Why Does My Dog Cross Their Paws? (7 Common Reasons)

Categorized as Why Does My Dog
why do dogs cross their paws

If you’ve ever caught your dog in the act, you know how cute it can be when they do something like cross their paws (also known as ‘polite paws’). Sometimes they’ll even ‘pretend’ to pray or beg for food!

But is this behavior normal? And why does it happen? Find out below.

Here’s The Short Answer To Why Your Dog Crosses Their Paws:

When a dog crosses their paws, it can be because of many different reasons. It could be that they’re trying to tell you something, they feel comfortable or nervous. Or they just learned it from you, and now they do it because they know you like it.

Pain also can be a factor. If your dog crossing their paws is accompanied by other signs of discomfort or pain, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. It may be nothing serious, but if you know for a fact that they’re in pain, it’s better safe than sorry.

Here are those reasons in a bit more detail on why your dog crosses their paws.

1. Your Dog Is Trying To Communicate With You

Dogs can’t speak to us in human language, and they don’t know sign language either, but they do their best to communicate with us using body language. They can use their tails, ears, mouths, and of course, their paws to let us know what they want.

For example, if your dog paws at you when it’s dinner time, they might be trying to communicate with you that they want to eat, or if they use their paws to push at your legs, they might be trying to communicate that they want to go for a walk or play with you.

As such, crossed paws can signify a variety of things. To know for sure what a dog is trying to communicate, you really have to observe their overall body language. For example, if your dog crosses their paws when you’re petting them, they might be trying to communicate that it feels good.

Sometimes it’s easy because they use the same gestures in the same context every time, but other times it can be much more difficult, but over time you will be able to pick up on their subtle cues.

2. Your Dog Is Comfortable

Just think about when you feel most relaxed and comfortable – maybe it’s when you’re at home on the couch, or perhaps it’s in a comfy chair, or even on your own bed. You might cross your legs because it feels natural to do so.

It’s no different for our furry friends. If they feel comfortable laying down with their paws crossed, they will likely do so whenever the mood strikes them. According to some experts, this is a perfect resting position for dogs.

You know how it feels when you rest your weight directly on your elbows and begin to experience pressure and pain after continuing in that position for too long. This is the same reason dogs might cross their paws when they rest – it takes the pressure off of their elbows and distributes their weight evenly so that they can relax.

3. Your Dog May Be Nervous About Something

Some dogs tend to display anxious body language before something stressful is about to happen – like before their veterinarian appointments, for example.

If your dog’s crossed paws are accompanied by yawning, lip licking, flattening their ears against their head, or other signs of nervousness, it might be a good idea to try to soothe them or just avoid putting them in situations that make them uncomfortable.

4. Some Breeds Are More Likely To Cross Their Paws

According to some sources, certain breeds are more predisposed to crossing their paws than others. Among the breeds that are most likely to perform ‘polite paws,’ you’ll find the Labrador, Border Collies, and Poodles.

While we don’t know for sure why it seems natural for these breeds to do this, we do know that these breeds are among the smartest in the world. Because of their intelligence, they may simply see their owners doing this and start copying them.

The dog’s body shape may also positively influence the behavior. Short-legged dogs like Dachshunds are less likely to cross their paws. Not because they don’t know how, but because it’s physically uncomfortable for them.

5. It’s Learned Behavior

You might have been inadvertently teaching your dog to cross their paws. If the first thing that you do upon seeing your dog crossing their paws is to give them a treat, your dog might have simply learned that this is an action that results in being rewarded.

This is what dog trainers call positive reinforcement. In this case, your dog’s reward might have been a treat or an affectionate pat on the head. Over time, your dog will internalize this behavior and begin to do it just because they know this is something that you like.

This positive reinforcement technique can be useful in many ways. For example, if you have a dog that loves to jump up on you but you don’t like it, you can teach them how to sit instead of jumping up. As soon as they sit, reward them with a treat or a hug and say something like ‘Good boy!’

6. It’s a Sign of Submissive Behavior

In some cases, your dog might cross their paws because they are feeling submissive. This can be due to a variety of reasons, but often it’s simply the sign of an insecure dog trying to make themselves look smaller and less intimidating.

When a dog crosses their paws followed by other submissive gestures like avoiding eye contact, this is a sign that your dog is trying to avoid conflict by showing that they are not a threat.

This is not something you need to worry about, but if your dog is too timid and easily scared by other dogs, it might be a good idea to talk to a dog trainer to develop a training plan that can help build your dog’s confidence.

7. They May Feel Pain In Their Paws

Last but not least, your dog may cross their paws because they feel pain in their legs and paws. They might have walked in the snow for too long, for example.

If your dog has never done this before and suddenly starts doing this frequently, followed by other signs of pain, it might be a good idea to bring them to the veterinarian to make sure the issue isn’t serious.

Related Questions

1. Why Does My Dog Lift His Front Paw When I Pet Him?

The most likely reason a dog raises their paw when you pet them is simply because they enjoy being petted. Dogs are pack animals, and they enjoy being petted by their pack members.

It might also be a sign that your dog loves you. They may just want to show you how much they appreciate your attention. Then again, some dogs will react this way when someone other than their owners tries to pet them, so the reason behind it is different. In this case, it’s simply a way for your dog to show their discomfort with someone they don’t know touching them.


Learning how to read your dog’s body language can help you better understand them and strengthen the bond between the two of you. If you notice your dog crossing their paws, it might be a sign that they are feeling nervous about something, happy and relaxed, or in pain.

Generally, there is no need to worry if this is new behavior for them. However, if your dog is crossing their paws frequently and displaying other signs of distress, it might be a good idea to contact a veterinarian.

Related Questions

1. Why Does My Dog Wrap His Paws Around My Arm?

When a dog wraps their paws around your arm it can be because they are seeking attention, wanting to play, or showing affection.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.