Your dog is probably your best friend, but sometimes, she paws at you and ends up scratching you. You adore her, but her scratching can get really annoying. Why does she do it? Is there anything you can do to stop it? We have the answers you’re looking for.
How can I stop my dog from scratching me?
Dogs that paw you can cause issues besides annoyance. They can scratch your skin or scratch and ruin your clothes. They can make you spill things, but the two worst things about dogs that paw you are that they can also paw your company (who usually hates it) and the scratches they leave behind can get infected.
What can you do to get your dog to stop pawing and scratching you? Let’s see what we can figure out.
How could I possibly be responsible for my dog’s pawing and scratching behavior?
When your dog pawed you the very first time, probably as a puppy, but whenever she did, your reaction was probably to grab her paw, pet her, and even “baby talk” to her. This was most likely the beginning of her learned scratching behavior that only became more ingrained as she grew older.
As she would paw your leg at the table, maybe she got a bite of chicken. At the very least, you spoke to her, whether in affection or reprimand, and either, to her, is still attention, and dogs crave attention. If she knows that pawing you will get her certain types of attention, she will continue to paw and scratch you until doomsday.
What steps do I take to change this behavior and get her to stop pawing and scratching me?
The secret to your freedom is simple. Stop rewarding the behavior, and the behavior will go away. For instance, when your dog paws at you, step back from her. Wait and let all four of her feet land on the ground, and the minute they do, practice positive reinforcement with a word like “good” or “yes” and give her a treat.
Now, your dog will probably paw you immediately afterward, but it will only be because she is unsure which behavior you were rewarding her for. She will learn if you only give her treats once all four of her feet are steady on the floor.
Don’t give up, but practice this action day after day, and eventually, you will see your dog’s thought process at work when she starts to paw you but after lifting her paw, stops herself and puts it back on the ground. Go out of your way to praise and reward your dog when this happens, as it is a milestone.
You can still allow your dog to communicate with you and others, but teach her to do it gently with her nose instead of by pawing, which can lead to scratching.
Why does my dog scratch me?
Your dog isn’t scratching you to hurt or annoy you. She is pawing you, making an attempt to communicate with you, and you’re getting scratched in the process. What is she trying to tell you? There are several possibilities.
Your dog may be trying to tell you she needs some attention.
Maybe you work all day or all evening, or maybe you volunteer every afternoon and then go to the gym. You can get very busy, and this can leave your dog feeling abandoned. When she feels neglected, she will begin to show it by her actions.
Especially if you come home and sit down in front of the television instead of attending to her, she may start pawing at you, trying to get you to pay her some attention. Dogs don’t realize you may be exhausted from working all day. They are just happy to see you and want to spend their idea of quality time with you.
She may be asking you to give her or help her with something she wants or needs.
It may be as simple as her asking you for help getting something she needs or even something she just wants. Here are two simple examples.
She may be asking for something to eat.
Think about it; have you ever noticed her pawing at you, thus, scratching you, when she is hungry? She is communicating to you that she wants something in her growling stomach.
She may need to go outside to the bathroom.
Maybe your dog has been playing and has waited until she really has to go potty to let you know she needs to go outside. In such a situation, she will probably paw at you somewhat urgently or frantically. While she may hurt you a little, she certainly won’t do it on purpose.
She may simply be sporting with you, trying to entice you to play with her.
When she paws at you, sometimes, she may just be playing with you. She is trying to get you to sport back with her — to be her play buddy. Dogs need a play buddy sometimes. Besides the physical benefits, play sharpens a dog’s mental acuity.
Maybe she is just trying to show you affection.
You are your dog’s best friend, as well as she is yours, so it is not at all far-fetched to think that she may be trying to simply say — hey, I sure do love you and appreciate you for taking care of me. Dogs are loyal and adoring animals.
Maybe you are encouraging the behavior.
I know you’re thinking — what?! However, almost every one of us has encouraged pawing behavior in our dog at some point. It is natural to do so until you learn that it is a bad habit that teaches your dog bad habits. For instance, when your dog paws at you, what is your first response?
It is probably to take her paw or speak to her. Even if it is to speak to her in reprimand, she is still getting attention from you when she paws at you, and this is the key to stopping her from scratching you.
She is trying to evoke a particular action, and if she is not able to do that, she will stop pawing. You will learn to not perform that desired action causing her to discontinue the behavior.
Why has my dog suddenly started scratching me?
Your dog’s behavior was completely in line, but suddenly, she has started scratching you. You cannot figure it out, but it’s both driving you crazy and worrying you — worrying you because you think it may be something serious.
The reasons could range from the obvious to the serious, but if she has started doing it suddenly, you do know one thing — something has changed. Here are some things to consider if your dog has begun scratching you all of a sudden.
Maybe her nails have simply grown too long and ragged.
If you don’t keep your dog’s nails trimmed, they will get ragged and long, and even crack or split. It is painful for your dog to have nails that are too long, and not only painful but dangerous for your dog when her nails crack or split open.
Any open sore hurts, because you know that the nail bed is a very tender place. Your dog’s split nail is also the perfect place for infection to set up, because she walks around on her paws all day, subjecting that open wound to dirt and debris. Plus, cracked nails are slow to heal in the first place.
It is a good idea, when your dog gets a split nail, to first, of course, get her nails manicured, and then, dress her in a dog boot until the cracked nail is healed. This will ensure the healing is not stunted by bacteria from dirt and debris she picks up while walking around like normal.
She may be telling you she needs comforting.
Is there a lot of company in the house? Has someone new moved in? Have you taken in another pet? Did you move her bed? Is it storming outside? It could be that your dog just needs you to comfort her, and she is trying to convey that to you the only way she knows how.
She could be suffering physically and asking you for help.
Your dog could suddenly be suffering from a physical condition of some kind. She may have picked up a flea infestation that is driving her mad. You may not have noticed when she stepped in a puddle of some chemical on your daily walk, and her paws could be burning.
She may be suffering from heartburn. Worse, she could suddenly be in a lot of pain. Many diseases of the internal organs in dogs don’t show any signs until they have progressed to nearly to a mortal degree. Look for other signs that can accompany scratching when serious health conditions are present.
Is she vocalizing, vomiting, or lethargic? If she is showing other signs, you should take her to her veterinarian immediately for a thorough examination. Something many dog owners don’t take seriously — if she has been terrified recently, she may be suffering from the canine equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder and need treatment. It really happens.
She could be alerting you to an intruder.
She could also be trying to alert you to a dangerous situation you are unaware of such as a mouse in the house or a skunk outside the sliding glass doors.
Why does my dog paw me?
Your dog may paw you because she is needing attention or wants you to play with her. She could be trying to communicate her wants and needs to you. She may be simply trying to say — I love you. It could even be that you are actually causing her to practice this habitual behavior, though you don’t mean to.
If it is casual and relaxed, and she is the same happy-go-lucky dog you have always loved, there isn’t much to worry about. You can just concentrate on helping her unlearn the pawing behavior. However, if she is overly anxious, fearful, in obvious pain, or showing other signs of distress, you need to investigate and come to understand why, as any number of things could be going on.