Why Does My German Shepherd Put His Paw On Me?

German shepherd putting paw on owner

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As dog owners, we generally enjoy being around and in contact with our beloved pups. For us German Shepherd owners, we are also acutely aware of just how clingy our breed of choice can be!

One of the ways in which our German Shepherds can express their feelings towards us is by placing a paw on us. But why might our German Shepherds place their paws on us?

Your German Shepherd is most likely placing his paw on you because he wants attention or because he needs something. The paw placement may be a learned behavior, or because he feels anxious and needs comfort, or even because you might be the one needing some comfort!

There are several possible reasons as to why your German Shepherd is placing his paw on you, and there could be many more reasons in addition to these.

Below we’ll look at some of the more likely possibilities as to why your German Shepherd is placing her paw upon you, and things to consider to help you determine if your pup placing his paw on you is a cause for concern or not.

We’ll also discuss how to stop your German Shepherd from placing a paw on you, as well as how to teach them to do it on cue.

7 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Puts His Paw On You

It’s important to remember that every dog is an individual, but when your German Shepherd puts his paw on you he may be doing it for one of the following reasons.

Reason #1: He Wants Attention

Your German Shepherd may be putting his paw on you because he wants attention.

It’s likely he was trying to get your attention in other, more subtle ways first but when those methods didn’t work, he’s now attempting to be a little more physical with his request for attention by placing his paw on you.

While this isn’t as rude as him barking or muzzle punching you for attention, it is more demanding than just waiting patiently until you are able to provide him with the attention he seeks.

Just like people, dogs tend to be social creatures and German Shepherds are known to be quite affectionate and needy with their owners, and while they make a great choice for first-time dog owners this level of “clinginess” can take some getting used to or it can become worse over time and develop into separation anxiety or other behavioral issues.

When your German Shepherd places his paw on you for attention, take a second to acknowledge if your pup’s needs are being met and then take appropriate action to provide him with the attention he needs.

Just make sure you aren’t inadvertently rewarding the paw action, or he may become more demanding!

Reason #2: She Needs Something

Similar to placing their paw on you for attention, your German Shepherd may also be placing her paw on you because she needs something.

This could be her way of telling you she needs to go outside, she needs you to get her ball from underneath the couch, or she needs you to remove the burr that is stuck within her paw.

Depending on your own personal preferences and whether you find it acceptable that your pup is asking for certain things by placing a paw on you, you can choose to provide your pup with what she is asking for or you can instead teach her to ask in another manner that you find more acceptable than placing a paw on you.

If your German Shepherd becomes accustomed to asking for and getting what she wants by placing a paw on you, then it’s likely she’ll continue doing it whenever she needs something, and this could become quite annoying over time.

Be mindful of when you are rewarding the pawing, or perhaps teach your pup another way of requesting something from you that doesn’t involve pawing at you.

Reason #3: He’s Reminding You Of Something

Despite being a different species and having no true understanding of human processes (at least in the way that we understand them), dogs do sometimes have the uncanny ability to be almost human-like in their communications with us.

Your German Shepherd may be placing his paw upon you because it’s past time for his dinner or his evening walk, and you’ve been so busy trying to finish up that report that’s due on Monday that you’ve not noticed the time. His paw upon you is his way of reminding you that you have other duties to attend to.

As with the first two reasons, the paw may not be seen as rude by some owners and it is personal preference as to whether you will respond to the paw and provide your dog with what he’s reminding you of, or if you will ignore it and provide your pup with dinner or a walk when he is being less demanding.

Personally, though, I don’t mind a paw as a reminder because I think it’s much more polite than my German Shepherd barking to remind me it’s time for a walk or helping herself to the dog food container rather than reminding me it’s dinner time!

Reason #5: She’s Been Taught To Put Her Paw On You

German Shepherds are known for being extremely intelligent and easy to train, and sometimes the training happens without us even realizing it!

If you’ve found that your German Shepherd has been putting her paw on you lately, it may be because you (or someone else in the household) has unknowingly taught her that she will get a reward in some way if she puts her paw on you.

Of course, there are other cases where your GSD could get tired to giving you their paw and you can see just how smart this breed can be in this short clip:

If at first your German Shepherd was putting her paw on you to indicate they needed something or wanted attention, and you gave them what they wanted as soon as they put their paw on you, then it’s likely they remembered that and have now learned to put their paw on you to demand whatever it is that they want.

Thankfully, fixing this behavior is pretty easy and you would just need to ignore the paw and wait until she is being more polite before providing her with what she wants or needs.

On the other “paw” (get it?), if you have been working on teaching your German Shepherd to place his paw upon you on cue, and he does it without the cue being given, then you would need to just adjust your training process and ensure that your pup understands that placing his paw upon you is only acceptable if he is first given the cue to do it.

Reason #6: Your Pup Is Anxious

One of the more common difficulties faced by German Shepherd owners is the frequency of anxiety and anxious behaviors within the breed. One of the ways in which your German Shepherd may indicate they are entering into an anxious state of mind is by placing their paw on you.

Just like people, body contact can sometimes help soothe a dog or be their way of saying “help, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and would like some guidance!”.

You often see this type of paw placement when you are at the vet, and sometimes it will escalate to your pup trying to climb up into your lap.

If your German Shepherd places his paw upon you because he is anxious, you can help ease his anxiety by speaking softly and lowly to him and giving him a scratch behind the ears.

You want to be careful not to punish or baby your pup too much, though, as this can often make the anxiety worse (your German Shepherd is thinking “if mom is making this big of a deal out of it, then it’s definitely something I should be afraid of!”).

Remaining calm and showing your German Shepherd they have nothing to be afraid of will ease their anxiety the quickest, and they will likely remove their paw and settle at your feet.

Reason #7: YOU Are Anxious!

Dogs are very perceptive of our moods and body language, and even the most subtle things can be glaringly obvious to our pups.

German Shepherds in particular are known for being very loyal and in-tune with their owners (this has even earned them a reputation for being one-owner dogs along with a long list of other breeds), so if you are having a bad day your pup probably knows it and will do their best to try and help.

Just as your German Shepherd might place a paw on you if they are feeling anxious and want bodily contact and reassurance, if your pup feels you are anxious, irritable, or upset, they may reciprocate and place a paw upon you to try and bring you comfort and show their affection for you in their own unique way.

They could also be staring at you intensely to try and determine what you are “telling” them with your body, or they may show other appeasement behaviors in an attempt to calm you down.

Things To Consider

When determining why your German Shepherd is placing her paw upon you, there are a few things to consider to help you reach the best possible conclusion.

How long has your German Shepherd been placing a paw upon you? Is it a recent thing or has it been happening on-and-off again for a while now?

What other body language is your German Shepherd displaying just before she places her paw on you, while she’s placing her paw on you, and just after she removes her paw?

What kind of situation were you in when your pup placed his paw upon you? Did your dog place their paw on you while at the vet’s office, in your home office, or while you were sitting on the couch eating dinner?

It’s especially important to look at all these considerations if you are worried about your pup, or if they are doing something odd around the same time they are placing their paw upon you.

If you can determine why your German Shepherd is placing their paw on you, you’ll have an easier time communicating with them and ensuring all of their needs are being met appropriately.

Is It Bad If My German Shepherd Puts His Paw On Me?

If you are unbothered by your German Shepherd putting their paw on you, then you don’t really have to worry about it.

If you would prefer that your German Shepherd do something else to get your attention, then you can work with a local dog trainer to help change the behavior.

If your German Shepherd is displaying any sort of aggressive or threatening body language in addition to putting their paw on you, then you should reach out to a local, reputable trainer as soon as possible to address the issue.

How Do I Stop My German Shepherd From Putting Her Paw On Me?

While discussing the issue with a local dog trainer is the optimal choice as they can give you a more specific answer based on your individual needs, you can attempt to stop your German Shepherd from placing his paw on you on your own.

This method is most effective if the pawing is a result of your German Shepherd wanting attention or needing something from you, and it may not be the best solution if the pawing is because of a different reason, such as anxiety or fear.

To teach your German Shepherd to stop putting their paw on you, you would simply ignore them and turn away from them.

You do not want to remove their paw, as this could be interpreted as an invitation to play. You also do not want to punish your pup or provide them with any additional feedback, as some dogs will interpret even negative feedback as an invitation for further engagement.

As soon as your German Shepherd stops placing their paw on you, and they are just sitting or standing quietly, immediately turn back around and praise them and provide them with what they were wanting.

If you are consistent with this (and you must be consistent in order for it to work), over time your German Shepherd will understand that if they want something from you, they do not need to place their paw upon you but can instead just go up to you and sit or stand politely.

You can also teach them a more specific behavior to do if they need or want something, such as going and sitting by the back door if they need to potty or bringing their ball to you and placing it at your feet before sitting quietly and waiting for you to toss it.

How Do I Teach My German Shepherd To Put His Paw On Me On Cue?

You can also teach your German Shepherd to place their paw on you on cue.

To do this, you could start by teaching your dog “Paw” or “Shake”, and then transition that behavior to your German Shepherd placing her paw upon your knee instead and assign it a new verbal cue so your pup does not confuse the two behaviors.

You can also place your German Shepherd’s paw upon your knee and then reward them. Do this repeatedly, encouraging your pup to place their paw upon your knee each time.

Once your German Shepherd is consistently putting their paw upon your knee, you can assign it a verbal cue just before placing their paw on your knee.

Over time and with lots of practice, your pup should be placing their paw on your knee upon hearing only the verbal cue and with no assistance from you.

There are a variety of ways to teach this particular behavior, and you can be creative as to what cues you use and where you’d like your pup to place their paw.

Closing Thoughts

Determining why your German Shepherd is placing their paw on you will help you decide whether or not it’s necessary to investigate further.

Most of the time, placing their paw on you is probably nothing to be concerned about and it may even be a GOOD thing because they are either seeking you out for comfort or they can feel your discomfort and want to try and help in any way they can. Simply placing their paw on you is a much nicer way of communicating compared to hitting you with their paw which is what many dogs turn to!

If the paw placement is related more to training and is causing an issue, seek out the advice of a local dog trainer for how to stop it.

Otherwise, your German Shepherd placing their paw on you is most likely just their way of telling you they care, or that they need some guidance from you!