Why Do Dogs Curl Their Paws?

How do you relax after a busy day at work? 

While we might watch a movie, eat good food, and hang out with friends, dogs usually sleep. They just lay down and curl their paws and nod off.

But why do dogs curl their paws? Aside from feeling comfortable, paw-curling sometimes indicates a disorder.

Discover the possible reasons your dog curls their paws and when you should be worried. You’ll also find out about dog knuckling and how to treat it. 

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dogs curl their paws

Why Dogs Curl Their Paws

Dogs curl their paws for a variety of reasons, such as anxiety, cold temperature, or a knuckling disorder. 

Here are some possible causes behind paw curling. 

Your Dog is Anxious

Your dog might be curling their paws because they are scared and anxious. This is more likely the cause if your dog’s paws are very tight and tense.

Other signs that your dog feels anxious include accidents in the house, drooling, panting, and aggression. Some dogs show destructive behavior when they feel very uncomfortable. 

The trigger might be new if your dog wasn’t a paw curler before. Look for possible causes of your anxiety that just entered your home. 

Some dogs also become anxious because of difficulties in the household. If a family member moved away or died, they could miss them.

A change in your dog’s routine can also stress them out. 

But if they curl their paws because of temporary triggers like fireworks or thunderstorms, you can help them by wrapping your dog up.

Long-term anxiety can be treated through calming supplements, positive reinforcement training, and proper socialization. 

They Feel Cold

Your dog might like to put their paws under their body because they are cold. 

Other signs that your dog is cold includes cold ears and body, shaking or shivering, and whining. You may also look for signs of slow movements and lethargy to check if your dog is cold.

It’s hard to tell if dogs feel the cold, especially if your pet is furry, big, and looks like they can handle blizzards. But even Saint Bernards and Huskies get cold.

As a general guideline, it can start feeling too cold for your dog if the temperature falls below 45°F. 

Learn how cold is too cold for puppies to know if you need to help them keep warm.

The first thing you need to do when your dog is cold is to turn up the heat in your house. It will keep your dog more comfortable when sleeping or roaming around the house.

And remember, if you feel cold, chances are your dog feels it too.

They Feel Cozy

Sometimes, your dog curls their paws simply because they like doing it. For no reason other than it makes them feel comfortable. 

You’re more likely to see a comfortable dog with their paws curled when they are sleeping. It’s like the equivalent of sleeping under a blanket for us humans. 

That’s really all it is. Your dog may just love the sensation of curling their paws.

Your Dog is Knuckling

The most severe reason your dog might be curling their paws is that they might be knuckling. This occurs when they curl their feet downward, whether they are sitting, standing, or laying.

It’s not a mere sleeping position but a disorder caused by paw discomfort. Your dog might also be experiencing a disease or have an injury. 

Paw knuckling is a painful condition associated with other diseases, such as degenerative myelopathy, arthritis, and neurological disorders. 

When Paw Curling Becomes a Problem

Your dog’s paw curling behavior becomes problematic if an injury or disease causes it. It also becomes a problem when it causes discomfort in your dog.

Here are some signs that your dog is in pain or discomfort:

  • antisocial behavior
  • changes in routine
  • excessive grooming or licking oneself
  • heavy panting
  • mobility issues
  • changes in body posture.

Learn how to comfort a dog in pain so you can improve their quality of life. 

Here’s how to check your dog for knuckling issues:

  1. Make your dog stand.
  2. Check their posture, especially the positioning of their paws. 
  3. Move your dog’s paw and place it with the knuckles underneath.
  4. Check if your dog corrects their position. If they do, it means they are not knuckling.
  5. If your dog leaves their paw in that position they may be knuckling, so take them to the vet for diagnosis. 

Paw Curling vs Paw Knuckling

Paw curling occurs when your dog’s paws are in a letter J. They can do this while sleeping, lying down, and sometimes sitting. 

Curling is a typical gesture that indicates they are cold, comfortable, or scared. It’s their way of communicating with their owner and other dogs about how they feel.

Meanwhile, paw knuckling is a physical problem. This happens when your dog’s paws are curled, even if they are walking.

You also need to check for signs of pain and discomfort. 

Here are some disorders or diseases related to dog knuckling.

  • Arthritis. occurs when your dog’s joint is stiff and painful. They knuckle over, especially as they get older and heavier.
  • Cervical Vertebral Instability. This condition closes a part of your dog’s spine because their backbone is unstable. It also leads to interruptions in the neurons, causing your furry friend to drag their paws.
  • Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. Your dog might experience knuckling if they’ve experienced spinal trauma or injury. This condition leads to a part of their spine dying.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy. This condition is inherited by a dog, causing them to experience mobility issues. It can worsen over time as they get older. 

What Should You Do When Your Dog Curls Their Paws?

You don’t need to do anything if your dog happily curls their paws. But if they experience knuckling feet, a trip to the vet is the first thing you should do. 


Your vet will likely prescribe rehabilitation for your dog through assistive devices that prevent knuckling. Follow the instructions that they give you.

Your vet might ask you only to use the device during short intervals, or you might be asked to put it on your dog all the time. 

Protect Your Dog’s Paws

If your dog isn’t wearing their anti-knuckling device, you can let them wear dog boots to prevent them from dragging their paws and experiencing pain.

Dog boots provide additional traction to prevent wounds from occurring when they’re dragging their paws.

Stop Using Collars

Collars are not suitable for dogs who knuckle. Instead, try strong harnesses with excellent padding.

This type of collar will provide additional support for your dog while walking. 

Rearrange Your Home

You have to adjust your home if your dog has difficulty walking due to their knuckling. For example, you need to keep their potty area and sleeping spot closer together.

You can also purchase pet steps, ramps, and other objects to help them with their mobility.

Another way to rearrange your home is by using thick yoga mats. It’s going to give them more grip than walking on bare floors. 

You can also try a dog gate to prevent them from using the stairs. 

Why Does My Dog Curl Their Toes When Sleeping?

Your dog might curl their toes and the rest of their body when sleeping to keep themselves warm. While their body is in a fetal position, their paws resemble a ball showing they are cold.

Keep your dog in a warmer place during the cold season to feel more comfortable. 

Another possible reason they curl their toes while sleeping is because they feel anxious or unsafe. This sleeping position allows dogs to guard themselves. 

Learn the other sleeping positions your dog might have and what they mean.

Why Do Dogs Push Against You?

Your dog pushes against you because they feel safer whenever their head and torso touch your body. Some even fall asleep leaning on your legs while you’re sleeping.

Some dogs push against you as a way to ask you to move. It could be because they are sensing a threat or want to sit in your spot.

Other possible reasons dogs push against you are because they are happy, looking for attention, or showing affection.

Find out why your dog is pushing against you and whether you should tolerate the behavior or not.

Why Do Dogs Sleep With Their Bum Facing You?

Dogs sleep with their bums facing you because they want to feel safe. They feel a sense of mutual protection whenever you sleep together and face the opposite side.

Sleeping with their bum facing you allows them to guard their side of the room because they are social animals who want to protect the entire pack.

Dogs may also sleep with their bum facing you because they want to avoid contact when sleeping. Give your new pup some time to make them more comfortable with you.

Learn the other reasons behind your dog’s behavior of sleeping with their bum facing you

Why Do Dogs Sleep Upside Down?

Dogs sleep upside down to keep their paws and belly cool in the heat. This position exposes their entire body, especially the sweat glands on their paws, to the air.

Your dog sleeping upside down is also a sign that your dog is comfortable in their environment. 

Find out some other reasons your dog sleeps upside down

Check Your Dog’s Paws

When your dog curls their paws, it can be for a simple reason or a serious problem. The difference lies in their comfort level.

If your dog curls their paws happily, it could be because they feel comfortable doing it. But when it’s accompanied by limping and other signs of pain, they might be experiencing knuckling.

Check your dog’s posture and talk to your vet to rule out any medical condition. 

Another weird behavior your dog might have is when they rub their body against you. Find out why dogs rub against you and whether you should be worried or not.