Why Does My Dog Want Me to Hold its Paw? (Holding Hands)

Have you ever wondered: “why does my dog want me to hold his paw?”

Dogs will offer their paw to owners for several reasons, ranging from a sign of affection to signaling an emergency. Keep reading to learn all the reasons your dog gives you its paw!

why does my dog want me to hold its paw
Why does my dog want me to hold its paw? (Holding Hands)


Many dog interactions revolve around asserting dominance over a person or animal. In some cases, your dog giving you its paw has to do with the dominance dynamic between you two. 

dog paw on owner
A dog places his paw onto their owner. Why?

You Are Alpha

Dogs are pack animals, so there needs to be a social hierarchy for them to follow. In most homes, the owner is the alpha, and the dog submits to them. Handing you their paw is an action that signals they respect your leadership and love you. 

If the pawing is to show submission, they will often lower their head or lay down in front of you. When your dog does this, you can offer pets or words of affirmation to let them know you love them too!

They Are Alpha

Today, domesticated dogs often do not take on the alpha role in the relationship with their owner. Because human owners offer their dogs everything they need, such as food, affection, shelter, and exercise, it’s very uncommon for a dog to act as an alpha these days. 

If your dog paws at you more aggressively and tries to push you down, they are asserting their dominance. 


If you trained your dog to give you their paw in exchange for a treat or affection, they may give you their paw in hopes of a reward. 

When you don’t reward them, they may cease this behavior, but it’s a way for your dog to show they’re listening to you and respect your commands. They want to please you and maybe get a treat in the process. 


Dogs are compassionate creatures and have excellent communication skills. If they paw at you and want to hold hands, they’re likely trying to communicate something to you

If you are in a bad mood or going through something difficult, your dog may sense your emotions and offer you some support by handing you their paw. 

Empathy for You

Dogs are incredibly observant. They can sense whether you’re in a good or bad mood and will alter their behavior according to this information. If you are feeling down or angry, your dog may give you a paw to let you know they love you and want to support you. 

The human equivalent would be putting your arm around a friend in distress. Dogs often learn this behavior while watching humans empathize with one another. 

Empathy for Them

Like bad moods in humans, dogs can also have days where they feel down. If your dog feels stressed, sad, anxious, insecure, or confused, it may reach a paw out to you in search of comfort

Dogs tend to analyze our responses to their behavior, so a paw may get more of a reaction than whining or sulking. Sometimes your dog wants your attention because it’s a form of comfort for them. 

Asking for Forgiveness

When your dog paws at you after misbehaving, they may be trying to say sorry and ask for your gracious forgiveness.

If they chewed on something they shouldn’t, ate out of the garbage can, or ran away from you, they likely know you’re upset with them based on your attitude and body language. Extending a paw to you with sad puppy dog eyes is one way they may try to make things right with you. 


As mentioned earlier, dogs can communicate with their owners more than people think. While many dogs give you their paw as a sign of affection, they may also be asking you for help with something. It could be an emergency or just a casual request for assistance, depending on the rest of your dog’s behavior and temperament. 


Your dog may be bored and looking for a playmate! If pawing at you usually works, they’ll try this action to encourage you to engage in a game of tug-of-war or fetch. Your dog will likely be in an energetic mood, wagging its tail and looking at you expectantly. 

Feeding Time

If you forgot to fill your dog’s bowl for breakfast or dinner, they may come to you for help. They may also paw at the food bowl so you’ll fill it with kibble! If your dog paws at you and you don’t know why, check that their water bowl is full and make sure they’ve eaten

Potty Time

Handing their owner a paw is a common way dogs communicate they need to go potty. Potty training dogs can be painstaking, so if they paw at you to communicate they need to go outside, most owners consider this a huge win. 


A dog in pain, whether a stomach ache or a thorn in its paw, will frequently paw its owner, asking for help. If your dog paws you and seems in distress, inspect their body to ensure they don’t have any cuts, foreign objects, or rashes that could be bothering them. 


If your dog paws at you and tries to pull you in one direction or lead you somewhere, they may be trying to call your attention to an emergency. This scenario sounds like a scene from Lassie, but dogs are known to communicate emergencies to humans to get help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know the answer to “why does my dog want me to hold his paw?”, you may have more questions about your dog’s body language and ability to show affection. Read the related questions about what different dog body language means.

Can dogs hug their owners?

In a sense, dogs can hug their owners. Unlike what most people think, when they put their front paws on your shoulders, this isn’t a hug. 

They may do it affectionately, but the action more akin to a human is when they come up to you and press their body to yours. If your dog walks up to you and presses its weight against your legs, this is like a hug! 

Remember, that many dogs don’t like human hugs, as it constricts their movement and can give them anxiety, so stick to belly rubs and head pats if you want to show affection. 

hugging a basenji in the snow
A Basenji all rugged up for the snow.

Is it bad if my dog pushes me away?

No, it isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes dogs push their owners for the same reason they want you to hold their paw. They may be trying to communicate with you, assert dominance, or be close to you. 

fluffy cavapoo puppy with white chest looks at owner
Bicolor and Tricolour Cavapoo puppies have splashes of white and other shades. Cute!

Do dogs like cuddling?

Most dogs love to cuddle with their owners or fellow pets! Dogs love to cuddle with people they love, stemming from their pack mentality. 

They will cuddle for warmth, to bond, and because it makes them happy. When they snuggle with people or animals they love, it releases oxytocin in their brain, the chemical that makes you feel happy and content. 

Final Thoughts

So, why does my dog want me to hold his paw? As you can see, your dog will paw you for many reasons. Your reaction will determine your dog’s future actions, depending on whether you reinforce or reject the behavior. 

But don’t always dismiss your dog, as sometimes they’re trying to communicate something important via body language.