What Does it Mean When a Dog Crosses its Paws?

Our dogs all have weird behaviors that we want to learn more about. One of these is when they cross their legs while lying down.

So, what does it mean when a dog crosses its paws?

We share with you all the possible reasons why they cross their paws and more tips about reading your dog’s body language. 

Remember, context is everything!

If you find this position adorable, we also discuss how you can teach your dog to cross their paws.

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Dog crosses paws

Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

When reading your dog’s body language in general, there are a few things to consider.

Always Observe First

Never jump to conclusions! You can only interpret your dog’s body language when you have observed their gesture over time. 

Most gestures or sounds that our dogs make usually indicate certain emotions, but these are mere generalizations not based on context.

Some things to observe include the situation, their whole body, body language signals, and the surrounding environment. Try listing all the body language you notice in order and describe it clearly.

For example, instead of saying your dog looks happy, describe their body language like ears side by side, shortened eyes, open mouth, wagging tails, and moving loosely.

Once your observation is complete, you can interpret that your dog is relaxed and comfortable.

Context is Everything

As mentioned, context is important! This is why you have to make a complete observation first.

While the examples of observations we included were purely body language, the wider picture must also be observed.

Each dog has their own skills, personality, and obedience level. Their energy levels and life experiences also vary. 

Here are some context considerations:

  • What is the current situation?
  • Where are you?
  • What time of day is it?
  • Who is with you?
  • How is their body language different?

How Dogs Communicate

Dogs may have the vocal ability but it’s very limited. This is why we get clues mostly from their body language to understand what they want to communicate.

Most of their noise is also generalized, such as crying. We say that our dog is crying when they are probably just whining.

While it is quite a challenge to determine what your dog is communicating, learning what they are saying follows learning what they are feeling.

That’s because their emotions and non-verbal communication indicate the same thing.

Visual communication is especially important for our furry friends since it can be switched on or off depending on your interaction with them. 

For instance, when dogs look at you with a slightly open mouth, soft gaze, and loosely wagging tail, then it may indicate that they are happy.

And if you respond in a relaxed and happy way, your dog will most likely approach you and try to play with you.

The same goes for interactions between dogs. If your dog is standing still with their tail held high and intently staring at another dog, they might be showing aggression.

But if the other dog looks away and lowers their posture, your dog is most likely to stop asserting dominance.

This is what visual communication means!

Why a dog crosses its paws

Why Your Dog Crosses Their Paws

Now that you know how to decode your dog’s body language, here are some possible reasons why your dog crosses their paws.

Physical Comfort

One of the main reasons why dogs lay down on their trunk and cross their paws is to be comfortable. 

This is common among large and heavy dogs. They try to spread their weight over the surface with the angle of their elbows. 

They are specifically resting their elbows and shoulders.

This position helps with their joints because it relaxes them even for a short time. 

Even dogs’ sleeping positions tell a lot about whether they are relaxed or not!

Expression of Submission

This is not scientifically proven but various observations reveal that dogs cross their paws to show submission to you. 

Many people think that dogs act submissively every time they roll on their back or lower their tails. But they may also show honor and respect by lying with their paws crossed.

Every time dogs lower themselves they show submission or acknowledge your dominance.

But this is not always the case. And this is where context comes in again.

If your dog does this gesture after you have scolded them, then it means that they are sorry, or they are showing submission. 

You’ll also realize then when your dog tries to be dominant or tries to defend themselves by standing up.

When they have their paws crossed, it means that they do not have to defend themselves or assert dominance.

Your Dog is Happy and Relaxed

As mentioned, dogs feel physical comfort when they are lying on their torso with their shoulders and elbows resting and their paws crossed.

Along with physical comfort comes happiness and relaxation! They do not feel threatened, alert, or scared.

When we cross our legs, we are trying to make ourselves comfortable. As it turns out, dogs do the same. 

They are confident that they are in a safe environment, and they are simply savoring the moment! Their weight does not rest on their bones and their shoulders do not feel tight.

Your dog trusts you to watch their backs when they cross their paw, so do your best to make them feel secure and happy.

The Behavior is Reinforced

It is possible for your dog to intentionally cross their paws while lying down because they are getting something from it. 

You probably find it cute and then start giving them attention, which leads them to do it all the time. Dogs will do anything to get your precious attention!

You pat their head, take a picture of them, give them treats, talk to them, or give them a back rub.

They will surely repeat any behavior that results in these positive things. After all, that is the foundation of positive reinforcement in training.

The truth is dog owners usually encourage their dog’s behaviors without realizing it. This is acceptable and normal, as long as you are not tolerating bad behavior.

Teach Your Dog to Cross Their Paws

If you find it amusing when dogs cross their paws, you can teach them to do so!

Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Dog Treats, 8-oz Bag

When training your dog, it is best to use treats like Wellness Natural Grain-Free Puppy Training Treats. These soft treats are made with two types of fresh meat and vitamins.

The all-natural dog treats product is available in Soft Lamb & Salmon, Crunchy Chicken & Carrots, and Soft & Crunchy.

  1. To start, ask your dog to touch your hand with their left paw. Just reach out your hand, and if they reach out as well, give them a treat.
  1. Do this until you let them start moving their paw toward the other right paw and have you touch your hand with their left paw.
  1. As they do this, gently say “cross” as a command word so they can learn to do the behavior every time you say it.
  1. Only reward them once they touch your hand with their left paw.
  1. Keep doing this step until their paws are already crossed on command. 
  1. Have several short sessions of training so you don’t overdo repetition. 

You can increase the time that their paws stay crossed before offering them treats.

When a dog crosses its paws

FAQ Dog Paws

Why Does My Dog Paw at Me?

If your dog enjoys putting their paws on you, then they are probably trying to say something. 

They are probably saying, “give me attention,” “I want to protect you,” or “I feel safe with you!”  

Some dogs also put their paws on you to check if you are emotionally or physically okay. They usually do this when you are crying or feeling sick.

As always, check the environment, who is involved, and other body signals to determine why your dog is touching you.

Find out why your dog is touching you so you can give them what they need!

Why Does My Dog Put Their Paws on My Face?

Dogs usually put their paws on your face for the same reason they paw at you. It’s either they are trying to say something, or they just want attention.

Paws are one of the main ways dogs communicate with humans and other animals. The noises they make are very limited, so they try to paw as much as possible when trying to talk to you.

This is why many trainers encourage dogs to use their paws to shake hands and call attention. You will also notice your dog pawing other dogs when they enjoy meeting and playing with them.

Find out why your dog is pawing at your face so you can respond to their communications.

Why Does My Dog Lick Their Paws?

Dogs lick their paws either because they are in pain, infested with fleas and ticks, having an allergic reaction, or experiencing dry skin.

It’s annoying to see them lick their paws because we know that they feel uncomfortable as they try to relieve themselves.

Sometimes, our dogs lick themselves excessively in response to anxiety and boredom the way humans bite their nails.

Repetitive liking can damage your dog’s body, causing the development of skin disorders.

Coating your dog’s paws with bitter spray is one of the most effective ways to stop your dog from licking their paws.

How Can I Take Care of My Dog’s Paws?

Our dogs’ paws are one of the most important parts of their body. This is why it is important to always clean and moisturize them.

Without enough care and protection for your dog’s paws, they might be irritated, burnt, or damaged.

Some possible injuries include blisters, burns, dryness, bleeding, cuts, and scrapes.

Choose the best dog paw moisturizer that contains hydrating and soothing ingredients!

Dogs Leave Paw Prints on Our Hearts

Your dog’s paws are important parts of their bodies that allow them to comfortably move around and sense their environment. 

When they sit or lay with their paws crossed, they are possibly just trying to relax the weight off their legs and shoulders!

Sometimes, they do this to get noticed by you. They know that this pose is something you can’t resist!

Dogs cross their paws, walk with their paws, and use their paws to call you! So, make sure to take good care of them by cleaning and moisturizing them regularly.

You can also take care of your dog’s paws by not taking them on very hot walks! Find out if 80 degrees is too hot to walk your dog.