All dog parents wish they could get into their beloved dog’s mind to understand what they are thinking. Even though it’s not possible we can get one step closer to it by interpreting canine body language. Have you ever gave a deep thought on what a front paw lift might imply? 

There are multiple reasons for this behavior. Learning the subtle signs your pooch gives you through their body language is essential to understanding the pattern. We should look at the gestures our dogs make and consider what they are trying to communicate.

1. Your dog is injured

The first reason you should rule out is raising a paw due to an injury.  If your dog suffers from a cut, muscle damage, a broken bone or there is an irritating surface like hot asphalt or salt sprinkling in the winter, they will lift the injured leg to minimize the pain. The behavior might be accompanied by other disturbing symptoms such as whining or shivering. If there are no visible signs of an accident on your dog’s body like bleeding and you’re unsure if the situation is serious, take your dog to the vet immediately. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

2. Your dog is focused 

The focused paw raise is common for hunting breeds like English Pointer, Beagle, English Spaniel or Bloodhound. When the dog lifts their front leg, it means that they are fully focused on something and waiting for the perfect moment to start chasing the chosen object.

If the dog is specifically trained to work as a hunting animal, they will develop the habit of putting their paw up as a part of the hunting sequence. The behavior runs in their genes so in this case lifting the paw occurs due to natural instinct.

3. Your dog is anxious

If the paw is lifted by non-hunting dogs, it might signalize emotional states such as anxiety, fear or stress. Your pet may be facing an uncomfortable situation in which they feel insecure. When you notice your dog acting this way, try to take them out of the situation, take him outside, go for a walk, remove the trigger or distract your dog, so they don’t feel anxious by redirecting their ming to a play or tasty treats.

To decode the behavior, it’s essential to take their whole body language into consideration, including movements of ears, tail, and eyes. It’s also useful to note the frequency and intensity of the various signals. The more you pay attention to the details, the better you will be able to understand your dog.

4. Your dog is intrigued

A paw lift can have a positive connotation as well. It might be an expression of curiosity and anticipation, often followed by a head tilt. Dogs use to do it when they are waiting for something good to happen, for example, when you’re talking to them holding their favorite toy in your hand or even better – when they are waiting for the delicious piece of your sandwich to land on the floor. They just can’t wait to get this yummy treato in their belly!

5. Your dog wants your attention

When a dog paws at you, they most probably try to attract your attention. They may raise their front leg and put it on your knee. This will be accompanied by a tail wag and puppy eyes – all this to make you pet them or play with them. They generally develop this behavior over time as your bond gets stronger. 

On the other hand, by lifting their paw, your dog might be telling you that they did something wrong. Better check if they didn’t leave any unpleasant surprise in the house or if your shoe is not missing!

Observe, analyze, interpret

Before jumping into conclusions, observe your dog’s behavior closely and consider all signs and circumstances: canine language signals, the environment, other people’s or animals’ involvement and the situation itself. Therefore, interpretation of your dog’s behavior should be preceded by precise observation and analysis of the context. Remember that every dog is unique with different personalities and experiences.

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