If you have a German Shepherd, chances are you have experienced your furry friend placing its paw on you when you did not request it. Sometimes repeatedly, as if to say, “hey… hey… hey”. This leads us to wonder, “Why does my German Shepherd put his paw on me?”
Just like humans, dogs communicate with their paws. Usually when our German Shepherds are putting their paws on us, it’s to demand some form of attention. Common reasons are that it wants food, affection, play time, or your forgiveness. Other times, it may be a sign of empathy. It’s important to identify these demands so you avoid enabling demanding behavior and establish yourself as the leader.
This article will cover common reasons your GSD is pawing you, explain why pawing may be a bad habit, and tell you what you can do to stop it.
If you want to establish yourself as the ‘leader of the pack’, our pup needs to know that you are in charge. We will start this article by outlining “demanding behaviors” – meaning, your GSD wants instant attention to its wants.
They Want Food
Dogs have remarkable sense of time – especially when food is involved. Check to see if it’s indeed dinner time – Your GSD may be giving you a friendly reminder that it’s time to fill up its bowl. Alternatively, your GSD may want a treat or a bite from that delicious sandwich you’re eating.
Do not respond to this pawing. By giving in to your dogs demands, especially at the dinner table, it signals to your GSD that pawing works to get what it wants when it wants!– And then before you know it, you have created a food demanding monster who has mastered the art of begging by pawing at you and others.
Read more about the method to stop pawing below.
They Want To Play
Have you ever observed dogs at play? It often starts with one of them playfully pawing the other or hitting the ground in front of them, as if to say, “hey you, I want to play!” Same principle here. Our GSDs need stimulation and have lots of energy! They should have at least 1 hour of exercise per day. If your dog is pawing you, consider if you have given it enough stimulation. Exercise, training, and play is a great way to bond with your GSD. We suggest going for a long walk, playing fetch, learning new tricks, or agility training so that your pup is satisfied and not begging for more.
Just like when your GSD is pawing you for food scraps, avoid responding instantly to the stimulus. When you’re ready, on your time, that is when you may resume your intentions to play with or exercise your pup. This is how we assert ourselves as the leader of the pack.
They Want Instant Affection
Just like humans, our German Shepherds love affection, and they love YOUR affection! Though these moments are sweet and endearing, try your best to avoid making it a habit. Giving into this temptation too often can lead to pushy behavior or bad manners.
These bad manners include constant repeated pawing, jumping, climbing on laps, leaning its full body against you or a guest, getting overly excitable, and so on. Such behaviors lack manners and could be dangerous if there are younger kids around.
Have you ever visited a friend and had their pup constantly paw, jump, and lean up against you, even when their owner is saying to stop? In these moments, the owner has no command over their pup. This is a process that develops by enabling the pawing behavior. For these reasons, keep the instant response to this pawing at a minimum and moderate if the pawing becomes more demanding.
But what if my GSD is sad or afraid?
We echo the same statement as above – to keep the immediate response of petting to a minimum. Couple ear scratches, then we demand our GSD to sit or lay down.
Let’s say your GSD if afraid of thunderstorms. So, it comes to you, puts its paw on your lap and gives you those big sad puppy eyes. Some of us may find this opportunity irresistible. So, we snuggle our GSD, raise the tone of our voice, talk to our GSD like a little baby and give it tonnes of affection. All this tells your GSD is that thunderstorms are scary and that its something to be fearful of. Playing into your dogs fears confirms that it should be sad and afraid. It is a much better option to give your pup affection throughout the day on your time, and to avoid instantly tending to your pups demands.
They Want Forgiveness
Your GSD may have done something bad and wants to avoid punishment. Let’s just say you come home and see a boot all chewed up. In an act of submission, your GSD may come to you, throw its paw on your lap, and give you that guilty look with those big sad puppy eyes. This is your GSDs way of apologizing.
This is a tough one to say no to, but we encourage you to hold your ground and proceed with a proper form of punishment. Understanding that actions have consequences is an important part of your GSDs learning and development.
They Are Displaying Empathy
This is not a demanding behavior. Dogs are incredibly empathetic animals, and very in-tune with our emotional state. They can sense when we are happy, sad, mad, nervous, stressed, and so on. If your GSD recognizes you are not your usual self, they may offer you a paw as a show of affection. It is letting you know, “I am here for you”. In this case, allow your GSD to be there for you—he’s your best friend after all!
How To Stop Pawing
Though pawing can be innocent in nature, like an expression of empathy or a friendly greeting, most of the time pawing is your GSD’s way of demanding an immediate response to its wants. Right now—on their time. If we continue to give in to the pawing, it quickly learns that good behavior is not necessary to get what it wants. Overtime, this develops into disobedience and more pushy behaviors. Luckily, bad habits can be broken.
By following the below training, you will assert yourself as the leader, and show to your pup that you are in command. This will earn you respect, obedience and loyalty from your German Shepherd. Below are some strategies to use next time your German Shepherd throws his paw on you without your request. The key here, is consistency.
Next time your GSD tries to paw you…
- Correct its behavior. Command your GSD sit or lay down instead. Doing this will teach your GSD that attention is earned by sitting politely and waiting patiently, rather than being pushy. An alternative to correcting the behavior is to simply ignore the pawing altogether. Sometimes your pup will lose interest and walk away on its own.
- Let your German Shepherd wait for you. You may remain where you are and avoid interacting with your GSD, or you can relocate to another room and carry on with your usual activities. The point is, your GSD needs to get the memo that you act on your terms, and not on his.
- Try to delay the time of your response when the pawing occurs. Over time, your German Shepherd will realize that attention is given on your schedule and not theirs.
Whether you have a puppy or a fully-grown pup it’s never too late to enforce corrective training and break old habits. The key is to remain consistent, and stick to it!
As you can see, there are many ways in which our German Shepherds are using their paws to communicate with us. Although these non-verbal gestures can seem to be quite sweet, there are some moments that our loving companions can exercise better ways of communicating. By applying the methods described above and staying consistent over time, you will find your bond strengthen as your German Shepherd becomes increasingly obedient.