Dogs want nothing but our love and attention. They constantly ask us, “Hey! Look here” by barking at us, jumping at us, even pawing us.
But you might be bothered when your dog paws your face when they can do it on your arm, legs, or hands, or shoulders instead.
We talk about the connection between dog pawing and communication and some possible reasons why dogs put their paws on your face. You’ll also find out about how to stop excessive pawing behavior.
Dog Pawing and Communication
Our dogs’ paws are very special. Along with their voice, dogs’ paws are a way for them to communicate with us.
We also sometimes encourage them to use their paws to shake hands or call our attention.
If your dog enjoys meeting other furry fellows and playing, you’ll see them pawing one another as they run around and playfully bite.
You don’t have to overthink why your dog is pawing you because they are simply communicating with us just like a toddler grabbing your arm.
Even we, humans, speak with our hands sometimes.
Sometimes pawing us seems cute. Other times, it can be worrying or annoying.
Why Your Dog Puts Their Paw on Your Face
If your dog has a habit of putting their paw on your face, it helps to know what’s causing it.
Here are some possible reasons.
Your Dog Needs Something
Your dog pawed at your face possibly because they need something from you. They might be in pain, hungry, or simply feeling clingy.
While it’s not subtle to have a dog who puts their paws on your face, it surely does the job of getting your attention.
Your Dog is Hungry
If it’s close to dinner time, you’ll notice your dog pawing at you to remind you that they are hungry.
Another sign that your dog is pawing at your face because they are hungry is when they see you eating.
As mentioned, dogs use their paws to communicate. So, they will paw at you to draw your attention to the fact that they are hungry and want some of what you have.
You’ll also see them doing that cute and hopeful puppy look to beg for food.
They Want Attention
If they paw your face while you’re already giving them attention and playtime, it could mean they want you to continue.
So, you’re petting, tickling, and rubbing their belly. You stop for a second then they paw your face. It means they don’t want you to stop.
They Did Something Bad
The pawing behavior can be very demanding, but it’s sometimes a way for dogs to apologize for something bad that they did.
If your dog feels guilty for peeing on the carpet, they throw their paw on you with a sad face to ask for forgiveness.
So, while pawing seems like a dominant dog behavior, it’s often an expression of submission.
Your Dog is not Feeling Well
If your dog doesn’t feel comfortable as they paw your face, it could be because they are sick or anxious.
This could be the reason if, even when you reward them with attention, they do not feel at ease.
Other signs that your dog is in pain include mobility problems, excessive grooming, change in personality, restlessness, and more.
Another possible reason for this is anxiety. Your dog seems uninterested in food or play, and they keep drooling and panting.
Dogs with anxiety due to thunderstorms paw at their owners even before the storm arrives.
For those with separation anxiety, pawing occurs before you leave or if you show cues that your dog associates with you leaving.
They are Comforting You
If they’ve seen you sick or sad, your dog is probably putting their paw on your face to tell you that it’s going to be okay.
Dogs feel our energy and emotions, and they care deeply about us. They have many ways to express their affection to us and pawing is one of them.
If your dog hears you cry and reaches out their paw to you, they’re saying “Hey, I know you’re going through something right now but I’m here.”
Sometimes, even if you don’t feel down, they just paw on your face to tell you they love you. Dogs understand that people like to be touched the way dogs do.
They just want us to be happy.
The Behavior is Reinforced
If your dog is used to pawing your face, it could be because they found it rewarding.
The first time they put their paws on your face, they might have gotten some sort of reward from you, like attention or physical touch.
Since then, they kept doing it to ask for playtime, cuddles, and other forms of rewards.
You quickly lose your tolerance for their behavior, which used to be harmless and cute but is now annoying, and you’re the one to blame.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. You can always train them to stop the behavior.
Understanding Body Language
Other body signals from your dog can determine why they are pawing at you. For instance, you need to look at the way they look at you, their tail, and other behaviors.
Here are some body signals you need to understand.
Dogs usually paw at your face briefly. They tap you with their paw then leave whether you reward them with attention or not.
However, if they paw at your face for more than a few seconds, it means they are being demanding.
There is also a possibility that your dog does not see you as the pack leader. This long “pawse” happens when the short one was unrewarded.
But it could also be a sign that they are in dire need of something. Check if your dog shows signs of illness or injury.
Attentive Gaze, Relaxed Mouth, Wagging Tail, Pricked Ears
If your dog has an upheld or wagging tail while focusing on you with a relaxed mouth and pricked ears, then they want to play with you.
That’s a happy dog pawing at you because they are looking for engagement. Some even bark, run, spin in circles, or jump on you.
Shifting Gaze, Tight Mouth, Low Tail, Pricked Ears
If your dog still has pricked ears but the opposite of what was mentioned in terms of their haze, mouth, and tail, then they are anxious about something or feeling sick.
They can be panting or showing a tight mouth because they feel uncomfortable and stressed out about something.
They look and move from one place to another as they pace and paw at you.
Remember this pawing at you is different from the more relaxed pawing. An anxious dog will keep pawing you to try soothing themselves.
Soft Gaze, Relaxed Ears, and Mouth, Wagging Tail
Just like the first one, a dog who wags their tail while pawing at you is not a cause for concern.
They simply want affection. Take note that it’s different from wanting playtime because this time, your dog seeks attention in a relaxed manner.
They are also likely to ask for more if you stop petting them. They like nudging your hand with a paw or nose if they have the chance.
Is This a Sign of Bad Behavior?
Dogs that put their paws on your face are not necessarily bad.
As mentioned, this gesture is instinctual. Their ancestors have been doing it for ages, so it’s natural for them to communicate with their paws as well.
They also do it because they want your attention as the leader of the pack. You are held in high regard by them.
However, your dog pawing on your face can also be a learned behavior. While you think it’s cute and reward it with praise, they’ll get used to doing it even during unwanted times.
That’s when it becomes bad behavior.
How to Stop Dog from Pawing Your Face
If your dog keeps putting their paws on your face and it starts to get annoying, you can stop them by using positive reinforcement techniques.
Commands should be given with one or two words only, so try the phrase “no” or “not now” when you can’t give them the attention they want.
Ignore them until they walk away. After this, give them attention through praises and treats. This will help them to learn that they need to walk away when they hear the command.
This video shows you how to stop your dog’s pawing behavior.
Why Your Dog Puts Their Paw on Their Face
If your dog puts their paw on themselves, it could be their attempt to avoid your gaze or hide their face.
They may feel guilty for something they did, or they simply recognize you as the superior one in the pack. It’s a holdover from when their ancestors lived in the wild.
You see, their body language tells a lot about how they see you.
It’s not always about their behaviors like obeying on command or walking properly on a leash. Sometimes, it’s the little things like the way they subtly cover their face with a paw.
However, do not mistake fear for submissiveness. Your dog should still be comfortable and happy around you while being respectful and obedient.
Your dog may be putting their paw on their face because they feel safer that way, especially when they pair it with other gestures like going to their bed or crate for comfort.
Help a fearful dog by remaining calm and relaxed all the time. They will pick up on your behavior and want to imitate it.
You also don’t want to force them to face their fears. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques to show them what good behavior looks like.
FAQ Dog Pawing Behavior
Does My Dog Paw on My Face for Attention?
This is usually the root cause of your dog’s pawing behavior. Their need for attention may be valid because they are hungry, anxious, or want to pee.
Other times, they just feel rewarded every time they ask for attention.
This is especially true with puppies. They need a lot of attention as they try to explore their new environment and be carefree.
Give your puppy adequate attention so they’ll grow into independent, well-mannered dogs.
How Do I Stop My Dog from Licking Their Paws?
If your dog likes licking their paws a lot, it may become an obsessive habit which is also a sign of discomfort or pain.
They might have a wound, insect bite, a piece of glass, or a broken nail. At times, they put their paws on you in hopes of you taking away their pain.
You can stop your dog from licking their paws by treating the wound or flea-infested area with the right tools.
How Do I Take Care of My Dog’s Paws?
If your dog paws at you all the time and you notice dirty and dry feet, it’s time to clean and moisturize them.
Blisters, burns, cuts, and scrapes may occur when your dog walks on rough surfaces at high temperatures.
A good quality soap is important to clean their wound. Make sure to use a high-quality dog paw moisturizer to soothe their feet and fasten the healing.
You Know Your Dog Best
Dogs put their paws on your face to get food, say I love you, or express their anxiety. It’s such a common way to communicate with you that the cause can be confusing.
You know your dog best, so look for other clues in their body language about what they’re trying to say when they paw at your face.
Aside from raising a good dog, you also want to make sure they are always well-behaved.
If your dog paws at you and you notice their feet looking dirty and dry, it’s probably time to give your pup a grooming session.