treats. 

They create a positive association. And they do it more. 

But if they create negative associations, they don’t want to do it anymore. 

For example…

Your dog learns that you put on your coat and bag when leaving. 

They don’t like that. 

So your dog gets anxious. They might vocalize and chew some stuff

In another situation…

Your pooch knows that walkies are coming when you get their leash.

So they eagerly go to the door. Or jump around with a wagging tail. 

Now back to hitting you with their paw.

It’s possible that your dog learned that they get these from you:

  • Pets.
  • Laughter.
  • High-pitched talk. 

These actions let your dog know that they like what you’re doing. 

And bam! 

Positive association. 

Your pooch now keeps doing it to please you. 

But it may become annoying. 

Keep reading till the end for fun ways to correct your dog from this habit.

#9: They’re petting you back

Petting feels great for your pooch. 

They even like your pets more than a “Good doggy”

This study finds it true in 3 different groups of dogs. The researchers alternated with 3 interactions.

Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer petting to vocal praise in concurrent and single-alternative choice procedures.

Dog GroupsInteractions
– Shelter dogs.
– Owned dogs with owners providing interactions.
– Owned dogs but strangers provided the interactions.
– Petting and vocal praise.
– 8 sessions of petting, each 3 minutes long.
– Vocal praise and no interaction. 

The results proved that dogs like petting rather than vocal praise. 

In fact, the dogs didn’t want to come near with vocal praise and no interaction.

With petting, the dogs wanted to be near. It didn’t matter if it was their owner or a stranger.

And their behavior indicated that they didn’t want the petting to stop.

This is how much dogs like it when we pet them.

So touching you with their paw means they only want to return that nice feeling.

#10: “I love you, hooman”

Dogs learn a lot by watching humans. 

This study even found that this behavior is present in puppies as young as 8-weeks old.

The researchers had the puppies try to solve a problem. Which was a puzzle box baited with food. 

First, the researchers had 3 demonstrators solve the puzzle:

  • Humans. 
  • Other dogs.
  • Mother dog.

The puppies learned how to do it. They even remembered the experience for 1 hour after that. 

This shows that even young puppies learn by watching the people and dogs around them. 

It is possible that your dog has learned that petting is your way of showing affection. 

So they try to do it, too. 

Unfortunately, they can’t do it that properly

But it indicates that dogs can learn how to show affection like humans do.

How do I stop my dog from hitting me with his paw? 3 tips

#1: Don’t reward the behavior

It can get annoying if your dog does it all the time to you. 

So if you want to stop your dog, you can do these:

Stand up and leave

This teaches your dog that they won’t get attention from you if they keep doing it. 

It also takes the giver of reward (you) away from them. 

Wait a few minutes before coming back inside the room.

Don’t use rewarding actions

Our dogs can read us like a book using our body language. 

So control your body language to show that it’s not getting a reaction from you.

Rewarding actions can be any of the following:

  • Petting. 
  • Laughing.
  • Pushing them away. 
  • Speaking in a high-pitched voice.

This tells your dog, 

“I like what you’re doing, so keep doing that!”

And do not punish your dogs. For them it still counts as attention. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s negative. They’ll have it in any way they can take it.

Note: If your dog starts pawing at you, they might be trying to tell you something. 

Check if your dog displays signs of wanting to go to the bathroom. Such as sniffing around or circling. 

If not, your dog may just want your attention.

#2: Turn it into a trick

It’s something that your dog already does. 

So why not train your dog to do it on command?

It’s something you can use during parties. Or when introducing new people to your pooch.

Remember to make it an experience where your dog makes positive associations.

Watch this video and learn 3 ways to teach your pup to turn pawing into a “Shake”:

#3: Reward the behavior you want

Doggy paws can feel rough on your skin. 

And when they do it all the time to you, it’s not a fun experience. 

So correct this behavior in your dog by giving your dog attention when they’re not hitting you with their paw. 

You can bring around a small pack of high-value treats to reward them. 

Petting and praise are also great options for attention. 

Keep it sporadic. And stop when they start pawing at you.