Do you ever marvel at how well your dog uses their paws? While many dogs use their paws for various tasks, it seems some breeds are more likely to use them than others. The reason for this is largely due to their background and the original reason for breeding.
So, which breeds use their paws a lot?
Breeds that are intelligent and were bred for hunting, herding, or even close companionship with humans have learned to use their paws like hands. These breeds include Boxers, Huskies, Terriers, Akitas, German Shepherds, Beagles, Labradors, German Shorthaired Pointers, Australian Shepherds, Shiba Inus, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, Border Collies, Dachshunds, and American Bulldogs.
The truth is, certain breeds have a natural affinity for putting those furry feet to work, so if that’s something you’re interested in exploring further then we’ve got 15 paw-some dog breeds for you to check out.
15 Breeds That Use Their Paws Like Hands
While not every individual dog of these breeds is going to be a professional paw user, these 15 breeds are known to use their paws more than other breeds.
Boxers are one of the most recognizable breeds, with their playful energy, beautiful coat, and high intelligence. But where did they get their distinctive name?
Well according to one theory, Boxers got their name due to their tendency to stand on their hind legs and swipe with their front paws, much like the human boxer does in a ring.
This fighting stance is often used in a playful manner, but Boxers may use their paws to show a variety of emotions.
In fact, dogs use their entire body to communicate with each other, so the act of pawing at another dog can be interpreted only based on the rest of their body language. Thankfully, most dogs are great at interpreting the actions of other dogs.
Boxers often use their front paws for communication with their owners as well. They may wave their paw at something they dislike, or paw at someone’s leg when wanting attention or affection.
They may also paw at family members in an effort to get food, or even paw at something on the counter! This should be heavily monitored, as Boxers can easily become overweight without a proper diet and exercise.
So, not only are Boxers great pets but also bring plenty of joy and entertainment with their signature paw communication!
Huskies may be the clowns of the dog world, but at their core, they are working dogs with a lot of energy and personality! Their long history as sled dogs in the Arctic taught them to rely on their paws to help propel them forward, and their webbed feet also help them stay on top of the snow.
Huskies are well-known for their sassy personalities and their intelligence. This combination often results in unique communication styles! Their signature “scream” is something that huskies love to do, but many huskies also use their paws to display a variety of emotions.
They may paw to ask for affection, to communicate a distaste for something, or to ask a friend to play. In a sense, the playful nature of huskies naturally comes out through their entire body, including their paws.
They are intelligent, working breed dogs, meaning they need a LOT of mental stimulation and physical exercise to fulfill their daily needs. If they don’t get this, they are more likely to be destructive or rely on nuisance behavior to fix their boredom.
Terriers come in all different shapes and sizes, and each breed has different characteristics, but one thing they have in common is that they love to use their paws, most likely because these dogs were bred to hunt.
Terriers were originally bred to hunt small prey where they would frequently dig, paw, or point at their prey in their burrows. This digging behavior has taught them how to effectively use their paws for their gain, and their intelligence taught them to use their paws to communicate more effectively.
Like most dogs that use their paws to communicate, Terriers often paw at their owners when asking for love, pets, food, or… really anything they want!
They are also likely to swipe at their playmate when being rowdy or socializing in a group. Because of this, terriers are very robust personalities for other dogs to meet, and they can be overwhelming for dogs with shy temperaments.
Dogs in the Terrier group can be as small as the toy Yorkshire Terrier, originally bred to hunt rats in the small crevices of texture mills, or as big as the Black Russian Terrier, which can weigh as much as 130 pounds.
American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and Irish Terriers are just a few of the many terrier breeds, but these are the ones more likely to use their paws as hands!
The Akita is a breed of dog that is from the mountainous, snowy regions of Japan. They are known for their webbed feet which help them walk on snow by distributing their weight evenly.
Akitas love cold weather so much that before they were given their name, they were known simply as “snow country dogs.”
Akitas are a primitive breed that has been with humans for over 1,000 years and while there are many breeds that look similar to Akitas this breed is still very much distinct. Akitas were used for hunting boar, elk, and Yezo bears, so they were bred to be fearless and persistent.
With such a long, close relationship with humans and such high intelligence, it’s not surprising that Akitas learned to use their paws to communicate with their owners. They are known to be sassy and have big personalities, and their paw communication is no different!
5. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are an incredibly popular and intelligent breed of dog, widely known for their work ethic and versatility.
These dogs were developed in the late 1800s to help herd sheep and protect flocks from predators. Herding involves a great deal of problem-solving, attention to detail, and movement, so they learned quickly to use their whole body, including paws!
Aside from being trusted companions and herders around the world, they have been employed effectively in police, military, bomb, and drug detection cases, therapy services, and as service dogs.
One of the reasons that German Shepherds are so successful in these roles is their exceptional ability to use their paws – they often rely on their paws to touch things, uncover hidden items, or give a warning sign to their owners. They may also use their paws to task for their owners as service dogs.
For these reasons, it’s clear that German Shepherds learned how to use their paws to communicate with humans, and German Shepherd owners will certainly tell you that their dogs use this skill as much as they can!
Additionally, GSDs often use their paws to ask for attention or to show affection. It’s clear why this breed is on our list of dogs that use their paws the most.
The Beagle was originally bred from larger hounds but modified over time to be a smaller breed. This adaptation earned them the title of foot hounds; they were easily followed by hunters on foot instead of on horseback.
Their small size made them accessible to more people that may want to hunt, but don’t have the means for a stable or horses. Because of this, they are incredibly popular!
Not only does a Beagle have the agility and speed to outpace its quarry, but their paw work also helps too! Bred for hunting small game, like rabbits, their use of their paws was essential in tracking and trapping their prey in their den. Beagles are adept at digging up any potential hiding places and may even catch smaller prey.
As a pet, Beagles are known to be loyal and affectionate, but stubborn at times. They are very intelligent and the use of their paws is a trait that they still keep from their hunting roots.
They may paw at their owners for pets, to ask for food, or to request playtime. Beagles often swipe at friends during playtime as well. They use their paws to express a variety of emotions, so they are definitely a breed that may use their paws as hands!
7. Labrador Retrievers
Labradors Retrievers have been the #1 most popular dog breed registered by the AKC for over 20 years, and it’s easy to see why when you meet one!
Big, lovable, and usually goofy, Labradors are great family dogs but have also been used for retrieving waterfowl for hunters, therapy, search and rescue, and service work since their inception in 1830s Canada.
Thanks to their capability for intelligent learning and ability to adapt, Labradors are considered one of the “Fab Four” breeds for service dog work. They are capable of carrying out a variety of tasks with amazing precision, often with their paws. Service dogs may paw an owner to alert a medical issue, like low blood pressure, or to open or close a door.
While this breed is undeniably beautiful and friendly, it is clear that their paws also serve a much higher purpose for the Labrador – demanding love from their owners! Lab owners will tell you that their dogs use their paws to ask for anything and everything, making them known for their useful – and sometimes overzealous – paw capabilities.
8. German Shorthaired Pointers
German Shorthaired pointers are known for their seemingly tireless energy and love of the outdoors, making them great outdoor companions.
They were bred as hunting dogs with an impressive array of skills, doing anything from retrieving fallen birds in the water and on land to tracking larger prey through the forests.
Their defining feature is their habit of using their paws to point out prey to their owners – a trait that still prevails in many German Shorthaired pointers today! Even pet GSPs are likely to use their paws to indicate a direction or paw at their owners.
9. Australian Shepherds
The Australian Shepherd breed is renowned for its smarts, and with good reason. Bred for herding, Aussies had to learn to use their whole body and brain to calculate and move large groups of livestock.
Not only are they highly intelligent, but they crave emotional connections with their beloved owners. This need for affection can explain why these pups often use their paws for communication.
Being a highly intelligent breed can have a downside for busy owners, however. If left bored or without proper stimulation, Aussies will often turn to the easiest way to get attention from their people, which can be anything from pawing at you to batting toys around in frustration to gently grazing a human’s arm while they talk, this playful pup loves showing how much they care through physical touch.
10. Shiba Inus
If you’ve ever owned a Shiba Inu, you know that they are a unique breed of dog. They may be small, but they’re one of the oldest breeds of dogs, dating back to 300 BC!
This makes them very agile and quick, which is perfect for hunting. Shibas were bred to flush out birds and small game. They used their paws for trapping or pinning prey, so they developed great control of them over the years.
When it comes to communicating with owners, Shibas use their paws to ask for affection. Because of their sassy attitudes and intelligence, they may also use their paws for mischief. They are known for pawing at playmates or using their paws to get to something they aren’t supposed to, like the trash can or digging in the backyard.
Shibas are a wonderful breed, but they are not recommended for inexperienced owners because of their stubbornness and strong personalities, and that definitely shows in the use of their paws!
11. Golden Retrievers
Golden Retrievers are also one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are originally bred for hunting and retrieving prey for their owners. Oftentimes, they were retrieving waterfowl, so they had to learn to use their paws very well to swim effectively.
Search and rescue teams often use Golden Retrievers as well, because they are easily trainable and love to please!
Golden Retrievers are considered one of the “Fab Four” breeds used for service work, so they also use their mouths and paws quite often to task for their handlers. Paws are used to alert to medical needs like low blood pressure or an oncoming seizure, but they are also used to move or retrieve objects that their handlers cannot.
All these skills and uses of their paws are very prevalent in the breed, so even pet Goldens will use their paws to try to communicate whatever they are thinking!
Pugs have a long and storied history. This ancient breed from China is thought to date back as early as 400 BC, and for all their existence, they have been bred for companionship.
It is thought that this relationship with humans has led pugs to develop their paws as a means of communication. Their close relationship with humans has given them a keen understanding of what we want and expect from them. And their paws are the perfect tool for making their feelings known.
Pugs are known for their expressive, smushed faces and their tendency to use their paws to gesture. From simply putting a paw on their owner’s arm begging for attention, to more elaborate gestures like waving or giving a high-five, pugs have a wide repertoire of paw-based communication.
13. Border Collies
If you have ever wondered why your Border Collie uses their paws so much, there are a few prominent reasons. First of all, Border Collies were bred for herding and are very intelligent dogs. They learned how to control their whole body in order to effectively herd, and these skills are definitely shown through their use of their paws.
Another reason why Border collies use their paws so much is that they need a lot of mental stimulation. If they are bored, they may use their paws more to try to get your attention, paw at something they want, or even use their paws to get into something!
So make sure to give your Border collie plenty of toys, puzzles, or a job to keep them mentally stimulated and give them an outlet for their paw use.
Dachshunds use their paws a lot for a variety of reasons. Despite their small size, they were bred for hunting badgers, so they needed to be fearless. Their shorter legs kept them close to the ground to follow trails.
Their stature and long body also allow them to fit into the narrow burrows. Their paws were used to dig and paw at prey and sometimes may have even been used to pin prey. They may also use their front paw to point at prey for their handlers.
Today, many dachshunds still enjoy using their paws and often use them to interact or communicate with their owners. If bored or feeling like they need more attention, they may dig in the yard or scratch at furniture.
Even though they are a small breed, they need plenty of mental and physical exercise to fulfill all their daily needs, or else their useful paws may become a nuisance in your home!
15. American Bulldogs
Bulldogs have been used for years in one of the darkest “sports” we have created as humans: bull baiting. Dogs are put in an enclosure with a bull, bear, or other large animals, and encouraged to fight. Thankfully, this has been outlawed since the mid-1800s, and the surviving dogs were the stock from which all the Bulldog breeds today are from.
When it comes to using their paws, American Bulldogs are masters!
American Bulldogs were originally bred to help farmers in the early 1800s. They were used for personal and property protection, as well as to help handle and catch large animals like cattle and hogs.
American Bulldogs use their paws a lot because they were bred for working hard. They are strong and agile, but also intelligent. During work on the farm and daily family life, they likely figured out how to use their paws for communication and tasks to improve their life.
It’s interesting to think about how the development of certain dog breeds can be traced back to their original purpose and how that manifests in their behaviors today.
If you have a working breed or a primitive breed of dog, chances are they may use their paws more frequently than other dogs. And if you find your dog using his paws more often than usual, it could be because he’s trying to communicate something specific to you.
So, pay attention to the context in which your dog is using his paws and see if you can figure out what he’s trying to say!