There are a number of interesting reasons why your pup might place his paws on your upper body, including to show you affection, to assert dominance, because he’s anxious, and many others. Although it may feel peculiar, the majority of the time, your dog is trying to show you affection.
If, like us, you have sat and questioned, “why does my dog like to place his paws on my shoulders?” then you’re not alone. In this post, we’ll discover some of the possible reasons why your dog places his paws on your shoulders and what you can do if you want him to stop.
He wants something from you
Dogs are clever creatures, and it could be the case yours has learned to get what he wants by putting his paws on your shoulders. If you tend to give your dog belly rubs, toys, or treats after he has placed his paws on your shoulders, he will do it again to try and get them next time from you.
Your dog will often place his paws on you because it makes him feel safer. You might commonly notice this when something unsettles him, such as being in a new place or loud noises and fireworks. This is entirely normal and isn’t usually something to be concerned about.
However, if you do notice your dog putting his paws on your shoulders before you leave the house, it can be a warning sign of separation anxiety. There are plenty of ways to combat separation anxiety in your dog, including saying goodbye to him before you leave the house and leaving your dog at home for short periods of time to get them used to being away from you.
If you are concerned your dog may have separation anxiety, it is always best to check with a registered professional.
To assert dominance
Dogs are naturally dominant creatures, and your dog could be placing his paws on your upper body to show you who’s boss. While many dogs take a neutral or submissive approach towards dominance, some dogs will challenge their owners by placing their paws on their shoulders, growling, or in some instances, even biting.
If you’ve noticed your dog being dominant towards you, the first thing you should do is try to assert your power over them. One of the best ways to do this is by being level-headed and confident and commanding he sits or lies down.
It’s important when handling a dominant dog to remain calm and firm, so your dog knows never to do it again.
He wants attention
Similar to tapping you with his paw and laying his head on you, your dog is likely placing his paws on your upper body as a way to get your attention. Whether that’s to let them out for a bathroom break, to play with them or to give them belly rubs, your dog just wants your attention!
To show you affection
Dogs don’t just use their paws as a way to get your attention; they use them to show you love and affection too! By placing their paws on the back or front of your shoulders, or any other area of your body, your dog is attempting to say he loves you. We pet our dogs to show them we love them, and they’re trying to do the same back – pretty cool, right?
Studies have shown that touching your dog releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of love and satisfaction. When your dog places his paws on your body, this hormone is released, so it could explain why they love placing their paws on your shoulders!
He wants exercise
A playful dog who wants to go out for a walk will often try a number of tactics to get you to follow suit. He may put his paws on your shoulders, chase his tail or even paw at your knee in an attempt to show you he wants to go outside and play fetch.
While it can be frustrating, dogs understand this is one of the best ways to show you they’ve got energy and want to go outside and play.
He’s saying sorry to you
While your dog putting his paws on your shoulders can be a sign of demanding behavior, it can also be your dog’s way of saying sorry for something he’s done. A guilty puppy may put his paws on your shoulders while giving you the sad puppy dog’s eyes, and this is his way of giving you an apology.
It’s likely your dog does this because it’s worked for him in the past. Think back to a time when he did something he shouldn’t have and how he gave you the puppy dog eyes and his paws then. Your dog has learnt this behaviour and so will do this whenever they know they’re in the wrong.
He’s annoyed at you
Just like moody teenagers, some dogs can have attitudes. While some dogs will give you the puppy dog eyes when they know they’re in the dog house, others will challenge your authority by pawing your shoulders! By your dog putting his paws on your shoulders after getting a telling off, he’s showing he’s annoyed you shouted at him and stopped his fun!
He was trained the way
Like all dog behaviors, the act of your dog pawing your shoulders may have been something he was trained to do, either by his previous owner or as something he has picked up along the way. Dogs can be trained out of behaviors by using a range of techniques, including praise and treats when he doesn’t do it. Although it can take time to train your dog out of bad habits, it is rewarding once your dog stops doing it.
If you are struggling to train your dog at home, we recommend always consulting professional dog trainers who should be able to assist you.
Should I let my dog put his paws on my shoulders?
While many of us enjoy our dogs pawing our shoulders, it can get frustrating if it’s happening on a regular basis. When dogs realize they can get what they want by pawing you, they will continue to do so wherever they can.
In most cases, your dog is fighting for your attention but allowing your dog to continue this behavior is only opening them up to a whole host of bad-mannered behavior.
While our pets are like a member of our family, it’s important to ensure the relationship is respectful. You wouldn’t tolerate a friend or family member that constantly put their hands on your shoulders every time they wanted something, would you? The relationship with our dogs should be no different.
How can I get my dog to stop putting his paws on my shoulders?
It can be difficult to stop your dog from pawing your shoulders, but if it’s becoming annoying, the main thing you can do to stop this behavior is by telling them to stop. Next time your pup tries to put his paws on your shoulders, you should stop him and correct his behavior straight away. Encourage him to sit or lie down instead and reward him for being good.
Each time your pup tries to paw your shoulders, try to delay the time it takes for you to give him attention. By delaying the amount of time it takes, your dog will start to learn that his behavior is unacceptable.
The most difficult part of this is sticking to it, as our dogs can be quite convincing when they need to be. If training at home isn’t a success, you can try taking your dog to dog training.
While there are a number of endearing reasons behind why your dog puts his paws on your shoulders, none of these will lead to an obedient dog in the long run, especially if your dog starts to do this on a regular basis.
When your dogs’ shoulder pawing gets a little too much, assert your own power over them by telling them no and getting them to sit or lie down. Remember: never punish your pooch for doing something they believe is normal, as this could lead to a poor relationship with your dog. Instead, show them that you’re the boss and are much happier when they get your attention in other, more positive ways.