Why Do Dogs Cross Their Paws?

young dog with paws crossed

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Our dogs can be the simplest and the most complicated animals! They do things that make them seem like simple creatures: sleep, eat, and play! However, there are some things that they do that we owners don’t always understand. One second, they can be goofy and run around with a toy, the next, they could be laying in the grass with their paws crossed like a very poised and fancy dog.

We don’t always question these things, but sometimes, you might find yourself thinking strange questions like, “Why do dogs cross their paws?”

Some of those reasons include crossing paws because it’s comfortable, the dog is copying their owner, or could be showing signs of submission. Dogs might also cross their paws because they feel safe and content without any serious or significant meaning besides it feeling comfortable. 

These are just a few reasons why dogs might fold their paws. Let’s take a closer look into these reasons along with some other reasons as well!

Reason 1: It’s Comfortable For Dogs

Dogs are a lot more similar to humans than we think! They might do things for the same reasons humans do.

Dogs might cross their paws because it’s comfortable for them.

Just like humans, dogs don’t like to be in the same position for a long time. It starts to become a little uncomfortable! Your dog might be lying down on the ground with their front legs extended in front of them but start to notice their legs get a little sore just like when a person is sitting in a chair for too long or lying in bed in the same position for a while.

You might notice your dog crossing their legs when lying for a long period of time. Whether they are sunbathing on the porch, cooling off on the tile floor, or just relaxing on a comfy couch near you, dogs can cross their paws without even realizing it!

Reason 2: Some Dog Breeds Tend To Cross Their Paws More Than Others

Sometimes, dogs cross their paws without any specific reason. However, dog breeds might have a correlation with the act of crossing paws!

Some dogs might cross their paws because of the build of their breed.

Some dogs have longer legs than others and might make it easier to cross their legs than dogs with shorter legs. Dogs like labrador retrievers, poodles, and border collies have a build that is more suitable to cross paws as opposed to dog breeds like corgis, dachshunds, and French bulldogs.

This, however, does not mean that dogs with shorter legs are not able to do so! You might find your pug or mini schnauzer crossing their paws and there is no need to worry if you see them in that position! They are just not as likely to do so!

Reason 3: They Feel Safe And Content

When people cross their legs, they might be doing so because they feel comfortable in the setting they are in or the people they are with. Dogs might do the same!

Dogs might cross their paws because they feel safe and content at the moment.

Crossing one’s legs isn’t the best position to be in when in danger. Even when a person is alert, having one’s legs crossed prevents a person from running immediately when a threat shows up. The same situation can be applied to dogs!

Dogs will not usually cross their paws when they feel the need to be alert and ready for action. This means, if your dog is crossing their paws, they do not feel threatened or in danger. Instead, they may feel safe with you, the people, or the animals around them.

How do you know if your dog feels safe?

Signs that your dog is staying alert include having perked-up ears, looking around as if watching out for something, and hiding. If your dog is doing any of these, they probably do not feel safe and will most likely not cross their paws in that situation.

Reason 4: They Are Trained To Cross Their Paws

Dogs are very smart creatures that can learn very quickly. Training is a crucial part of being a dog owner!

Dogs might cross their paws because they are trained to do so- even if you weren’t the one to train them.

Dogs always try to please us! Positive reinforcement is something that is given in exchange for a certain action. It is a method of using rewards to enhance a wanted action. For example, when an owner wants to train their pup to sit on command, the sitting is the wanted action and a treat is the reward.

By giving the dog a treat after they sit after the owner says, “Sit,” they are being rewarded for sitting. Eventually, the pup will sit when told because they expect a treat afterward. Even after they know the command, it is important to give a reward every once in a while to reinforce the behavior.

Sometimes, dogs will do their trick even when not told to because they expect a reward such as a treat or even just attention will make them happy. A dog might cross their paws because they know it is a command and want a reward.

Reason 5: They Are Showing Signs Of Submission

Depending on the situation, a dog might feel the need to show that they do not want to be threatening.

Dogs might cross their paws because they are showing signs of submission in the same ways that they may roll on their back or avoid direct eye contact.

When being with other dogs, a dog might want to show that they are not threatening or are feeling comfortable enough to be in a vulnerable position. As mentioned above in the reason of feeling safe and content, having crossed legs is not the best position to be in case of danger. Therefore, a dog might show that they are being submissive and not want to fight by being in a submission position.

There are other signs that a dog might be showing submission as well. Making themselves look smaller, flattening their ears, and exposing their stomach are other signs of submission.

Reason 6: They Are Copying Their Owner

Dogs are so much more similar to human children than we often think! People call their dogs fur babies for a reason!

A dog might cross their paws because they are copying their owner. It’s also not the only behavior that dogs will copy and some breeds that are known for their smile may be mimicking their owners too.

A study mentioned in this article that dogs are able to mimic their owner’s behavior after seeing it less than ten minutes ago! Sometimes, a dog might imitate their owner even when there is no reason or they do not even realize it. Over time, dogs came to realize that by copying other dogs, they might find a more efficient and effective way to do things. This behavior might have passed onto your dog to the point where they copy your actions!

Similarly, dogs might match the energy or emotion you project. Like with kids, it’s a good idea to not panic when your dog is around because they might panic as well. If you want your dog to feel calm, you could try staying calm or showing your pup that there’s no need to act up!

Here’s an adorable and funny video of a dog crossing his legs like his human buddies:

How To Train Your Dog To Cross Their Paws

Training your pup to cross their paws might be a cute thing to show to your friends or a way for them to calm down. While there are a lot of articles and resources on how to train your pup to cross their paws, here are a few tips that can get you started!

Positive Reinforcement

As mentioned before, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when it comes to training a dog to do a specific action. Whenever you see your dog crossing their paws, reward them with a treat! You can use a reward system to reinforce any behavior that you want.

A clicker is another tool that works with positive reinforcement. Start by associating the click from a clicker with treats by pressing the clicker and immediately giving a treat. Once your dog realizes that the click means a treat, the clicker can be used to mark a correct action. For example, when you see your dog cross their paws, click the clicker and give a treat right away. They will eventually realize that the crossing of paws means a click which leads to a yummy treat!

Start with Training Your Dog “Down”

If your pup does not know how to lie down, they won’t be able to cross their paws! Using positive reinforcement and the other tips mentioned before, you can teach your dog, “Down.” It’s important to take a new trick one step at a time and have a lot of patience.

Once your dog knows how to lie down on command, you can start teaching them to cross their paws using the same method of treats and patience.

If you need some help with training even after watching a million videos, you can always contact a trainer or animal behaviorist for tips and suggestions on how to work with your pup.

Be Consistent

“Rome was not built in a day.” Training your dog is the same way!

Doing a little training every day even for just a few minutes can help your dog to perfect the command. Like with students and studying, doing a little a day will do a lot in the long run. It refreshes what your dog knows so that they can build upon that knowledge in the future. It also helps their memory and makes sure they don’t forget how to cross their paws on command later on.

Final Thoughts

Dogs can do things that may seem funny to humans because they sometimes act like humans! Crossing their paws or giving you a hug by wrapping their paws around you are just a few examples of dogs doing actions that humans do as well. We might not always realize it, but dogs can be very similar to humans!

Whatever a dog is feeling, they are most likely to show more than one action to show how they feel. So, the next time you’re wondering what your dog is thinking or how they are feeling, try to notice the different signs and body language of your pup!