Why Do Dogs Cross Their Paws? – Answered

Dogs often sit in weird positions and take unusual stances. However, when a dog crosses its paws, it literally radiates with elegance and seriousness. This impressive statue might seem funny, especially when exhibited by an otherwise rambunctious dog and clownish. But, as a dog parent, it is reasonable to question why a playful dog would take such a serious demeanor? 

So, why do dogs cross their paws? Dogs cross their paws for many reasons, including body language, relaxation posture, happiness or comfort, and submission. Interestingly, crossed paws are a breed-specific behavior in some dogs, while in others, it can be a positively reinforced habit. Regardless of the underlying reason, the popular term for crossed paws is “polite paws” because a dog with crossed legs always seems like a lady or gentleman. 

This article will review the top reasons why dogs cross their paws to explain that dogs are not as weird as it often seems. We will also say a word or two about why dogs are so protective of their paws. Finally, we will answer some common questions about dogs and paws.


Polite paws may look elegant or cute but are not always accidental. Namely, dogs can cross their paws because of various reasons, and some of them are quite purposeful. Here are the top 7 reasons why dogs cross their paws. 

Body language and an expression form

Dogs cannot use words to communicate, but their body language is quite advanced, especially if you know how to pay attention. Although the tail is the strongest weapon in the dog’s body language dictionary, it is not the only one. 

Dogs use their paws to express both emotions and needs. For example, when a dog uses its paws to push another dog, it is exhibiting dominance. If a dog paws at you, it probably wants something from you – a toy, a treat, or simply attention. 

In those terms, when your dog crosses its paws, it is likely trying to tell you something. It would be best if you observed its overall posture and body language to figure out what. 

Comfort and relaxation posture

When humans cross their legs, it is because they feel comfortable enough to do so. The same applies to dogs. Plus, while keeping the paws crossed, the elbows are rotated outwards, and the shoulders are relieved of the usual weight they bear. 

Therefore, if your dog keeps its paws crossed, it can be either comfortable and laid back or exhausted and trying to keep the weight off its tired shoulders. 

Breed-specific behavior

It may seem odd, but certain dog breeds are more likely to sit with their paws crossed. Can you guess which breeds radiate with elegance?

Well, crossed paws are most frequently observed in Poodles, Border Collies, and Labradors. Interestingly, these dog breeds rank pretty high on all “most intelligent breed” lists. Therefore, it is safe to assume that keeping their paws crossed might be due to imitation. 

Dogs look up to their owners and can copy their behaviors. Therefore, if you prefer sitting with your legs crossed, chances are your dog is imitating you. 

On the other hand, certain dog breeds cannot cross their paws due to anatomical limitations. For example, the Dachshund’s legs are too short for crossing while the Bulldog’s chest is too wide and keeps the legs separated. 

Extreme happiness, content, and comfort

The fight or flight response in dogs is quite accented. Even when in a safe and relaxed environment, dogs are always alert and ready to run if necessary. 

Based on this concept, we can assume that keeping the paws crossed is a sign of extreme happiness, content, and comfort. Just think about it – if your legs are crossed, it will take an extra moment to get up and start running. 

The same applies to dogs. And in the wild, an extra second can make the difference between running from a predator and being caught. 

Treats and encouraged behavior

Sometimes as dog parents, we tend to encourage certain behaviors without being aware of what we are doing. 

Imagine the following scenario – you spot your dog is in its “polite paws” position. You start to laugh and reward your dog for making you laugh by petting it or offering tasty treats

Even if there is no petting or rewards involved, your dog’s behavior resulted in attention. And most dogs have attention-seeking personalities. 

Once your dog associates the crossed paws with treats, petting, or attention, it will start to cross its paws simply because of the benefits that come with the behavior. 

Paw crossing lessons

Dogs are like sponges – with the right approach and teaching techniques, they can learn to do many things. Keeping their paws crossed is one of the things dogs can easily learn. 

All it takes are tons of treats, affectionate praises, some patience, and positive reinforcement techniques, and your dog will start crossing its paws in no time. 

Low body stance and submission

The final reason why dogs might cross their paws is to exhibit submission. In general, the basic signs of submission include lowering the body, keeping the tail down or between the legs, and avoiding eye contact. 

However, many dogs tend to cross their paws while showing these other signs of submissiveness. Once again, keeping the paws crossed would make the dog need more time to stand up and defend itself, but if surrendering, there is no need for defense. 


There are several reasons why dogs are overly protective of their paws. However, these are the top 3 most common reasons. 

Paw sensitivity

The specific science term paw sensitivity indicates that the dog’s paws are one of the most sensitive body parts. While the leathery underside of the paws is uniquely evolved to sustain a certain degree of damage from rough and harsh terrains and surfaces, the upper side is particularly sensitive. 

Basically, your dog feels more uncomfortable when you handle its paws than when someone is tingling your feet. And same as people, some dogs are less resilient to tickling. 

Vital body part protection

The dog’s tendency to protect its paws is an inherited trait wired deeply into the genetic code. Paw protectiveness is the result of the dog’s natural instinct to protect vital body parts. 

The paws might not seem like a vital body part from our point of view. However, if we try seeing things from a canine perspective, we will realize how important paws are. 

Namely, dogs use their paws for hunting, digging, protecting themselves, and move around in search of resources (food, water, dens) and mates. 

Bad experience

A dog may be overly reluctant to have its paws handled if it has experienced something bad in the past. For example, a dog can easily associate touching its paws with negative feelings if someone has accidentally cut its nail too short. 

If you have your dog’s nails trimmed at the vet, your dog does not have to have its nail cut short to associate paw handling with bad memories. Seeing the vet is stressful enough on its own. 


If your dog likes to keep its paws crossed, just sit there and enjoy the view. Crossed paws in dogs are not troublesome, but it is definitely a funny one, especially when a clownish dog does it. 

It is worth mentioning that cats engage in paw crossing behavior too. However, when a cat sits with her paws crossed, there is nothing elegant or funny about it. In fact, when a cat looks so serious, she is probably plotting something cunning, like, for example, world domination lol. 


Why do dogs give you their paw without asking?

If your dog is giving you its paws, it is trying to initiate interaction and express its affection for you. Touch has a soothing effect on dogs, and they are well aware it has a soothing effect on us. 

Why do female dogs cross their paws?

Some paw crossing reasons are the same in both males and females. However, females have one more reason to cross their paws, and that is attracting males. So yes, crossed paws in a female dog can be the canine equivalent of flirting in people. 

How strong are the dog’s paws?

The dog’s paws are uniquely built to withstand mechanical and chemical insults. However, they are not as tough as we generally believe. For example, in summer, if the pavement is too hot for our bare feet, it is probably too hot for dogs’ paws too. 

Do my dog’s paws need special care?

Yes, it would be best if you took regular and proper care of your dog’s paws. For example, you should clean them after going out, trim the hairs that grow between the toes as they can harbor debris, use special waxes and oils to keep them moisturized, and invest in a nice pair of dog booties. 

Do dogs sweat through their paws?

Yes, the dog’s sweating mechanism is not as efficiently developed as ours. Dogs lose heat mainly through panting. However, the paws are also an essential part of the heat radiating mechanism as dogs sweat through their paws.