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That your dog « paws » you is usually accepted as a gesture or indication of a certain dominance of the owner over the pet, or perhaps as a sign of affection of the animal towards you. However, deciphering a dog’s behaviors is usually not that simple. In fact, reason is sometimes far from what we usually believe.
This is discussed in an entry by the expert and dog trainer Rebecca Forrest on Thedogclinic.com. The woman explains that dogs that put their paws on humans generally want to communicate one of several things.
One of them, possibly the most obvious, is attention, and the method is probably reinforced by past interactions. For example, when they put a paw on someone, it is usually seen as endearing and results in petting. The dog learns that the act will result in a belly rub, so they continue to do so.
But as we said, there are more motivations. Forrest says that many dogs like to paw when they are hungry or when they feel they are supposed to serve them dinner. In this way, “the act is a reminder that it is time to eat. (Naturally, owners shouldn’t react by offering a snack or meal every time), ”he explains.
A third option is due to the stress that the animal can suffer. In this case, the expert suggests that « we can check it if the dog’s ears are flat or if they smack their lips, which are other signs of distress. »
Finally, dogs can « give us the paw » for no other reason than to want to bond in some way with their owner. In this case, « touching releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, » so if your dog paws at you, he may be seeking attention, hungry, or feeling stressed, although it may also be a sign that he simply wants to strengthen your friendship. [The dog clinic via Mental Floss]